Body movement and performing arts as a medium of expression
Imagine a birthday party of a 3 year old. There is lots of color, balloons, laughter, wails, music and movement. At one such joyous occasion, Rhea’s mother first noticed that her child needed some additional attention. While all children jumped and rolled to music, Rhea remained seated at the back with her gaze downward. It was as if she just wasn’t letting the music move her. Rhea’s mother noticed this pattern at several occasions where Rhea preferred being in the background, nearly invisible. The objective of putting her in a creative movement class was to increase her social skills. Her parents thought that if she interacted with other children of her age she may get positively influenced. After a few months of classes, the impact and change was very evident. Rhea was now confident, outgoing, fun-loving and social. She got very comfortable with herself, made friends easily and started dancing in parties. This was 13 years ago. Today, Rhea is a classical dancer, basketball player and enjoys creative writing.
There could be several reasons why Rhea did not participate in dancing activity at parties. This could include lack of confidence, limited movement vocabulary, difficulty in body and movement control, poor self-image, or fear of being judged. Directly or indirectly creative movement deals with these attributes. The fundamental principle is mind-body connection.
Movement sessions are ideal environments for learning in multiple ways. It can help one understand the relationship of their body with space and time and make deeper connections by enhancing learning capacities. By adding aesthetics and meaning to movement we make it a means of self expression thus bringing about a mind body connect. The medium of performing arts is a wonderful form of expression where the performer is able to make connections between arts, culture/ life and society.
How do we use performing arts to move beyond the scope of mere entertainment then?
In order for us to make connections between movement, dance forms, learning and expression we have to understand the process of creation versus the end result (which in the case of dance will be a dance performance). It becomes important to understand and mediate a process that bridges performing arts and self development. The essence of Indian performing arts is the ability to tell story’s through your eyes, face, gestures and body, the ability to multi task with different body parts and the ability to perform using all this to complex rhythmic patterns. All this leads to a good performance but if we can remove the technical side to the creation we can see it having a much larger impact on the personality. Few questions that come to my mind are : How do we break this down ? How do we move from imitation to innovation?
This can be broken down if we give more importance to the process of creation versus the end result. While creating a piece of art we use skills like visualisation, articulation of thoughts and ideas, communication using the body as a medium of expression, creative thinking, presence of mind, team work and most importantly creativity. Allowing the child to use the medium of dance not to learn by rote but to create something has a greater impact on the personality. This I found was the crux of Creative movement and its impact on the child’s personality.
Some of the ways that Creative Movement makes an impact are:
- Self Esteem : Helps develop a positive self-concept in an atmosphere that allows for free thinking
- Communication and Expression : Creates a scaffolding to develop emotional maturity by guiding the child to express, understand, accept and control feelings and emotions
- Social skills: Helps the child imbibe values, social attitudes and manners important in his/ her socio- cultural context. They learn to share ideas, collaborate and wait for their turn
- Creativity: Pushes the children to become independent thinkers and develop creative thinking by providing sufficient opportunities for self-exploration, improvisation and experimentation. Children find new ways to move by taking risks and many possibilities. This skill combined with critical thinking capacitates problem solving
These essential life skills are required today more than academic excellence in order for us to stay grounded, deal with and excel in today’s society. These skills cannot be taught but have to be experienced and nurtured from a very young age. Creative movement then becomes a bridge to facilitate children to become comfortable with their body and in turn with who they are. Movement is an integral part of learning. Research shows that learning and cognitive development go hand in hand. So if we look at movement and add the creative aspect to it then we are enhancing meta-cognitive aspects of thinking. “ Think about Thinking” is something I learnt from Mediated Learning Experience. This method mediates in a way where children begin to constantly think about thinking. This method of facilitation is critical for a child to understand and apply. When we do this while using movement to create we are empowering a child in many different ways. The child has to think in order to create, find meaning for his ideas and has to be able to transcend through his actions. This also lays the foundation for body mind connect and critical thinking
In order for this change to happen in a child the atmosphere we create becomes very important in order to give an impetus to learning through creative movement. The atmosphere should be free of judgment, where no answer is right or wrong, it should ensure that the process is given far more importance than the end result. A curriculum framework needs to be developed which will give the child a clear pathway where success can be seen at shorter intervals. This will allow us to have clear objectives and outcomes.
It is important as parents and educators that we create the same atmosphere of learning and enrichment at all times for the child. Some of the simple ways we can create this are:
- Open ended questions- At the end of an activity it is important to ask open ended questions which allows the child to think. These are typically “ Why, What, Where, When and How ” questions As adults we are very enthusiastic about giving the right answer. Instead when a child has done a task take a step back and enquire about what they did. A simple activity could be you play a track of music and ask them to move in a manner they wish with their eyes closed. Then ask them why they moved the way they did. What was the intention of the movement? What did they feel? How else would they have liked to do the activity?
- Praise the process not the result – Often we love to praise the child who has given us the right answer instead step back and look at how children are arriving at their answers. This gives room for thinking and analysing about the process. Give any task with a few obstacles. Once they have finished it talk to them about how they went about finishing the task. What strategies they used and if they felt it worked or not.
- Dont get worried about right or wrong answers- when children are trying something they want to usually please the adult. This does not allow them to take risks and fail. Give activities that allow the child to come up with multiple ways of arriving at a solution. A simple example would be move from Point a to Point B but don’t crawl or use your feet to move. Children are at first confused but instantly find several ways to use their bodies to move. This simple activity allows the child to take risks and not be bothered if they fail
- Perspectives- When we look at responses from children from different perspectives then we realise it all “depends” on how they perceive it. Give a child an abstract piece of art and turn it around after each response. You can see how each response is different and how it all depends on where the child is looking at it.
Creativity comes when there are limited inputs and you are required to come up with unlimited outcomes. This capacitates thinking as a general way of living. Expression of creative ideas is a beautiful outcome of this process. So, we can say that using the framework of performing arts we can make correlations with essential skills required for all round child development in an inclusive way. Creative movement in education provides the means to enhance one’s inner potential in a world where the outcomes are largely academics driven. It makes learning a way of life and the child will be able to think, reason and understand better the world around him/her.
CEO – GAIT
The Article was published in the August Edition of the Mentor