Music & Dance Therapy

One of the first attempt to engage them was through a music session. The session was facilitated by Ms. Buvaneswari and Mr. Bharath from Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, and Sri Vidhya from Swami Vivekananda Community College, Pondicherry.
As music has the power to transcend words and connect people, the facilitators tried to provide a creative space for people to move through trauma and bitter experiences. Prisoners subjected to solitary confinement rarely have any access or scope of establishing any sort of association with the outside world. Therefore, by means of such sessions in the prison, we aim to establish connection with the inmates from every socio-economic level and race by entering their world through music. This will lead them not only towards reformation but will also reintegrate them to society.
22 inmates were present during the session out of which one of them was a lady prisoner.
  Few of the inmates that really came out and got involved during the session were Ambrose,      Prem, Shankar. They mentioned how comfortable and safe they felt in the space.
  • Ambrose mentioned that it was the first time he felt a creative energy in the jail. Being an artistic person, he always felt the lack of motivation to do anything related to art. He expressed his gratitude to the facilitators and his inmates for inspiring him to take an action towards his long-lost desire to create art.
  • Prem expressed how he was able to feel an emotional connection for the first time within the four walls of the prison. He broke down several time while sharing how deeply moved he was because of the level of acceptance he felt during the entire session.
  • Shankar also said that it was the first time in 20 years that he had enjoyed himself so much. He explained how prison is a place that sucks out the energy out of them leaving the feeling sad and low all the time but he was immensely happy with how the session had helped him vent out all the negative energy.
Even though many inmates were completely involved and contributed to the session, few of them still stood hesitant and could not open themselves to the space wherein they ended up not engaging much during the session. Therefore, there is an immense need to conduct such sessions frequently and make them feel comfortable specifically for the inmates who could not engage much. Many prisoners also expressed the desire to include under-trial inmates and other convicts during such sessions. They also requested the facilitators to call all inmates collectively for conducting such sessions.
Many inmates engaged themselves in the session by dancing, singing, and clapping. The level of participation and interaction gradually improved with each song. Some of the inmates gradually started contributing to the session in their own way. As the session proceeded further, one could also sense a shift in the inmate's energy and body language. Needless to say, they grew more comfortable and familiar with the entire concept towards the end of the session.
Everyone presents during the session came together to create an environment of awareness, accomplishment, and a breakthrough. The session ended with a renewed belief not just in music as a means of healing but compassion and connection as the pillars of reformation and reintegration.
Music is a collaborative and cooperative activity. These sessions are not only a means for emotional expression but more than that, it becomes an outlet for inmates to connect with the community. The idea is to conduct a session once in every month wherein the facilitators create a secure environment and use music as an intervention as a modality for healing and help the inmates lose their inhibitions and enjoy the present moment.
The dance therapy was facilitated by Ms. Alokananda Roy who is an internationally acclaimed exponent of Indian classical dance and a reformer. Her work involves reforms for jail inmates, especially for convicts and under trials through her art and love therapy.
Her approach has provided a passageway for new life to hardened criminals and earned recognition across borders of the country and in faraway lands where her work has been used as a template for reformation. Ms. Alokananda Roy did not follow any fixed module, plan with the inmates initially. Each individual inmate is different and require an ‘individualized’ method   of dealing, rather than following  a generalized  trend.
She introduced dance to the inmates so that inmates can enjoy their body, mind and soul. It is necessary to utilize their time and ‘raw’ energy. She channelized their raw energy through the rhythm of music and dance. She believed that dance helps inmates to harmonize with their own selves.
Dance therapy has helped to inculcate a sense of discipline among the prisoners. This music and dance therapy have brought about unimaginable psychological and physiological upliftment of prisoners.
The entire session was a breakthrough moment for the prisoners as each of them came out to express themselves freely and at that point none of them was bound by the chains of confinement and isolation. The session was centred on the idea that motion and emotion are interconnected. 
The creative expression of dance helped bolster emotional expression and inspired connection among the prisoners and along with that helped establish trust and faith within them to continue and work upon themselves to lead a reformed life.
Many of the prisoners came out to show their gratitude towards Ms. Alokananda and the entire team of Sri Aurobindo Society for accepting them and giving them the space to express themselves through the means of dance and music. After 15 minutes of being in the session, the spiritual divine presence was felt in the entire room. 
5 of the prisoners had an emotional breakdown and they surrendered themselves in the feet of Ms. Alokananda and showered her with petals. It was a profound experience for everyone present there including the prisoners, prison staff and members of Sri Aurobindo society. In addition to this, one of the prisoners expressed his gratitude towards all the women present over there for accepting them without any judgment and biases. 
  • Prem Kumar expressed how enjoyable the entire session was for him. He said he found a medium through dance to express everything that was buried deep inside in his heart. He also expressed his gratitude towards all the women present over there for accepting them without any judgment and biases.
  • One of the inmate sat near the feet of Ms Alokananda Roy to express his gratitude for making him feel accepted and loved in a long time. He shared how he had felt like a human being for the first time inside the jail who desires basic needs like love and connection.
The first communication we as human beings have in our lives is one in the womb of our mothers where we're moving. Therefore, the purpose of the dance session conducted by Ms. Alokananda Roy was to bring out the essence of what basic communication is all about and through those dance movements help the prisoners to externalize their emotional lives. The session had such a positive response.
The sole idea of taking up such initiatives is to install positive change and help the inmates overcome anxiety and enhance self-esteem. Dance therapy is helping to inculcate a sense of discipline amongst the prisoners.