This month, we had a unique workshop by a very unique personality, Vikram Sridhar. Vikram is a Performance storyteller and theatre practitioner who uses his art and story telling gift to make a difference. Vikram believes the body is a tool of communication. Through his workshops he assists students in becoming more aware of their own bodies and helping them use them as communication tools like he does with his folktale telling performances.
Our objective for this very different workshop on performing arts and communication was two fold. We wished to concentrate on performing arts to help students find their voice and gain confidence. We also hope to showcase to students that the arts, especially performing arts and story telling is a powerful medium.
The workshop began with an activity that involved some simple communication without words. The students were meant to express an alphabet, number or object through bodily movements or bodily shapes. Thus began the organised chaos in the classroom, which needless to say the students loved. We had all sorts of shapes and alphabets being made in the room, some of which we could identify and some only understood by the students making them.
Next, a sensory exercise helped students engage their lesser used sense, that of touch. The students were meant to walk blindfolded through the room to fully engage this sense.
Another entertaining exercise had the students explain to Vikram what exactly made a tiger. What are the small things that make a tiger the animal that it is. Right from imitating its slow and cautious stride to the way it looks when it roars, the students successfully imitated and expressed to ways of tiger to their audience.
To culminate Vikram’s visit to Pench, he gave a fantastic performance of a Gondi folktale. Through this story telling performance, the students saw Vikram put into use all the small activities he had done with them in the workshop to express through his body the interesting story. Environmental conservation is riddled with pessimism and Vikram gives it a new twist through his brilliant story telling. He uses the folktales and performing arts to spread awareness and inspire leadership to tackle environmental issues.
It is activities like these that help students become less self- conscious, build confidence and embrace their inner artists, as Vikram says. When students are given the freedom to use their bodies to express themselves, a curtailed energy inside them is set free. In our rigid educational systems, there is little space for such expression, and in the process we lose out on its potential to shape our students. Performing arts has always been a medium to raise awareness and spread vital messages, and in the time to come we hope our students too harness it to lead the change in Pench.