The year has been understandably difficult for children and adults. What started off as a regular year, swiftly changed into a pandemic year, making people alter their schedules, take their work home, make-do with available resources, and most importantly, stay confined to their own houses. In all this chaos, boredom became one of the most common problems troubling people, especially kids.
Over the last few months, many online resources were made available for parents, for them to engage their children in wonderful and educational activities, while they stay busy with work commitments and other chores.
Among them is the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) which, for this Diwali, will be hosting a virtual “Winter Fiesta” — a series of workshops scheduled to be held from November 16 to 20. The five-day long festival will offer a variety of workshops for kids across the age group of 3 to 20 years. From ‘Happy Feet’ — a dance workshop for three to five year-olds — to ‘Hocus Pocus Magic’ workshop for six years and above, and creative writing workshops for teens; the fiesta has a list of programmes and activities that promises to cater to kids across all age groups.
In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, Bruce Guthrie, an award-winning theatre director who has directed productions all over the world, and the Head of Theatre & Film for the NCPA explained the need for children to stay creatively busy at home, the importance of art, music, dance and theatre, how pandemic learning can be made more fun for children and their parents, and the importance of finding a balance between regular classes and co-curricular activities, among other things.
How important is it for children right now to be engaged in extracurricular activities along with online learning?
It’s vitally important that we continue to engage with young minds and encourage them to use their imaginations at this time. It is so easy to be absorbed in passive activities during the holidays. The Winter Fiesta is a new initiative that offers a wide variety of live five-day courses for children and young adults with an emphasis on interaction. They are educative and fun — bringing the arts to young people at home.
While most parents understand the importance of dance, art, and music classes, some still focus more on traditional learning. How can they help kids find a balance?
Creative thinking is at the centre of all highly successful people. Encouraging this in children has been shown in studies to enhance their confidence, communicative and problem-solving skills. This new world we are currently living in has made the move to online learning a necessity at this time.
It is a known fact that many Indian parents and schools give priority to conventional learning methods, as opposed to performing arts. What is the scope for a child’s professional success in these areas?
It all informs the mind, body and soul. The arts reflect the world around them with invention, creativity, and beauty. The more we are exposed to different ways of thinking, the more developed we become as human beings. Many of the most successful people have, at some point, been influenced or involved in the arts. Whether it’s unlocking a hidden talent or purely for enjoyment, there is value in participating, learning new skills, and exploring outside of your comfort zone.
Tell us something about NCPA’s Winter Fiesta — what can children and their parents expect?
They can expect high-quality, interactive courses across five days, with some of the country’s top practitioners. To be able to bring these courses right into people’s homes in a safe way is important to us. It’s the next best thing to being there in person. We have a heavy emphasis on engaging those who participate in active ways. Children will not just be sitting listening to lectures; they will be active participants and will come away with new skills as well as having had fun. Each course is ratified by the NCPA with the course leaders with each participant receiving a certificate of merit upon completion of the five-day course.
How important is it for anyone, especially kids, to express themselves in a non-competitive environment?
It’s utterly vital. The opportunity to grow and experiment with new learnings, free from the pressures of being judged is becoming more and more rare. Self-confidence cannot be built in an environment of shame. Our workshops and courses are about supportive learning. They are challenging yet flexible enough to cater to a variety of levels and skill sets. It’s one of the reasons our age ranges are so specific. Also, so much work is being done online — even before the lockdown. It is vital that young people are able to express themselves readily and articulately. Developing one’s self as a person is just as important as learning skills to gain employment. Art is an exploration of what it is to be human, what it is to express thoughts and emotions, of the uniqueness of the self.
What made NCPA zero in on the wide spectrum of 3 to 20-year-old age groups?
The 24 courses cater to a variety of specific age rangers: 3-5; 6-8; 9-11; 12-15; 16-20. We wanted participants to feel comfortable in an environment (physical or virtual) knowing they are participating with others of a similar age range. It also allows the workshop leaders to be more specific when it comes to how they communicate processes and ideas. A 3-year-old thinks very differently to a seven-year-old and so on. We want to be specific and offer targeted, quality experiences for all who participate. It should be a great week.
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