During the Ganesha celebrations in our community, Ananth performed a dance on Ganesha. This was his first dance performance after his arangetram in October 2020. Dance practice had been disrupted for multiple reasons. Eventually, Ananth started learning from Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh in Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru. This is the first piece he performed under Ujwal’s guidance.
L: Learning daily
Preparing for the dance created opportunities for learning daily. We also made discoveries to enhance daily learning in the future. When working with neurodivergent learners, it is important to adapt the learning process for their needs. I had requested Ujwal to teach the hand gestures and facial expressions separately because for Ananth the usual sequence of teaching foot movements, body/hand movements, and finally facial expressions means that when he is learning facial expressions, he is also doing all the other movements and does not have bandwidth to learn expression.
The video below shows how Ananth learned hand gestures and expressions before integrating them in his dance.
Viewers have noted that Ananth is looking more expressive now. Many reasons. One important reason is how Ujwal explains the meaning of every word multiple times. So Ananth is comprehending what he is showing clearly and that is one important reason for communicating better through body and facial expressions. Now that Ujwal has started pulling out hand gestures and facial expressions, I expect we will see even more progress. Another big benefit is that these storytelling parts Ananth can practice at any time during the day whereas he has a couple of set times for dance practice and that is when he will do full dance.
Ananth has been interested in Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years. Learning with more explanations through storytelling and improving our practice routines continuously helps sustain this interest because Ananth is better able to learn and perform.
F: Family interactions
We continue to support Ananth in many ways. For example, I interacted several times with the event organizers as they planned the event. We chose and shopped for the costume together. His grandmother attended the event. We posted the recording on Youtube channel and shared it with other family members.
E: Engagement with Community
Performing in the event created an opportunity to meet many people in the community. Many people spoke to him after the event. Hopefully, interactions will increase in the future due to such activities.
The dance was a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) project. While Ananth has been exploring this piece for some months, the performance motivated him to practice more and refine the parts that he did not know well.
The objective of performance is not just to demonstrate mastery. The four LIFE elements show the varied benefits of performing in community events. Such events are an opportunity for inclusion. Neurodivergent learners may not have conversations in the same way as their neurotypical peers. But they often have varied skills that can be showcased and celebrated by communities.
Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a professor and home educator. She was the editor of a monograph on service-learning published by the American Association of Higher Education. This monograph was a part of a series of monographs on service-learning published by AAHE. She was also an Engaged Scholar with the Campus Compact, an association in the US dedicated to higher education civic and community engagement at colleges and universities. She is currently doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for RASA and TAHD. Ananth Raghunandan will be starting a diploma in Bharatanatyam shortly.
Their journey from homeschooling to collaborators and co-creators continues!
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