Charan Pradhan, 46, is on a mission. He wants to use his expertise as a dance therapist to help differently abled people.
Pradhan graduated from Coventry University (UK) with a degree in Dance and Professional Practice, with a specialisation in therapeutic use of dance. His first show in Nepal, Peace is our Aspiration: Expression of Peace through Dance, was held at the Rastriya Nach Ghar on April 23.
The event showcased mentally and physically challenged children and the victims of the conflict in a performance of Shanti Lukaun Kahan, penned by Basanta Chaudhary and composed by Nhyoo Bajracharya. Support was provided by CWIN (Child Workers in Nepal), Asha Bal Bikash Sewa (ABBS-Children's Hope Development Service), SIRC (Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre) and SOS Children's Village Jorpati.
Though dance therapy is widely practised in the western world, it is new to Nepal. "It took me one and half years to make people understand this concept," recalls Pradhan. "I want to show dance not only as an art form, but also as a means of therapy." He says dance therapy brings a wide range of benefits, such as increased body awareness, strengthened coordination between body and mind, increased self confidence, and the opportunity to open up and release one's emotions. If undertaken regularly, dance therapy can improve a patient's condition.
Pradhan is known as a 'man of miracles' whose skills and healing power put him in a league of his own. But his achievements have been possible only because of the own pressures he faced from his father, who wanted him to be an engineer. Pradhan transformed that pressure into the motivation to tread a singular path.
Pradhan has been working in Edinburgh, Scotland since 1998, but wants to settle in Nepal permanently. "I worked voluntarily for a year and a half in Nepal, but one can't do this indefinitely," he says. He plans to open a dance therapy institute in the future but substantial investment is needed. "This will only be possible when I resume my work in Edinburgh," he says.
To carry forward his work in his absence, he is mentoring a group of people so differently abled children and adults will benefit from the therapeutic use of dance. "We felt the need for dance therapy and plan to continue it," says Sumnima Tuladhar, executive coordinator of CWIN. "Though it is difficult to continue in the absence of Charan, the supporting organisations are working together to make it possible."
According to Tuladhar, to discontinue the project would be to let down the children, as well as their parents. It was, after all, the dedication and patience of the children that brought magic to the stage last month. The standing ovations from the hundreds present acknowledged as much. Before leaving Nepal, Pradhan wants to stage show in the last week of June in Pokhara.
Pradhan argues that government needs to take the lead in providing equal access for mentally and physically challenged individuals. After all, he says, "The show itself was proof that disabled people can perform as well as able people if only they are given the chance."