The last week has been eventful! Movement and Storytelling Activities Ebook We completed version 1 of our e-book “Movement and Storytelling Activities.” This e-book is the first in the LIFESMART Parenting e-books on Learning with your Child at Home. It includes 10 activities based on Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar.
Thanks to Morpheus Nag for the beautiful picture of a mother and child that helps us convey the message of the book. Learning with your child at home is about connection!
Bridging the Neurodivide I also participated in a panel discussion on Bridging the Neurodivide hosted by SpecialSaathi.
Ananth’s Birthday Session on SpecialSaathi We were excited to end the week with a session hosted by SpecialSaathi on Ananth’s birthday. This session included 1) a dance by Ananth, 2) a message on learning with Indian natya/ Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, and 3) a presentation by Dr. Rama on Whole Body Communication using Indian natya
This session is also Parentsaathi lesson 3.
We are grateful to Shilpi Mayank Awasthi for these wonderful opportunities. The TAHD way is a fun way to celebrate birthdays! SpecialSaathi has made it possible to celebrate Ananth’s birthdays, in this way. These events are a way to bridge the neurodivide by bringing together family members, LIFESMART community, and SpecialSaathi community.
Author Dr Dasaratha Rama
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 has served as the Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Section of the American Accounting Education. She is a certified leader in systems thinking, mapping, and leadership under a program offered by Cabrera Research Lab. She is currently doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).
Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya – 2
Last week, I started writing about whole body movement and communication through Indian natya. While we hear of many neurodivergent learners who sing, play musical instruments, draw, paint, etc., we do not hear much about their dancing. Further, we do not hear much about neurodivergent people and classical dance. One of the questions I am going to be exploring in this series of blog post is:
Why should neurodivergent learners explore classical dance? Many neurodivergent individuals have significant motor challenges. I did too. When someone has motor challenges, we do not think of teaching them dance. Dr Masgutova, developer of the Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI), suggested that I learn dance. I started learning dance in September 2011.
I started my dance journey with hip hop and tap. When we were in Tirupati, I saw a Bharatanatyam performance for the first time and wanted to learn it. Once I started Bharatanatyam, I discovered that I enjoyed Bharatanatyam better than hip hop and tap. Bharatanatyam was taught in a very structured and systematic way which made it easier for me to learn.
Three components of Bharatanatyam lessons that make it easier for me learn the dance form are: 1. Adavus 2. Hastas 3. Bedas
Adavus: Adavus are structured patterns of movement that are the foundation of Bharatanatyam learning. When we start learning Bharatanatyam, we focus on the adavus. Adavus are movement patterns that are done to rhythm. We do the adavus to three speeds. We continue to practice adavus even when we become more experienced students.
Practicing these adavus makes it easy to learn different pieces because the choreography builds on these adavus.
Hastas Hastas are hand gestures. Hastas are a unique feature of Bharatanatyam training and performance. We use hand gestures and facial expressions for communicating emotions. In my diploma program, I am learning 52 hand gestures (28 single hand and 24 double hand gestures). Each hand gesture can be used in many ways. I am learning these 52 hastas and their usage.
In TAHD (Theater Arts for Holistic Development), storytelling is one of the tools that is combined in my dance class. We are taught stories for each hasta. This is a unique feature of my TAHD dance class. I did not do such stories when I was learning Bharatanatyam before my arangetram.
See The White Peacock Story and Robbers in Ramana Thatha’s ashram in my storytelling playlist
In addition to adavus and hastas, we also learn bedas. Bedas focus on movements of specific body parts. For example, three bedas that I have learned are: 1) Pada Bedas (movements of the feet) 2) Shiro Bedas (movements of the head) 3) Dhrishti Bedas (movements of the eyes)
Classical dance has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I am grateful to my gurus Smt. Harija Sivakumar, Professor Kalakshetra Mohanan, and Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh for teaching me Bharatanatyam for many years. The structured and systematic way of learning and practice works well for me. Adavus, hastas, and bedas are three building blocks of Bharatanatyam. By practicing these building blocks regularly, I can learn the dance pieces more easily. I encourage neurodivergent students and their parents to explore classical dance.
In my blog posts, I will also mention the writing techniques that I used. Writing is a very important skill and I hope parents will explore these techniques with their children. I used the five paragraph essay to write this blog post. I practiced this technique daily when I was learning grammar and writing using Shurley grammar.
On my last birthday in 2022, I narrated the story of The White Peacock on SpecialSaathi. That experience led to the development of my story of the month project and the Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel.
I will be doing a session for SpecialSaathi on my birthday on December 2, 2023, 8 pm IST. Hope you will join the session on whole body movement and communication with Indian natya!
About Ananth Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.
The Changemakersaathi story of Dr.Ambika Kameshwar Founder-Director RASA
Dear community members,
We feel honored and privileged to announce our February changemakersaathi story, featuring the renowned danseuse, vocalist, scholar, and teacher, Dr. Ambika Kameshwar. She is a true artist with international acclaim, who has shared her art with people all over the world.
With over 50 choreographed dance dramas and 10 complete Bharatanatyam Margams, Dr. Kameshwar is a true master of classical dance. As a music composer, she has composed music for several dance dramas and devotional albums, making her a well-rounded artist.
Join us in celebrating the work of Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, a true changemaker in the world of classical dance and music. Let her story inspire you to pursue your passions and make a positive impact in our community. Presenting “Margdarshi- The story of Dr.Ambika Kameshwar “
Ramana Sunritya Aalaya Kalaimamani Dr. Ambika Kameshwar is a noted danseuse, vocalist, scholar and teacher of international acclaim who has travelled the world sharing her art with all. She is a choreographer who has choreographed over 50 dance dramas and more than 10 complete Bharatanatyam Margams. As a music composer, she has composed music for over 50 dance dramas and several devotional albums as well. She is a loved and respected teacher of classical dance and music and is well known for her ‘pattu class’ on Raj Tv and earlier on Jaya tv.
Dr.Ambika is held by all in high regard as the Pioneer of Applying Theatre Arts as a tool of Holistic Development for people with multiple challenges.
Her Ph.D. was on Natyabhinaya and she did her Post Doctoral Fellowship on the Application of Natya as a holistic developmental tool, as a Senior Fellow of the Govt. of India. She guides PhD Scholars as a registered Guide of scholars pursuing their Doctorate degree at Vel’s University, Pallavaram, Chennai.
Her dance and music career spans 50 years and her teaching career, 35 years.
“Dr. Ambika is fortunate and blessed to have imbibed and experienced the richness of spirituality, the joy and strength of which she expresses continually in all spheres of life”.
She served as a Member of the Advisory Board of PRASAR BHARTI & of SOUTH ZONE CULTURAL CENTRE till 2010, and as a Board Member of The KALAKSHETRA Foundation till December 2013.
She is the Founder Director of RASA – Ramana Sunritya Aalaya the organisation through which she fosters the holistic empowerment of one and all – with the inclusion of people with diff abilities – by the structured application of Theatre Arts and its tools.
She has been honoured with several awards, including the highest award of the Rotary – namely the ‘For The Sake Of Honour ‘Award, the Bharata Kala Ratna, Stree Ratna, Acharya Choodamani and the prestigious Kalaimamani Award for the year 2004 by the Tamil Nadu State Government., to mention a few.
Team RASA takes immense pleasure to inform that our Founder, Director Dr Ambika Kameshwar has been awarded the “Puratchi Thalaivi Dr. J Jayalalitha Sirappu” Kalaimamani award from Honble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr Edappadi Palanisamy and Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram.
She had received the Kalaimamani Award in the year 2004 from Dr. J. Jayalalitha.
We are inundated with information. We get a lot of information daily. We have blogs, groups, webinars, and many other ways of acquiring information. But what are you practicing daily? Regardless of the information that we get, learning happens through practice.
Information is not equal to learning!
A lot of information does not make you more knowledgeable or more skilled! It may even get in the way of becoming knowledgeable and skilled.
In 2023, we are focusing on improving our methods for practicing. We are paying attention to the tools and techniques we are using to organize practice.
Our first and most successful effort is organizing dance practice. Thank you Vinayak Raj and Jaya Mulraj for this colorful picture of a dancer!
Smile Brightly and Dance
We have started a 100-Day Smile Brightly and Dance project. While practice is an ongoing daily activity, creating a timed project (100-Day project) is useful. We set and refine goals for this project. We track progress. The key outcome for this 100-Day project is improvement in our daily practice routines and habits.
We have created a Wakelet to organize practice.
We are working with Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, to create resources in way that makes it easy to organize practice. Since December, Ujwal has been creating short 3-5 minute videos. We are compiling these videos in Wakelet. We choose videos and practice with ease!
We are adding information about what we practice daily to our practice Wakelet.
Review our Wakelet here to see how we are organizing and documenting daily practice. You can use some of these resources to do your own 100 Days of Smile Brightly and Learn project!
Once we developed a clear practice approach for dance, we started replicating the same approach for coding and other activities.
Tip of the Week: Set clear practice goals for yourself and your child.Do not just think about making your child practice. There are many things that parents have to practice to become better guides andadvocates for their child. What are you practicing daily?
Our Journey to Bharata through Natya
I started referring to Ananth’s journey as A Journey to Bharat through Natya. Later, I realized that it is my journey too. I started tuning into mindful practice with Bharatanatyam. I was fascinated by how instruction was organized around aduvus, structured movement patterns that are the building blocks of Bharatanatyam. The building blocks of teaching and learning are well-specified in Bharatanatyam. Hence, it is not surprising that the first process that fell into place for practice for us was Bharatanatyam. We are grateful to Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for following this basic structure and working with us to create short videos as building blocks of our daily practice.
Announcing our New YouTube Channel: Ananth’s Adventures
Ananth’s Adventures will be used to share small daily explorations that Ananth and I do. Our focus will be on improving practice. We will do a series of 100-Day projects to continuously improve how we practice. Watch our first video on Ananth’s Adventures Channel below!
Smile Brightly and Dance: Practicing Pada Beda (Movements of the Feet) with Ananth
Rama’s Notes on the Video
A new phase in Ananth and mom’s theater explorations! Ananth has learned Bharatanatyam for over 10 years. Rama has observed and given suggestions to Ananth from time to time. We have acted together for many years. Ananth enjoys acting Ananth and mom stories. Now, Ananth is immersed in varied theater experiences through RASA. He is exploring dance from a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) perspective. Rama is doing a parent certification in TAHD. We are exploring theater a bit differently now.
I am #notadancer and not aspiring to be a dancer! But TAHD approach is relaxing. I would feel more intimidated by traditional Bharatanatyam that I would have to be perfect in the movements etc.
The Four Es of TAHD
Exploration, Experience, Expression, Enjoyment
Ananth and I are having fun trying out some things together. I feel free to express myself. While following what was taught, if I forget something, no worries. Make something up The point is to explore together and create a positive experience!
Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru, emphasizes smiling while dancing. But it is hard for Ananth to practice smiling in front of a computer screen. So I started doing the basics with him.
I don’t get enough time for exercise. We walk daily, I have started yoga, the aduvus add a bit more movement into my life.
I keep saying don’t just make your kids do things. Do things with them. Action is better than talk. So Ananth and I can just demonstrate this in action through our new channel.
I think TAHD has great potential to enhance the quality of interactions between parent and child. Hopefully, when parents see our video, they will get a glimpse of possibilities.
I don’t want to just say do TAHD, it can really help your child. I believe people respond more to action than words.
As a teacher, I am intrigued and fascinated by aduvus. What an elegant way of organizing teaching and learning! So I have an interest in aduvus.
The 100-Day project format also increases my comfort level. I have committed to a 100-Day exploration of aduvus with Ananth.
There are many small movement videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet. Any parent can pick up some and try. Hopefully, if we share a few explorations, it will motivate others to try.
Ujwal has started including simpler versions of the aduvus and telling Ananth “let us do this simple one so you can practice with amma.” So hopefully Ananth gets the message that he can teach something to others as well! It also means that the videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet are easier versions for parents to try a little at a time.
10. Finally, remember that you are not here to fix your child. Your child has their own path. They might well lead you to change your path! I am an engineer and an academic. The sum total of my dance experience is one folk song I did while in college We can always try new things and enjoy. #happiestsaathis
Practicing Coordinated Movement
Analyze the coordinated movement in the video above.
Consider related movements: 1) setting up the IPAD for recording and laptop for playing music, 2) setting up IPAD so both are visible, moving nearer or farther way, 3) coordinating (I will play the video, you start recording), 4) stopping the IPAD and laptop.
To create this short clip, we had to do quite a bit of coordination!
Sitting tolerance or engaging through movement? What should parents focus on?
Parenting and Perfection
Finally, I was thinking parenting and perfection may be on the opposite sides! As a parent, there is much to gain by quickly adding to my movement vocabulary and improvise while interacting with my child. If I were aspiring to be a dancer, then I would go much slower to develop each movement to perfection…
Think about all the different foot, hand, face/eyes and other movements in this short clip. As parents, we are free to just play with these movements.
Thanks Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Vaishnavi PoornaUjwal Jagadeesh Hopefully, we will get more parents trying TAHD and benefiting from RASA’s work over the years.
Body awareness is one of the concepts introduced in our 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for Parents. According to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar (2006), body awareness is “an internal awareness of how one’ body parts are built and how they function in stillness and in movement.”
Thanks Kabir Vernal for creating this artwork to think about body awareness in stillness and in motion. Play is one way in which young children develop body awareness. Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) provides a structured and consistent way of developing body awareness.
The concept poster shared as a part of the 100-Day Lab is shown below. As mentioned in the poster, body awareness leads to greater ability to controls one’s movements.
Dr. Kameshwar also notes that when we become aware of the reactions of our body to certain stimuli, we can respond to varied stimuli in a better way. The concept of interoception or mindful body awareness is a foundation for learning. According to the interoception kit, body awareness is a precursor to postitive development and emotional regulation.
Since Ananth started Bharatanatyam, we have noticed an improvement in his body awareness, including becoming aware of the reaction of his body to certain stimuli. As an example, some years ago when a coach made him run, he got extremely upset because he associated a faster heartbeart with stress and anxiety. It was only after a few years of Bharatanatyam that he would dance continuously. Improved body awareness also improves communication. For example, Ananth started communicating that he was thirsty, tired etc. These basic expressions of how one feels translates into self-regulation and problem-solving. For example, Ananth expresses thoughts like “I am tired. I don’t want to study now. I want to go for a walk.”
An important points for parents to consider is that doing speech therapy without the foundations of body awareness and emotional regulation may not be effective. The child will acquire language and speak but will he or she be able to communicate what they are feeling, manage their emotions, and solve problems?
TAHD and Body Awareness
The five tools of TAHD (movement and dance, music and rhythme, storytelling, drama, and arfts and crafts) can be integrated to develop body awareness and build the foundations of emotional regulation and problem-solving. There are countless opportunities to teach body awareness through TAHD. For example, as Ananth was preparing for his role as Krishna in Krishna Dootham, one of the first lessons that Ms. Usha Sankaran taught was how to sit as Krishna. She guided him on foot placement, placement of hands, body posture etc. In the group sessions with Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, there were many opportunities to practice body awareness. Actors have to think about where they are in space in relation to other characters on stage. They have to coordinate their movements with the movement of others on stage.
Body Awareness Lesson Video
In week 2, we shared a lesson video by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh on body parts. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers can do this video with children.
Body Awareness – Movements of the Feet
The lesson of this week is the pada beda movement activity by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh. Pada beda or movements of the feet in natya shastra are an important foundation of the dance. Body awareness can be raised through pada beda and movements of other parts such as shiro beda (movements of the head) and drishti beda (movement of the eyes).
Try the pada beda video below and raise awareness of the foot and its movements!
The video demonstrates five movements of the feet. The movements are performed to music.
Body Awareness – Facial Expressions
This year, we are also focusing more on facial expressions. As discussed in other posts, the TAHD approach to dance emphasizes facial expressions including smiling. Smiling and other facial expressions are integrated into aduvu teaching. Aduvus are structured movement patterns in Bharatanatyam. Even though the specific pieces learned by dancers change over time, aduvu practice is a part of the dance student’s daily practice routine! In the past, we have not seen emotional expressions being integrated with aduvu practice. For neurodivergent learners like Ananth, integrating emotional expressions in aduvu teaching is invaluable. Ongoing practice of emotional expressions through aduvus helps develop awareness of facial expressions that are an integral part of emotional regulation and communication.
The week 3 concept share by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar was on vacika abhinaya, one of the four forms of abhinaya according to Indian natya. As seen from this poster, vacika abhinaya is more than speech! It is the appropriate use of voice to communicate ideas, emotions, and needs. How does body awareness support vacika abhinaya?
Join us for the 100-Days of TAHD for Parents Lab here. Our goal is to encourage parents to consider theater arts as a tool for holistic development for life. Thanks to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar for sharing her TAHD work through our LIFESMART 100-Day Lab. We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Ambika Kameshwar and Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna in organizing the lab and providing us with excellent resources each week!
Ananth started learning Bharatanatyam in 2012. It is a decade since his Bharatanatyam journey began. Today, he is engaged extensively with theater arts through RASA India. Thanks to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar’s pioneering work, Ananth’s path forward with the arts and with life is clarifying and evolving beautifully. Thanks to Ananth’s TAHD dream team Dr. Ambika Kameswar, Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, Ms. Usha Sankaran, and Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for believing in Ananth and gently nudging his development in different ways. We are eagerly waiting to continue our journey in 2023!
Dr. Ambika Kameshwar. 2006 Theater Arts for Holistic Development. Ramana Sunritya Aaalaya Trust.