The Dancing Boy – A Script for a Children’s Dance-Drama Part I Scenes I, II, III

Dedicatory Note: 

This dance-drama script is dedicated to all children and youth who struggle to find their inner voices and their sense of place in an unjust world that cages them in slums and to lives of poverty and powerlessness.

Notes before reading the script:

This script for a children’s dance-drama was written based on life experiences travelling and working in India. It blossomed from the relationships developed with people who openly shared their lives with all its joys, sorrows and most importantly Love. It was the innate joy of children and youth, the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Hip Hop culture, the River and the places where I lived and worked that inspired me to write this script for a children’s dance-drama. Since this script was written by taking in mind the needs of young English learners, it was decided to include definitions of words that might prove to be difficult for these young learners. Definitions were simplified as much as possible so young English learners can connect to the specific meaning used in the specific context. Also, a list of definitions for context specific words is provided at the beginning or end of the post. The script will be separated into three separate posts due to the size of the script. Ideas for lesson plans, feedback and constructive criticism are welcome. I hope this script will inspire and bring joy to you.

List of context specific words (India) used throughout the script:

Betel or pan – leaves of a climbing plant commonly chewed by people in India as a mild stimulant

Bhai – brother

Chal – common expression with a meaning similar to “let’s go”

Chii – common expression to express annoyance or mental unease towards something

Dada – older brother in Bengali

Didi – older sister in Bengal

Ghat – series of steps that lead to the river

Majhi – boatman

Khichdi – a popular dish in India made of rice and lentils (dal). It is a flexible dish that can be prepared only with rice and lentils or vegetables and/or meat can be added to it

Tabla – a classical Indian musical instrument which consists of a pair of small hand drums attached together, one being slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch

Toto – A three wheeled electric battery powered vehicle that can be used as an alternative to rickshaws

List of Characters:

Hero: He is a fourteen year old teenager who helps his family by working in a jute mill. Naïve and idealistic, he hasn’t yet experienced the corrupting world of modernizing India. Although he works in the mill, Hero is still a student at the local public school but he skips lots of classes due to lack of interest and due to time conflict with the  work in the jute mill. Hero is a very curious boy and loves to ask questions and learn new things. In his free time, Hero goes to his neighborhood’s non-formal educational center where he has learned many new things and developed strong skills in reading, writing and in different subjects. Hero has an innate drive to dance and wants to learn bboying or breakdancing.

Ferryman: A wise old man who appears to be a simple man doing his work joyfully. Little do people know about his mystical and divine inner nature that allows him to simply enjoy the present moment. He loves to sing folk songs while he ferries people across the river.

Muskan (Sister): Muskan is Hero’s older sister. She is eighteen years old and about to take her final class twelve examinations. She is an intelligent, free-spirited and determined young lady who enjoys learning and trying out new things. Her parents want to set up an arranged marriage for her but she wants to continue her education beyond class twelve and graduate from college.

Mother: She is a housewife, very dedicated to her family. She works very hard and runs all household related affairs from managing the money, shopping, cooking, cleaning and raising the children. She is a natural leader and has lots of inner strength therefore she has the final say in any decision related to family issues.

Father: A hardworking, down-to-earth man who has been the family breadwinner since he was very young. He is experienced with life and the everyday struggle for survival faced by the poor working classes. The factory he worked in for most of his life closed down so he lost his job. Depressed, he recently started drinking alcohol as a way to escape from reality.

Anand (Cycle rickshaw puller): Anand is fifteen years old and is one of Hero’s best friends. He is a caring and family oriented young man who works as a cycle rickshaw puller in order to help support his family. Anand used to get top marks in school but he had to give up his studies a few years ago in order to start earning money for the family. He used to have big interest Anand has experienced major physical and psychological hardships working as a cycle rickshaw puller so he became angry and disappointed at life. He is worried about what future might hold for him and his family.

Scene I By the River Ghat

(A boy named Hero sits by the ghat, a worship song is playing in the background, he is reading an old book and sometimes glancing at the river.)

(His friend Anand enters the stage driving a cycle rickshaw. He stops his rickshaw by the ghat and walks to say hi to Hero.)

(Anand) – Hi, Hero!

(Hero) – Hello, Anand.

(Anand) – How was your day?

(Hero) – Tiring. Working in the jute mill takes a lot out of me. Non-stop making jute bags and if I ever get distracted or slow down, my boss beats me up.

(Anand) – Pulling a rickshaw takes a lot out of me too. My father’s rickshaw is falling apart and I have no money to repair it. When I cycle people around, the metal chain keeps popping out so I have to stop the rickshaw and place it back into place. Customers complain a lot but I have no other choice…

(Hero) – And I thought my job was hard. Your job might be a lot harder than mine specially in a hot day like today.

(Anand) – But the worst part is not even the physical labor or the heat, the worst part is how people don’t really treat me like I am worth anything. Some people don’t even look at me like I’m a human being and others throw their payment money at me like I am a dirty beggar.

(Hero) – That’s so disrespectful!

(Anand) – Yes, sometimes I feel like throwing them out of my rickshaw. But then I think about my mother, younger brother and sister and how they need my support. You know my father passed away recently so I have to take care of my family now. I take all these insults for them.

(Hero) – I’m really sorry about your father.  You are doing the right thing by taking care of your family. God bless you.

(Anand) – Thank you. I saw you were reading a book just a few minutes ago. What book is it?

(Hero) – You mean this book? I found this old book on my way here from the jute mill. Somebody left it on the pavement. Nobody was there to claim it so I picked it up and brought it along with me so I can read it.

(Anand) – Even though I can’t read or write well, I would never drop any book on the road. You know, I used to love going to school and learn how to read. I used to be a top student in class but I had to quit school and take up a job. Sometimes I wish I was still in school so I can learn to read properly. Hero could you read a few lines from this book for me?

(Hero) – Sure Anand, let me read my favorite lines from a poem in this book.

“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.

The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.”

(Anand) What does “boisterous” mean?

(Hero) I don’t know. Whatever words I don’t know, I just skip them.

(Anand) Wait, I see you have a touch screen cellphone. Why don’t you check in the dictionary? I have a very cheap China mobile so no internet, only calling and sms.

(Hero) Ok, let’s check it out…Here it is, boisterous – adjective, a noisy and active way filled with energy.

(Anand) A noisy and active way filled with energy. Hm, like the river right now.

(Hero) Good point, I’ll continue reading.

“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.”

(Anand) Can you check “trackless” for me?

(Hero) Ah I don’t need to check this one. Trackless means having no path, no track.

(Anand) This is just how I feel right now, boisterous and trackless. Inside, I’m boiling with anger and disappointment at life. I see no path for me, no tracks. There is no future in my life Hero except being stuck in this crap job as a rickshaw puller.

(Hero) I wish I could help you Anand. If you want, I can see if there are any vacant jobs with the jute mill. Maybe you can work with me for the jute mill. I know your family is suffering right now, if there need is any way help just let me know. I will see what I can do.

(Anand) Thank you bhai. (Anand sheds some tears and looks down to his kness and lifts his head up.) Who wrote these lines Hero?

(Hero) These lines are from a poem called “On the Seashore” written by Rabindranath Tagore.

(Anand) – Thank you for reading this poem to me. I don’t really understand the full meaning of it but it sounds beautiful. Look at the sky and see those dark clouds. A storm is coming.  I think it’s time for us to go home.

(Hero) – Yes, it is. I’m also late for dinner.

(Anand) – Get into the rickshaw. I can give you a ride.

(The two friends ride in the rickshaw together back to their houses.)

Scene I Glossary:

Worship: the act of showing respect and love for God or a deity

Glancing: from verb to glance, to look at someone or something very quickly

Takes a lot out of: idiom, to drain a lot of energy out of

Specially: adverb, being different than normal, particularly

Labor: noun, physical or mental work

Worth: adj., having value

Passed away: verb, someone who died

Insults: noun, bad talk that can hurt other people’s feelings  

Properly: adj., in a correct way

Boisterous: adj., a noisy and active way filled with energy 


Scene II – In the House

(Hero) – I’m back!

(Mother) – Go wash your hands and come eat. We are waiting for you!

(Father) – Quickly, I’m starving!

(Hero) – Ok, ok. What do we have for dinner?

(Mother) – Khichdi.

(Hero) – Again, mother? We have been having khichdi for three days in a row.

(Mother) – If you gave me some money, I would buy some meat and vegetables and cook more things.

(Hero) – But I just gave money to father a few days ago.

(Father) (Gives an angry stare at the boy. Makes signal for the boy to shut up.)

(Mother) – What did you do with the money?

(Father) – I used it to pay some bills due.

(Mother) – What bills? I just paid rent and the electricity bill last week.

(Father) – Personal bills. None of your business.

(Mother) – Did you go to the alcohol store?

(Father) – I said none of your business! I’m hungry, let’s eat!

(Mother) -Hero, next time you give the money to me, do you understand?

(Hero) – Yes, mother.

(Mother) – Let’s eat. (The mother starts serving the food.) We have some good news. Tomorrow your father and I are going to meet a potential husband for your sister.

(Hero) – Who is this?

(Father) – It’s one of my old friends’ brother’s son. He is a hardworking boy from a good family.

(Muskan) – Can we just eat instead of talking about my marriage?

(Mother) – You are a grown up lady now. Times are dangerous for unmarried young ladies living in our neighborhood. It is best for you to get married and start a family.

(Muskan) – What about my studies?

(Father) – You are almost finishing class twelve. It’s a big achievement. Not many girls in our neighborhood are able to accomplish this.

(Muskan) – What if I want to go to college?

(Father) – Do you want to continue studying?

(Muskan) – Yes.

(Father) – Then we will wait and see how you do in your final examinations. If your results are good, you may continue your studies. If they are not, it will be time for you to get married.

(Muskan) – Trust me. I will work very hard and I will be a class topper.

(Father) – We believe you. If you work hard, you can achieve whatever you set yourself to.

(Hero) – Wow look at the TV. That’s so cool. What kind of dance is this?

(Muskan) – It’s called breakdance or bboying or bgirling depending if it’s a boy or girl dancing. I saw some kids doing it on the other side of the river. I practice…(she stops what she was going to say.)

(Hero) – Wow! I can do this too! (The boy tries to imitate what he sees.)

(Mother) – Finish your food!

(Hero) – I want to go to the other side and practice with those breakdancer kids!

(Mother) – Are you mad? You are not a child anymore. You have to help support the family. Your father just lost his job recently! His factory just closed down.

(Hero) – Don’t worry mother! I can do both. Tomorrow I have no work so I will travel to the other side of the river and go practice with them! Where is that group’s practice spot, sister?

(Muskan) – They practice near the ghat on the other side of the river.

(Hero) – Awesome! I will go there tomorrow. I need to practice some of my moves first.

(Muskan) – I also know of an all girls crew on the other side of the river if you want to practice with them instead.

(Hero) – A girl’s crew? No, it’s ok. I’ll go find this group first.

(Muskan) – As you wish.

(Lights slowly fade with the boy trying to do some breakdance.)

Scene II Glossary:

Achievement: noun, a successful result usually due to effort and hard-work

Accomplish: verb, to succeed or to complete something

Fade: verb, to slowly disappear

Scene III – The Ferryman By the Ghat

(Ferryman) – All aboard. Let’s travel to the other shore.

(Hero) – Is this ferry going to the other side of the river?

(Ferryman) – Yes, it is. Why do you want to cross the river my friend?

(Hero) – I’m going to learn breakdance sir.

(Ferryman) – Breakdance? Is it popular again now? I first heard of this dance forty years ago. It is also called bboying or bgirling right?

(Hero) – Yes. Do you know how to breakdance sir?

(Ferryman) – Haha, no. I have seen people doing this but I haven’t tried it myself. You seem like a simple and friendly young man. Let me tell you something about the other side of the river. You know, the other side is not a welcoming place for kids like yourself.

(Hero) – What do you mean sir?

(Ferryman) – It is a city for the so called ‘modern people’. Life is fast and monotonous. People walk around in fancy shirts with no smiles in their faces and bump into each other. People cheat, people argue and people walk around like they are better than everyone else. Do you still want to go to the other side of the river?

(Hero) – I had no idea about this. Thank you for your advice. What you are saying might be true but I still want to figure it out by myself. Yesterday, I learned from my sister that there is a group of breakdancers on the other side of the river. My goal is to travel to the other side, find these dancers and practice with them. No matter what happens, I will cross this river and see the city with my own eyes!

(Ferryman) – I see you are determined to go! Wonderful it is when people set out for quests! I wish you the best of luck my friend. Go on and chase your dream! Let me teach you a song that us ferrymen always sing to enjoy ourselves.

Song 1: “Mere Sajan He Uspar” by S. D. Burman from movie Bandini (1963)

Lyrics by Shailendra and English Translation by Dr. V. S. Gopalakrishnan (Edited Version)

O re majhi, o re majhi, o mere majhi / (O boatman, o boatman, o my boatman)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)
Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi / (On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar /(Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar (My lover is on the other side of the river)
Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi /(On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)

Oh man ki kitaab se tum / (Strike out my name from your mind)
Mera naam hi mita dena / (Erase my name)
Gun to na tha koi bhi / (I had no good qualities)
Avgun mere bhula dena (Forget my bad qualities)

Man ki kitaab se tum / (Strike out my name from your mind)
Mera naam hi mita dena / (Erase my name)
Gun to na tha koi bhi / (I had no good qualities)
Avgun mere bhula dena / (Forget my bad qualities)

Mujhe aaj ki vidhata / (I am the Creator of today)
Mujhe aaj ki vidhata / (I am the Creator of today)
Mar ke bhi rehta intazaar / (If I die I will also wait for you)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side)
Main man maar / (I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar / (On this side)

O mere maajhi / (O my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar (My lover is on the other side)

Mat khel jal jaayegi / (Don’t play you will get burned)
Kehti hai aag mere man ki / (Says the fire of my mind)
Mat khel mat khel / (Do not play, do not play)
Mat khel jal jaayegi / (Don’t play you will get burned)
Kehti hai aag mere man ki /(Says the fire of my heart)

Main bandini piya ki / (I am a prisoner of love)
Main sangini hoon saajan ki / (I am the partner of my lover)
Mera kheenchti hai aanchal / (Someone pulls my dupata (Indian scarf))
Mera kheenchti hai aanchal / (Someone pulls my dupata (Indian scarf))
Man meet teri har pukaar / (My heart is calling for you)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side)

Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi /(On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)
O re maajhi, o re maajhi, o mere maajhi / (O boatman, o boatman, o my boatman)

(The ferryman finishes singing.)

(Ferryman) – We have arrived. Go on my friend. Go find the group of dancers. Once you complete your journey, I will be here to ferry you back home. I can ferry you to the other shore.

(Hero) – What a beautiful song! Thank you sir. See you soon.  (End of scene III)

Scene III Glossary:

Aboard – preposition, get onto a vehicle like a boat or ship

Popular –adjective, liked or followed by many people

Modern – adjective, related to present or recent time

Monotonous – adjective, boring or as having no variety

 To Be Continued…

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