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Aug 2000

Introduction :
As a person who has always believed that Dance, Music and Drama are for more than just Performing Arts, it has been a God given opportunity for me to discover and develop the use of these very aspects of Indian theatre as developmental tools. Years ago, this very belief of mine - in the universal aspects of Dance and Music - was reinforced when I worked with visually impaired children of "Ramana Maharishi Academy for Blind" in Bangalore- was strengthened by my interactions with the children of Spastic Society of India and found structure as I expanded my work to children with Downs Syndrome, Mental retardation and other physical and mental disabilities.

My own forays into Dance, Drama, Music experience - as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, vocalist and my research on the various aspects of Classical Indian Dance Theatre for my Ph.D. in Natyabhinaya helped me formulate my thoughts on the appreciation of Dance, Music and Drama as a learning methodology - Globally termed C.M.E (Creative Movement Education), which soon became established as developmental and Therapeutic tools for the Holistic development of each and every individual.

Today a team of dedicated workers at RASA - Ramana Sunritya Aalaya specifically founded to widen the reach of C.M.E to many more - are successfully catering to the developmental needs of several hundreds of children in Chennai - through the C.M.E method.

Justification :
Theatre is miniature real life. everything that is depicted in theatre is a reflection of what happens in the real world. Whether it be a comedy, tragedy, a political satire or just even the depiction of a typical "family drama" the reflections on stage are of the very same real life situations. It follows therefore, as a corollary, that if theatre is "Lokanukaranam" (imitation of the world) - the reverse process is also possible of learning life skills through Theatre Art Experiences.

Theatre in its holistic perspective includes Dance, Music, Drama, and even knowledge of Arts and Crafts for the manufacture of appropriate stage sets and props and therefore provides for a whole gamut of wonderful learning experiences. And again, the wonder of using theatre arts as a developmental tool is that one doesn't have to wait for results. The very learning process, the very Theatre Arts Experience is so fulfilling in itself that the developmental process becomes a joyous journey of self discovery.

I call the whole process the ' 4E ' method - of Exploration (of one's potential), Experience and Expression with the underlying E of Enjoyment throughout.

Detailing :
To elaborate on this methodology of Learning and Development we need to look at two things - What is to be learnt and How is it to be learnt.

Every person needs developmental inputs in various aspects of learning to deal appropriately and comfortably with any situation in life. Aspects of development therefore would include the development of motor skills, cognitive skills, self help skills, language and communication, social skills and academic skills.

Some examples of C.M.E activities to develop these skills are outlined below. (One must remember that these are but samples of what could be done - but in fact, creativity and therefore the creative arts, provide for endless scope of the discovery and application of new activities to achieve similar developmental goals) .

1) Achievement of Gross motor function :
Imitation of "Animal walks"....
The lion in the den
The deer in the woods
The elephant in the zoo
The bunny in the garden
The frog in the pond and so on

2) Achievement of Fine Motor function :
Hand gestures (mudras) used to represent specific things.

3) Cognitive skills - for e.g.. Color identification :
A " Song of Colours" is sung as
violet, indigo, blue and green
violet, indigo, blue and green
yellow - orange - red
These are the colours of the rainbow
These are the colours of the rainbow
Look up right ahead.

4) Self help skills :
Play the game "musical chairs" to music. The child who gets "out" has to do a "getting ready" activity such as putting on shoes etc.

5) Language and Communication :
Two teams ar made. One group asks a question, the other answers and vice versa. The question's and answers could be verbal or non verbal (gestural, with pictures etc.) .

6) Social Skills :
Acting out going to a party/ marriage

7) Academic Skills :
Number games in movements
Alphabet formation in dance

The scope in fact, is limitless. To repeat that the above is but a sample of what could be done would not be unwarranted. And again, each activity outlined above does not generate or develop any skill in isolation. A single activity of dancing together alone, for example, would help develop motor skills, cognitive skills, social skills and non verbal communication all at the same time.

Indeed it is true that this fun way to learn is the best way to learn. The wonder of creativity and the joy of learning is indeed a miracle in itself.

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