Bangalore, India, native Sudha Raghurem performs her native dances to students at Southside Primary School last week.--Sarah Cook
Bangalore, India, native Sudha Raghurem performs her native dances to students at Southside Primary School last week.-- Sarah Cook

Bharatanatyam exhibition reinforces studies of India

Published 7:23pm Monday, March 18, 2013

Wide-eyed students at Southside Primary Elementary watched Friday as Sudha Raghurem, a native of Bangalore, India, demonstrated her country’s native dance of Bharatanatyam.

The program, which was part of an Alabama Black Belt arts initiative, was meant to expose children to a different culture while reiterating what they’ve learned in the classroom.

“We’ve been doing a unit on India for the past several weeks,” said Anna Mary Harrison, arts teacher at Southside Primary. “We thought this would be a good way for the students to really experience the culture.”

Raghurem has traveled to several schools throughout the state and performed her dances, which consist of fluid moves and dramatic facial expressions. Before she began, Raghurem explained the background of this ancient dance form.

“It’s a classical dance in India, kind of like ballet,” Raghurem told the children. “The dance can tell stories. Sometimes they’re about Hindu gods, nature, the weather or animals.”

Her first dance told the story of a peacock.

Harrison said she believed it’s important students are exposed to cultural experiences like this because it allows them to fully grasp what they learn in textbooks.

“The dances she is doing are geared toward this age and things that are covered in their sciences and social studies curriculum,” Harrison said.

As a native of India, Raghurem said she enjoys demonstrating her heritage to children.

“They will definitely learn about this new dance form when otherwise they wouldn’t have,” Raghurem said. “It will just make them more aware of different art forms in other parts of the world.”

The dance Bharatanatyam can be broken in to two meanings, she explained. Bharata  stands for emotions while natyam means rhythm and dance. The dance was set to carnatic music, a classical Indian rhythm.

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