Dance of India To Add Excitement To Classrooms
you imagine an ancient Indian temple dance as a teaching tool
in your school? Educators at St. John's University can. They plan
to spice up their curriculum with exotic Bharata Natyam.
Faculty enrolled in the Lincoln Center Institute's program for
the arts recently prepared for this by studying Bharata Natyam
at a special dance seminar-their final seminar in a four-seminar
course. Each has dissected a single art form-art, music, drama,
dance-to develop skills of perception as well as appraise its
application to the classroom. (Education Update has covered all
the sessions.) Next, their program integrates these arts to St.
first step in developing an appreciation in the arts for our students
is an awareness on the part of the faculty of what is involved
in the creation of an artistic piece, "explained Peter Quinn,
an associate professor and coordinator of undergraduate elementary
education, who will pilot these programs into St. John's classrooms.
"I don't think any of us will ever look at a dance recital,
painting or play in the same way again," he said, summing
up their seminar experiences.
During their dance seminar, the educators watched spellbound a
special performance by Swati Bhise, one of India's foremost Bharata
Natyam exponents in the United States. In lavish silk costume
and make-up, her carefully orchestrated movements and subtle shifts
of expression and mood helped her tell a story derived from rich
mythology. Small bells tinkled at her ankles as an ancient raga
(musical mode) kept her beat.
Prior to the Bharata Natyam performance, the faculty, guided by
Clifford Shulman, a Lincoln Center program manager, performed
stylized story-telling gestures intrinsic to understanding Bharata
Natyam dance. Before she performed, Swati Bhise showed the group
how the eyes, face, and hands are used in this highly stylized
The educators gave Bharata Natyam high marks and thought it could
open new worlds for students. They believed it might even inspire
teachers to use mime to reach non-English speaking kids.
Lincoln Center Institute sessions have developed a rapport among
faculty that we never would have achieved through a series of
meetings," said Mr. Quinn. "We hope the sessions with
students will be equally fruitful."
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