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Sing and dance to heal your soul
NIDHI GUPTA  20th May 2012

Bahman Panahi playing the tar

rederich Nietzsche once said: Art is the proper task of life. The therapeutic effect of indulging in the arts is a well-established idea by now. Continuing to promote this is the Rays of Wisdom Society, who recently held the second edition of the International Ancient Arts Festival. Organised by Odissi dancer Reela Hota, the two-day gala was not only a feast for patrons of classical and folk art forms, but also presented a stage where views on healing through the arts could be aired.

For this purpose, the festival featured a symposium where four experts from the fields of dance, music, art and psychology spoke on the importance of these art forms in helping not only those that are differently-abled, but also for the common man dealing with stress. Aruna Broota, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist, had some hard-hitting points to make about the social perceptions regarding the arts. "Neither 'psychotherapy' nor 'counselling' are terms that are fully understood in the Indian context," she noted, adding examples of how they're seen as short cuts to rewind unhealthy upbringing.

She went on to say that "art cannot be taught – it can only be guided or polished or chiselled" unlike what most parents think it to be – something to be learnt on the side as a hobby during the summer vacations. "Art is the inner expression of a person. We need to break the stereotypes of personality development and success (being an IIT/IIM graduate or earning six figure salaries) and a deeper understanding of the value of art," she stated.Image 2nd

Vivien Marcow Speiser, a dance therapist and professor at Lesley University expounded on the idea of 'the body as a sacred instrument'. She said that dance had the ability to preserve the essence of a healthy body across boundaries, cultural or political orders.

"Traditional dance forms can ameliorate pain and trauma while modern ones are good to express a social malaise," she noted. She's been travelling across the world teaching simple body movements that could go a long way in restoring a person's relationship with their own selves.

Her husband, Philip Speiser, has been working with music to treat differently-abled people in a school he has opened in Boston, USA. The beginning of every spiritual practise is the vibration that we create from the pit of our stomachs, whether to sing the azaan or just scream out our frustration. "Sounds, emanating from our bodies or from the universe, are the sounds that help us communicate with others across boundaries," he said.Image 3rd

There is relief to be found even in painting. Manissha Khanna, an artist working with the NGO Khushii, displayed a series of works depicting the human body in states of tranquillity. "Even looking at such works can create a sense of harmony in the mind," she said, adding that her students used pen and paper to express and were much the better for it.

A gamut of performances by artists from India, Pakistan, China and Iran kept an eclectic audience entertained. Hota's Odissi performance was much appreciated as was the international collaborative music performance, featuring Wang Fei from China on the Geqin, Bahman Panahi from Iran on the Tar and Ustad Johar Ali from India on the violin, giving a unique jugalbandi performance.

 
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