Friday 26 December 2014

Learning Differently With Traditional Art Practices

Our performing arts institution is located in a rapidly urbanizing area, south east of Bangalore.  The area has transformed from rural to semi-urban in less than ten years.  Semi-urban, because the civic infrastructure is poor and cultural and community commons are virtually non-existent.  I moved into this neighborhood five years ago and Antara began in an effort to bring artists to a community that had no access to any formal spaces for artistic practices.   For most urban middle-class children dance and music learning is accessed through out-of-school learning.  Majority of them do not pursue this learning beyond school age and these classes are generally the only formal arts-education they receive in their lifetime. 
We began with a commitment to traditional South Asian art practices (Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Hindustani and Karnatic Music).   

What do these art practices bring us that conventional learning does not?
We believe that traditional artistic practices offer a range of benefits, helping one to form connections between:
·         concept and movement (or sound)
·         the physical and the ideal
·         reality and imagination
·         action and thought
·         most importantly, body and mind. 
Many young students who come to learn from us experience for the first time the connection between the living body and the lived body.  That is, they experience that the BODY not just the mind, is a SITE OF LEARNING.  Through their bodies they not only learn movement but also music, rhythm, history and myth.  Through reflective exercises of writing and other forms of expression that the students engage in as part of their dance training, we began to realize the depth of student’s experiences.

Traditional art practices taught at Antara serve as tools for embodied learning which are not normally offered in conventional education systems:
Conventional methods approach learning as:
Embodied practice at Antara, approach learning as:
teacher-centered, focused on external goals or student-centred and skill focused
developmental progression that happens with the beginning of inner awareness and moving towards an interaction with the outside world
mind focused and teach how to be outwardly organized
body-focused and teach how to be inwardly organized

An example of embodied learning practice at Antara:
Poornima Dahale, Odissi instructor at Antara is holding a 10-day intensive workshop for beginners.  Her classes include reflective exercises of the mind and deep relaxation practices.  In the open garden space at Antara, students are experiencing their bodies in a wholly different way.   The pictures say more than words can.

Poornima says
“I believe letting go of all stress, relaxing and enjoying works wonders vs. forcing, controlling and torturing your body.
I do not believe in mind over body theory. Body and mind work hand in hand. Both influence each other and guide each other. Body has its own wisdom and  it is constantly guiding us ,only if we could listen.

My journey is to find ways to share my love and passion for Odissi but with a more holistic and joyful approach. I try to learn from various forms of bodily practices and bring the most suitable lessons I learn into my own practice and sharing.”

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