Reflections on the journey
conversation with my grandson lies the essence of what I learnt from my visit
to Canada as a Churchill fellow.
My exchange with colleagues working with senior citizens and contact with older
people who attended my practical sessions highlighted the value of cross cultural
always been interested in searching for connections between apparently
disconnected subjects. Cross cultural artistic initiatives excite me.
I believe that whenever a person connects with another, whether as an
individual or a member of a group it uplifts the collective spirit and promotes
a general feeling of Wellbeing, rendering cultural differences redundant.
Most of the establishments that I visited in Canada invited me to give
workshops, even the round table meetings arranged for discussion and exchanges
of information turned into joyful practical sessions.
What surprised care staff and my peers in Canada most was the animated response
of the participants to the activities created drawing from Indian dance
All the professionals, therapists, social workers, medical practitioners,
researchers and older people at hospitals, care homes and drop in community
centres that I worked with were familiar mainly with western theories and arts
therapy. I was not sure if we can find a common point of reference. At first I
was apprehensive about how older people in Canada would react to my appearance,
accent and dance techniques. To my great relief I found that every time we
could reach out and discover common grounds and shared moments of enjoyment.
The appreciative response from those I met at workshops gave me more confidence
in my practice, at what can be a self doubting period of life for a dancer.
“Bisakha danced amongst them, taking hands, making eye contact,
encouraging them to make the dance their own. That is when the magic really
happened…strangers dancing together, making eye contact, smiling at each
other…expressing their joy. I was surprised and delighted to see that most of
the men were dancing and enjoying themselves...During the workshop she shared
her love of dance, her culture and, how she came to be here on the Winston
Churchill fellowship to follow her dream to come to Canada to inspire us with
her love of dance. And she did."
Karmazyn, independent arts provider for the seniors.
Confederation Centre ,Vancouver, I walked into a hall where over 50 people of
mixed ability and different cultural backgrounds ,were sitting around the room
. The workshop was arranged specially on a day when the Asian Elders group meet
at the centre; so that they can join in . I had to find a way to make all of
them welcome and engaged ,even if it is to be at different levels. The session
was enjoyed by all and I received a range of different compliments, for example
, “you reminded me of my childhoods in India”, “I can do this new way of
exercising at night in front of my TV.”and “ this is helping cross- cultural
communication “. The comments came from both Asian and First Nation Canadian
So we can
see that the workshop materials had a connection with a past in India as well
as in the common activities of present day Canada .
reflection I realised that there is a difference between the dance technique
and the methods of its application. Because of the paucity of collaboration
between Indian dancers and the those responsible for providing arts activities
for older people, often no distinction is made between the two.
My technique is culture specific but my practice is inclusive.
When I deliver a session on dance for older people I use my Indian dance training
to find appropriate movements but I aim to link them to the five ways of
wellbeing and use them within the scope of the relevant duty of care constrains
Indian dance is regarded as an exotic and highly stylised form of dance . This
overshadows the fact that it can be very successfully used as a tool for
community dance initiatives.
As an independent artist I intend to work with other organisations and through
lectures, CPD training opportunities and my own practice draw attention to the
importance of developing high quality Indian dance based work for the older
people in the community, irrespective of cultural background.
I wish to take this idea of communication and exchange a stage further and
explore ways of communicating with another marginalised group, the people with
early stages of dementia and their care givers.
In my role
as the Artistic Director of Chaturangan, I have established partnership with
venues, funders and other arts organisations to produce Fleeting Moment - the
first dementia inclusive culturally diverse performance in a mainstream theatre
venue in Liverpool.
In Canada whenever I discussed this initiative I received a wonderful response.
"As you said more than once, you cannot cure illness but you can use
dance and the arts to draw people away from their suffering, give them a sense
of connectedness rather than isolation and a feeling of mastery in situations
where they are vulnerable and feel that they have lost control. You showed us
how you raise awareness of dementia and make those with dementia participators
in rather than observers of the arts. Particularly meaningful was your
discussion of creating performances that are “dementia friendly” and welcome
all who want to attend and take part."
Wesson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Most of the
Dementia related productions seemed to be issue based work, highlighting the
loss and despair and raising the aware of this condition or participatory work
by the people with dementia.
Fleeting moment is a performance by professional artists .It brings Indian
Chinese and contemporary dancers together to create an uplifting experience
This inclusive performance aims to offer people living with dementia and their
families an opportunity to continue to take part in usual social activities.
The first performance was covered by the UK based Indian dance magazine Pulse( www.pulseconnects.com http://issuu.com/sanjeevinidutta/docs/130902_pulse_122_web )and The
Alzheimer society Canada has invited me to write about this new work for the I
can, I will section of their magazine.
The inspiration of the new found friends and colleagues I met through my
fellowship has reenergised me to continue this work of communicating through
dance to take away the sadness of isolation and loneliness.