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Prominent Indian choreographer teaches, performs at Indiana State

November 5, 2013

After a day of teaching Indiana State University students to crunch numbers, Nandini Bhowmick swayed across the stage in a lesson blending history, culture and dance - the latest dancer taking instruction from a renowned award-winning choreographer from halfway around the world.

Bhowmick performed on stage in a presentation featuring lessons and a performance from Saroja Vaidyanathan, an internationally renowned instructor and choreographer from India. Vaidyanathan presented "Nrithya Shastra: The Science of Dance" which incorporated the dance expressions and history of Bharatanayam, an ancient dance that originated in southern India more than 2,000 years ago. More than 125 Indiana State faculty, staff and students and Terre Haute community members attended the performance.

"The crowd was warm and very supportive," said Bhowmick, a mathematics lecturer at Indiana State who danced at the beginning of the performance. "We had significantly more people than we expected."

Vaidyanathan explained various elements of the dance style, including the significance of the colors in the dance attire, the importance of the dance's expressive movements and the emotions they convey. She also joined Bhowmick and Sowmya Challa, an Indiana State graduate student pursuing her doctorate in curriculum, instruction and media technology, in dancing on stage.

"People got to see the real cultural richness in Bharatanayam," said Challa, member of the Indian Student Association, which along with the Center for Global Engagement at Indiana State organized the event. "It's not a dance form that people learn about as often as some others."

Vaidyanathan visited Bhowmick, who has been a student of hers while in India before moving to the Wabash Valley, where she now also teaches the dance form to students of her own, including Challa. The doctoral student never expected to have an opportunity to see the prominent choreographer perform in-person, let alone to share the stage with her mentor's mentor.

"I was scared to share the stage with such a prominent expert of dance, but at the same time I felt very honored," Challa said. "It really gave me a lot of happiness and a huge sense of satisfaction. That was phenomenal."

Some people had questions about the dance form, and Bhowmick even saw some Indiana State students replicating some of the dance moves that they were learning about on stage. Audience members were enthusiastic, with some traveling from around the state to watch Vaidyanathan perform.

"There are different classical forms of dance, but the uniqueness of Bharatanayam, I would say, is that it's a 2,000 year old form of India that coincides with western ballet," said Bhowmick, who also owns Esha School of Dance and Performing Arts in Terre Haute, which also is affiliated with Vaidyanathan's school in India. "The movements, including the foot movements, are exactly the same as the western intermediate ballet."

The famous choreographer has received numerous honors and awards throughout career. Earlier this year she received the Padma Bhushan, one of the most prestigious honors that the government of India can award a civilian.

"It was great to have someone like her perform on campus," said Zachariah Mathew, associate director for the Center for Global Engagement. "Dancers from around the world have traveled to India to be her students. We had a terrific response from the Terre Haute community, and that was great to see as well."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2013/Classical-Indian-Dance/i-MbbNNBR/1/L/October%2002%2C%202013%20Bharathanatryam%209116-L.jpgSaroja Vaidyanathan, an internationally renowned instructor and choreographer from India, on stage during a performance at Indiana State University. Vaidyanathan presented "Nrithya Shastra: The Science of Dance" which incorporated the dance expressions and history of Bharatanayam, an ancient dance that originated in southern India more than 2,000 years ago.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2013/Classical-Indian-Dance/i-rB4wGRC/1/L/October%2002%2C%202013%20Bharathanatryam%209167-L.jpg Indiana State University doctoral student Sowmya Challa (left) on stage as Saroja Vaidyanathan explains her performance. Challa and Nandini Bhowmick, a mathematics lecturer at Indiana State, also danced during the performance.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2013/Classical-Indian-Dance/i-rgJtdcV/1/L/October%2002%2C%202013%20Bharathanatryam%209401-L.jpgIndiana State University doctoral student Sowmya Challa, Cheri Bradley, Indiana State President Dan Bradley, renowned Indian choreographer Saroja Vaidyanathan and Nandini Bhowmick, lecturer of mathematics and Indiana State.

Contact: Nandini Bhowmick, lecturer, department of mathematics, College of Arts and Sciences, nandini.bhomwick@indstate.edu; Zachariah Mathew, associate director, Center for Global Engagement, 812-237-2439 or zachariah.mathew@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu 

Story Highlights

Saroja Vaidyanathan, an internationally renowned instructor and choreographer from India, presented “Nrithya Shastra: The Science of Dance” which incorporated the dance expressions and history of Bharatanayam, a 2,000-year-old dance form from India.

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