by Aryan Pandey and Avani Adhikani
“I want you to get out of your comfort zone”, Gunjan Dixit said as she prepared to take a bunch of nervous-looking kids into the world of theater and drama.
Ms. Dixit started the session by handing out a masking tape for people to write their names on and told everyone to stand in a circle and take off their shoes. “I want you to introduce yourself to the group… but with a body motion you feel comfortable with.” She then gave a demonstration, a quirky dance riddled with silly gestures, as she introduced herself to the class. Meanwhile, the twenty or so awkward children shuffled around, wondering to themselves what the appropriate response was to the comical dance they were witnessing – they chose to laugh, nervous and hesitant, unaware of what they had gotten themselves into by signing up for the hour and a half long workshop. The kids anxiously looked at each other and to not feel silly self-consciously tried to emulate Ms. Dixit. An hour and half that flew past in a flurry of fun games and songs, where we (the reporters) stood by and watched as the awkward and aloof murmurs of the kids grew louder and more confident in each passing minute. In the end, the awkwardness was nowhere to be seen and the air was filled with the self confidence of people who were comfortable with their body and its quirks.
Miss Dixit set about bringing this transformation through music and games. Arranging the kids in groups of three she told them and they would be playing Rabbit, House, Storm. Granted, on paper it seems childish and pointless but: a) they were children. b) the game had an almost magical effect on the room. As soon and Ms. Dixit showed the children the ropes, they jumped in enthusiastically into this game, screaming and dancing, without a shred of self-consciousness. Children began straying from their friends to make more friends, so much so that at the end it was near impossible to tell who knew each other from before the workshop and who had just met each other.
Instead of tiring, it felt as if the children got more energetic as time went on. These excited children huddled in masses around Ms. Dixit, eagerly awaiting her next instructions. Dance around the room and form groups when the music stops? Gladly. Singing songs in another language? Without a question. The kids no longer cared about being silly or obstructive. To them, the only thing that mattered was to have fun. Despite having just met, the kids had no qualms about working with each other. Ms. Dixit mixed up the groups, created various group activities, all designed for getting the kids more comfortable and uniting them.
After an interesting session where she asked groups of six to create an animal together and sing a Hebrew song, Gunjan Dixit announced that the time for the workshop had ended. The kids, like kids, whined and complained and went to their corners to put on their shoes. As they went out, heads high, gait confident, humming their newly learnt song, they appeared to understand what is the essence of theater truly was —be yourself before you can be someone else.
Aryan Pandey and Avani Adhikani are writers and students at RBS.