Viewpoints is a philosophy translated into a technique for
Creating movement for the stage
Viewpoints is a set of names given to certain principles of movement through time and space; these names constitute a language for talking about what happens onstage.
It is points of awareness that a performer or creator makes use of while working.
There are Viewpoints of Time and Space. Time related viewpoints are:
Space related Viewpoints are :
It had been brought up in the previous meetings that Aagaaz mentors need to be better acquainted with each other. There was a need for a time and space where they can indulge in some activities to work together and improve group dynamics. Aagaaz mentorship program is also looking at distributed leadership. This workshop was aimed at increasing awareness of self and leadership. The possibility of a group working in a way so that an apparent leader is not followed, was explored.
This session was attended by : Devika, Priyam, Nishant, Kanika and Gunjan
We started with walking in the room, remembering five things:
Relaxed arms and shoulders
Golden band over head pulling upwards
Then, we did Sun Salutations. The most important to keep in mind was to do it as a group where no one is leading. We did another activity where we were supposed to walk in a circle and doing actions together as a group. Like, turning together. This group was really in sync with each other and we were not focusing on the task but on being able to sense the group. As a result, we did not complete the task, which was beautiful. Later, we talked about various viewpoints, everybody was curious about Topography so, we did an activity based on thinking about two people whose depiction we could show with the movement of our feet. Everybody shared what their pieces were about. We concluded with an activity where one person goes out and rest of the group is led by someone who does an action repetitively. When the person outside comes in he or she has to guess who the leader is.
Everyone discussed their observations. To conclude, we discussed Aagaaz program. Lack of attendance was discussed and how it can be observed. We felt a need for mentors and mentees to meet at the same time. May be a picnic, a potluck or decorating the space together can be planned in the month of August.
‘Duniya Sabki’ was initially a much loved poem by Safdar Hashmi. Soon, it became Aagaaz’s most celebrated play that managed to effortlessly showcase the talents of the young theatre artists from Nizamuddin.
Currently, it has transformed into a workshop module that is giving so many adolescents and pre-adolescents a platform to tell their stories. Devika and Nishant have been a part of ‘Team Aagaaz’ for a while now and have been observers in the workshops. We would like to share snippets of their conversation about this emerging module and the value it holds.
Devika: Hi Nishant! So, we’ve been observing Duniya Sabki workshops and it’s now developing into a module that Aagaaz wants to take to spaces. It’s become an opportunity for our core group to collaborate with other people and it’s also allowing us to ask questions of the world.
Why do you even think we are doing this in the first place?
Nishant: I think we’re doing this because there is a need for us to raise these questions of how the world is not equal or why is there so must injustice around. The primary objective has been to just question these things and raise a certain kind of awareness.
This is really not about giving solutions to anyone but creating awareness that is coming from the participants themselves. It is not theoretical in nature.
Why? Is because these spaces barely exist in our current world. There are no spaces for people to discover or even confront the discrimination they face or subject others to.
Devika: Also, discrimination is stereotyped in certain ways. We see discrimination with just one face of either ‘gender discrimination’ or ‘caste discrimination’. Especially children, including the ones we have worked with, they belong to both elite spaces and non-elite spaces. They are all being fed the same narratives due to availability of media and popular culture. So, it is important for them to look at discrimination, injustice and consider perspectives that emerge from their own points of view.
Nishant: Yes! From a localized point of view.
Devika: Also, for them to understand that this is something that in not only abstract but also existent in the personal realm.
Nishant: And that is what makes a difference. Having an interactive workshop rather than a lecture about discrimination, is way better tool to use.
Devika: As a theatre workshop, what do you think this has really helped with or likely to help with even in the future?
Nishant: Sanyukta keeps saying this one thing that I really find fascinating. If you limit people through some kind of style, like theatre- In that limitation they have to find ways of expressing whatever they feel. I think that further enhances their experience also. Additionally, there is creation of a space within a space where you can express it verbally as well. So, forms matter and people are generally used to listening to things that are communicated in words but not expressed through bodies.
Devika: Also, I think theatre as a medium opens up an opportunity to understand ability and inability, especially of the body. To be able to see and analyse yourself in a different way and to use performance and projection of voice as tools to actually evaluate your own comfort zones. And I think that itself is an agent in opening up ideas, stories and personal anecdotes that lend themselves quite beautifully to this workshop.
When we look at the techniques that we have used, the general culture of the workshop, what are some of the elements you feel we can take forward?
Nishant: There is one fundamental thing we take for granted- the lack of hierarchies. It is a very open space where everyone also gets the feeling of- Ok! There is a instructing facilitator but there is also an internal facilitator in each of us. I think that is very important. Keeping the space equal often helps people to express what they are thinking.
Devika: Bringing children into a space as facilitators and enabling them to work with people their own age, breaks their perception about who a learner is..who a teacher is..It opens up the opportunity to actually accept that we are learning all the time from each and every person.
Nishant: The space that get opened up in the process helps us raise questions about- who is in control? Who is the perpetrator?
Devika: Also, I think coming more to theme of this whole thing, which is of course- Duniya Sabki based on Safdar Hashmi’s poem. The whole concept of understanding power, equality, inequality and discrimination helps explore newer perspectives. The culture of the workshop itself opens up this question- Is the world really everyone’s? Kya duniya sabki hai? So, how do you think that potential to instigate the thinking process around this idea.
Nishant: Listening to poem carefully and observing the dynamics between Akbar and Birbal can lead to a lot of realisations. People may start experiencing resonance with the characters and it may be an interesting method of introspection.
Devika: I think also to realise that as a performer I can tell my story, that itself is empowering. To know that this is not a ‘picture perfect’ representation but a platform to tell ‘my story’ which might also be ‘our story’.
Where do you think this can go? What do you think we can do with this module now?
Nishant: I think it can definitely be taken to schools that are open to let us come in and facilitate. Also, organisations that want us to work with them. At the moment, we are primarily working with children and adolescents but there is potential to work with college students or even older adults, I feel.
I think it will evolve and go in all sorts of directions. It’s also a great opportunity for the children from our core group who are training to be facilitators.
मैं आगाज़ के बाकी बच्चो के साथ जून के महीने में DPS, श्रीनगर में एक Theatre Workshop co-facilitate करने गया था | मैंने वहा पर बहुत सारी बातें सीखी पर सबसे अच्छे से सिखा और समझा के लोगो की सोच उनकी शक्ति होती है मैंने यह भी जाना के मै अपनी आज़ादी को अच्छे तरह से इस्तेमाल नहीं करता हूँ | अपने उम्र के और छोटे बच्चो के साथ काम करके और Facilitation करके मैंने यह नया सिखा की हर तरह की सोच को साथ लेकर चलना आसान नहीं होता है | पाँच-छ दिन साथ में Theatre करने के बाद वहाँ के बच्चों ने मुझे कुछ ख़ास बातें बताई जो मेरे दिल को छू गयी |
हम जून महीने के अंत में कोलकाता में हमारे नाटक ‘रावण आया’ के shows करने गए थे | मेरा role वानरों के तीसरे leader का था | कोलकाता में हमने चार shows किये थे | मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा, उसका एक reason है | मेरी acting काफी improve हुई उधर, नवीन sir ने काफी मदद करी | मैं अपनी acting के बारे में छोटी छोटी बातों का ध्यान रखने लग गयी थी | ऐसा पहली बार हुआ के बार ईद हम सब ने घर से बाहर मनाई | वैसे तो हम सब आगाज़ के दोस्त ज्यादातर साथ में ही ईद मनाते थे निजामुद्दीन में पर कोलकाता में भी अच्छी बीती, बिलकुल अलग experience था |
‘रावण आया’ अब हमारे group का हिस्सा है और किसी भी चीज़ की जितनी भी बार करते है हर बार नयी-नयी चीज़ें सामने आती है और हमने उसके चलते improvement आता है | मुझे life में हमेशा theatre करना है और ‘रावण आया’ अब उसका part hai तो वो भी आगे करते रहना चाहती हूँ |
What became a gorgeous workshop and performance in Srinagar in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, began with a chance meeting with Sunanda Dhar while Anirban and Sanyukta were traveling through Rajasthan in December 2016. Sunanda and her family have been working tirelessly into creating a space full of music, drama, visual arts, and stories for the DPS Srinagar community. She has been single handedly creating the Special Education Department in the school. A few more meetings in Delhi and we knew we were traveling to the valley for a couple of week with many of the young Aagaaz members for a Duniya Sabki workshop.
When Sanyukta started working with the group it was difficult to get the children to come in for workshops regularly. From there to now traveling together as a group for most of Ramzaan and Eid (for shows in Kolkata) in the month of Ramzaan was a big ask! It was heartwarming to feel the trust we have developed with the families of the core group. There were many tears shed as we embarked on our journey. For the families it was a leap of faith to send their children to Srinagar (at a time when the media is rife with unfavourable news from the valley) for so many days. We were in a train, together, for the first time. It was also the first time ever that Zainab had boarded a train. Made me think about the many things we take for granted in terms of children’s experiences – there have been so many references to train journeys made in the last few years, without having realised that some have never actually experienced one.
After Udhampur what followed of course was new to most of the group. We were traveling through an absolutely unknown terrain to our destination, and I have to day that I am in shock at the negligible number of episodes of altitude sickness (yes, I am using a euphemism here). It is also surprising (yes, after all these years I am still surprised at the magic of drama – each time!) how easily the first day of the workshop created an absolutely equal space between the participants from DPS and the Aagaaz members. The workshop was facilitated in two batches by Sanyukta and Priiya and 6 of the Aagaaz members were co-leading with each group. Nishant and Devika were to observe the workshops, and Anirban spent the first 3 days of the workshop with us to help with sound design.
After traveling for more than 24 hours we reached Srinagar amidst rain and and cold winds on the evening of the 8th. Even as we settled into our dormitories and rooms and sipped on chai, we were informed that the next day (also the first day of our workshop), a bandh had been declared in Kashmir. We were unsure about the number of participants attending, and planned with a lot of space to be spontaneous.
The next morning, as is always, there was much awkwardness in the space before we began the workshop. We had decided to do away with formal introductions and just played. By the time we wrapped up the session and sat down to reflect, we realised that the space had automatically transformed into one of play, genuine curiosity and friendships. The next few days were spent working on voice, body and exploring the theme of Duniya Sabki. Friendships deepened as the participants and facilitators exchanged stories through images of feeling disconnected from the world they live in. We were surprised at how little we expected themes like bullying, falling in love, trouble with parents, feeling unheard, and struggles with academics to feature during the workshops.
On the second last day, we performed 2 shows for students and a show for parents in a span of two and a half hours. From Safdar’s words about the world either belonging to everyone, or not belonging to anyone, we moved into narratives about transgenders, bodies that are differently abled, falling and failing in love, depression and suicide, bullying, nepotism, and the relationship between gender, state and the military. To riveted audiences children from Nizamuddin Basti and DPS Srinagar performed with their energies absolutely in sync to tell stories to change, ACTing to change.
Priyam (Nagina’s Mentor) is a trained counseling psychologist with a specialization in using art based therapies. Over the past few months while listening to the various narratives of Aagaaz mentors, she had an urge to share some concepts and ideas with the hope that they would empower both the mentors and their mentees to have more meaningful conversations. We had a great time interacting with her on 24th June and she has shared her reflections from this session.
I was lucky to have found a highly willing bunch of mentors, who were ready to jump in to deepen their understanding of counseling. I loved that people brought in personal examples from their own experiences with counselling and catharsis.
The method of delivery was fairly dialogical, making room for sharing personal narratives and addressing curiosities.
I did feel that I could have made the conversation more relevant by helping us discuss and practice some real life obstacles with our mentees.
What I am very happy about it is that our vision to make the mentoring meet- a space more owned by mentors rather than Aagaaz core team, came a step closer.
I wish I had been better prepared to practice the skills of counselling in crucial conversations that people have in real life.
We were invited for this Leadership Journey gathering and Nishant and I seemed to have no clue what we were getting into. We walked into this office in Kalkaji and luckily, things only got better.
Commutiny the Youth Collective, popularly known as CYC is an association of youth led and youth engaging organizations across India working towards promoting empowering spaces for youth leadership. Their objective is to help people move towards the needs of the society while continuously working on the self as well. They are well known for their media tools, especially the films they create for social purposes.
The objective of this gathering was to bring together people from different organizations who are supposedly ‘Youth Leaders’. They wanted to open up a space for dialogue and film screenings to help us investigate our own methods of working and introduce us to the tools of 5th Space.
We started the session by watching two movies- ‘Find your own Music’ and ’18 till I die’. They were both interesting films that opened up an opportunity to discuss the various lenses through which the youth in this country are viewed. The Economist Lens, Problem Solver lens, The Youth for Development lens and the Youth Development Lens exposed us to the abundance of mindsets. After Changelooms, Aagaaz has been quite conscious about trying to create a Youth Development based work environment. We want to create spaces where learning and growth happens for every part involved.
Soon, we were introduced to a very heartwarming film called ‘Class of Rowdies’ that led to a great discussion on creating empowering spaces for students. We spoke about ways of creating avenues where the youth involved take part in the decision making processes. We also ventured into conversations about curiosity, questioning and how they influence learning in a positive manner.
We continued to speak about tools that would help us equip ourselves better as leaders. A lot of ideas were presented and it was nice to hear that so many people are working in this direction. Peer-to-peer learning, Empathy, Dialogue, Lack of Judgement, Reflection, Trust and Transparency were some of the words that were floating around. The facilitators of this session then introduced us to Pravah’s philosophy that consisted of Reflection with Action, Experiential Learning, Ownership of spaces and Joy in Learning.
We got a lot of valuable insights from this interaction, especially in the theoretical realm. They also gave us a questionnaire to look at difficult decision making and how polarities confuse us, just like they confuse young people. We were also introduced to a mobile game on leadership that the organization has created to help understand options, decisions and repercussions. Lastly, we were given a question to think about- ‘How much space do I give to young people to feel empowered?’ This was a difficult questions that definitely put me on a spot.
The films we were shown were quite impressive but I wished that we had spent more time dissecting them. This would have helped us understand how such media can be used in our lines of work as well. In addition to that, a session with higher audience participation could have engaged people much better.
I’m really thankful to Pratibha, Kanika and Aparna for inviting us. Their own facilitation skills were a learning experience for me. They managed to open spaces for healthy debates. They also expressed their points of view and held space for the participants, without being directive. The factual information and statistics they shared with us, helped me come to terms with the bigger picture I sometime lose while concentrating on the intricacies of the group I am working with.
The most valuable aspect of the workshop was the opportunity to meet other organizations and leaders. There are not many avenues created for cross pollination in a semi-formal setting. I look forward to more gatherings!
मैं कटकथा में एक workshop के लिए गया था जहाँ पर मैने Bunraku Puppets के बारे में सीखा| इन puppets को चलाने के लिए 3 लोगों की ज़रूरत पड़ती है| मुझे यह भी पता चला के इन को अख़बार से कैसे बनाया जाता है| क्या आपको पता है के एक puppet के लिए 7 अख़बार की ज़रूरत पड़ती है?
इस workshop के दौरान puppeteer के शरीर के बारे में मुझे बहुत कुछ पता चला| उनकी body काफ़ी मज़बूत और strong होती है और उन्हें अपना हर movement, puppet के शरीर से जोड़ना पड़ता है| उनको अपना काम अच्छी तरह से करने के लिए बहुत सारा warm-up और exercise करना होता है|
इस अनुभव से मुझे केवल puppets बनाना ही नहीं, उनके साथ perform करने के बारे में भी जानने को मिला| हमें बताया गया था कि पहले अपनी body को study करना होता है और फिर उस movement को puppet में डालना होता है| हमें अपनी body की strength को भी बनाए रखना होता है ताकि हम बहुत देर तक खड़े रह सकें|
Puppet Theatre workshop में सीखे गए exercises, warm-ups और movements का मैं अपने theatre के काम में उपयोग कर सकता हूँ|
आख़िर में मैं यह कहना चाहता हूँ कि मुझे अनुरूपा के साथ काम करने में बहुत मज़ा आया| उनके बात करने का तरीके, काम समझने का तरीका और स्पष्ट नज़रिया मुझे अच्छा लगा| Ma’am एक ज्ञान का भंडार हैं आर उनसे बहुत सारी नई चीज़ें सीखी जा सकती हैं| मैं उमीद करता हूँ कि मुझे उनके साथ काम करने के और मौके मिलें|
We had heard so much about the fantastic space that writer Mridula Koshy has created in the widing streets of Shekh Sarai that we knew we had to visit. After a couple of months of email exchanges, Nishant and Sanyukta walked into this orange canopied space in October. It was one of those low inspiration, questioning one’s life and work kind of days. As they started talking to Mridula however, inspiration started crawling back in. It is no ordinary library that just lends books to readers of all ages. It is a space that is dedicated to develop a rich critical thought process in the minds of all those who step in. As Mridula shared the details of all the programmes that the library runs out of three rooms full of thousands of titles, we saw how the space was changing the lives of readers of ages 3 years and above. Even as the passion with which the library is run rubbed off on us, we knew we were coming back.
It took us more than four months to find a slot of 6 days that suited both Deepalaya and Aagaaz, and between the 19th and the 25th of March, 17 children (ages 10-14) played with us. This was a first in many ways for both Deepalaya and Aagaaz. This is the first time that we as Aagaaz have offered a workshop. This was also the first time that 4 of our core group members from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti co-facilitated a workshop for other children. For Deepalaya, it was the first time that a theatre workshop was being offered. Priiya, a member of Pandies’ Theatre and an extremely talented actor, writer and dancer and Tom, a young intern who is visiting India for two months and is a member of the Youth Theatre in England, along with Sanyukta, Nagina, Jasmine, Zainab, and Nagma, were a part of the facilitation team.
We began with the idea of creating a collaborative performance based on our first production as Aagaaz – Duniya Sabki. A poem written by Safdar Hashmi and by the same name Kabir’s Mat kar maya ka ahankaar (Prahlad Tippaniya’s tune) are the framework and inspiration for this piece. Through the 5 days we workshopped our way into creating three short pieces attempting to answer the question – “Kya duniya sabki hai? Agar nahi, toh kyun? (Does the world belong to everyone? If not, then why?” We could tell how the world of literature had already begun impacting these young minds as the participants came up with instances of inequality and discrimination from their own lives.
Soon we had identified three themes – gender, religion and caste. We facilitated the participants into devising their short pieces – they created plots, characters, dialogues, and directed each other. The members of Aagaaz rehearsed the poem and the song (along with movement choreographed with Priiya). We had decided the workshop would end with a collaborative performance for the community on the 6th day. Having started with nothing we had a 30 minute play ready by the end of day 5. The participants painted a beautiful banner that hung by the canopy to invite one and all. The magic of drama prevailed – on day 1 we had begun working as new group of facilitators with children we didn’t know. On day 6 we ended the workshop with a beautiful performance played to an audience of about 70 odd children and adults, as 24 mad-hatters who are now bonded with a common creative exercise.
The play was deeply appreciated by the Deepalaya community of children, council members, parents, and volunteers. A mother, who saw her daughter on stage for the first time acting out the gender roles she is expected to play, went back introspecting. Mridula has invited us back and we hope to find resources to be able to add to the gorgeous work that she and her team are already doing. The sight at the end of the performance beautifully illustrated the connection that we have forged with this place – the actors were not willing to elave the stage even as the audience trickled out – the insisted we dance to their favourite drama exercise – hai re sakhi bajra and sing the infamous kahab toh lag jayi dhak se one last time. In the times that we are living in – these are the small, but powerful pockets of hope that constantly keep the heart pumping for more. There are now 17 more children who ACTed to Change.
Four of our Brood begin their Journeys as Facilitators
We have begun our journey to train the core members of Aagaaz as youth facilitators. Nagina (17), Jasmine (15), Zainab (15), and Nagma (14), have embarked on this journey with elan. What began as apprehension, soon became an experience of deep reflection and many realizations. When Sanyukta asked them to reflect on the session on day 1, the first thing all four of them unanimously shared was a deep sense of empathy with people who have facilitated workshops with them. Jasmine said, “ab pata chala jab hum workshops mein aap logon ki baat nahi sunte toh aapko kaisa lagta hai (now I know how all of you feel when we don’t listen to you during workshops). Probed further about what that means as a facilitator, they all agreed that patience is imperative to working with children.
One of the highlights of this workshop for each one of them was traveling alone by metro and making their way from Nizamuddin to Khirki and back. They are now proud owners of metro cards and have a sense of unparallelled independence.
Watch this space for reflections from their experience in the next newsletter!
It was such a great week of workshops at Deepalya Community Library. In the lovely basement space of the building so avoided the heat which I was still getting used to. Still, the heat of the sun was replaced by the buzzing energy of the 17 children who took part.
At first it was clear, like me, they had some apprehensions and shyness. But breaking them in with fun, ice-breaking games that introduced elements of theatre and performance tempted them out of their shells. We slowly introduced them to improvisation using freeze frames and dialogue to give them a sense of what focus and thought performance requires.
As a facilitator it was important not to overwhelm them with the big questions straight away. Part of the process was letting them find their own realisations and stories. This is something I found such satisfaction in seeing unfurl before me. I did find it difficult, however, to help them in their journey as it was easy for my questions to get lost in translation. I found my questions were also quite complex and so I had to try to simplify them so they could be presented to the group in discussion. After stories had been shared I tried not to overthink my words and asked them about simple details: who was there? Where were they? What time was it? These would then form an image in their minds which could be ‘translated’ into a piece of theatre. They had the power. Another thing of being a facilitator is to let the kids take control and your only job is to intervene when they needed help staging a moment or direct them so the moment is realistic and true for an audience.
Throughout I was constantly having to use the context in a situation and people’s tone of voice or posture to understand what was being said as the words themselves were in a language I can’t speak. This was in the performances but also in games and group activities or discussions.
Overall, it was such a fulfilling week. Seeing these kids with no previous experience perform such thought provoking pieces on gender, religion and caste was just beautiful. The power of theatre for you. I hope I’m able to return in the years to come and see how this experience has changed them, their thoughts and their futures.