Celebrating Festivals: Discovering Opportunities for Inclusion

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.

I: Interests
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.

SMART projects
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!

Join the discussion in our whatsapp group here:



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.

Story source:-

Video source- RASA India

Creative representation for the ChangemakerSaathi story of Dr.Ambika Kameshwar is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Dhrov Tikoo


Narrating Stories with Hand Gestures

This blog post describes Ananth’s storytelling with hand gestures project under the guidance of Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty and artist of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru.  More posts will be added in the future.  Parents and teachers can use these short segments to create lessons for children and teens.  Blog posts will provide lesson ideas for each story.

On December 2, 2022, Ananth shared his first story using hand gestures. This story included one hasta (hand gesture) from Bharatanatyam (mayura hasta) and other gestures. A short snippet of music to demonstrate the gesture was used as a prelude to the story.

In January, Ananth shared another story that used hand gestures. This story included another hasta (hand gesture) from Bharatanatyam (kartari mukha hasta) and other gestures. Again, short snippet of music to demonstrate the gesture was used as a prelude to the story.

Watch the video below for an explanation of how these stories and music pieces were created under the guidance of Dr. Sarada Natarajan, President of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru to teach students about the hand gestures as well as their usage. The video also explains RMCL’s perspective on Bharatanatyam.

The library of music and stories has been a tremendous resource for Ananth’s learning. It is easy for his teacher to provide snippets of stories to practice. These small segments integrate important Bharatanatyam skills while integrating other tools of theater such as storytelling. It is also motivating for Ananth to practice the hand gestures and stories to create videos for the community. These projects enable focused practice and have meaningful outputs. See the storytelling playlist here.

Dear parents and educators, Watch the videos and develop lesson plans for your students. Share your experiences in SpecialSaathi group or in the LIFESMART Parenting group on Facebook!

Author Dr.Dasaratha Rama

Creative representation of this blog is done by supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Dhairya Kumar Pal.

BloggerSaathi CreativeSaathi

Smile Brightly and Dance SMART Projects

A Month of SMART Projects

December has been a month of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) projects! In this blog post, we are summarizing 10 SMART projects for Ananth. Daily learning is progressing in a systematic and steady way through these SMART projects. The four LIFE (L: Learning daily, I: Interests, F: Family interactions, E: Engagement with community) elements shape SMART projects. In turn, SMART projects evolve daily LIFE. This relationship between daily LIFE and SMART is at the heart of the LIFESMART approach. We will be discussing the interplay of daily LIFE and SMART projects in subsequent posts.

We appreciate the ongoing encouragement, guidance, and support of Dr. Ambika Kameshwar that have made these projects possible. Thanks to Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh (Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru), Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya, Chennai), Ms. Usha Sankaran (Senior Faciliator, RASA), and Shilpi Mayank-Awasthi (SpecialSaathi) for encouraging, guiding, facilitating, and supporting these projects. Thanks to our LIFESMART community for reading and responding to his shares. We appreciate your ongoing encouragement and support. A great start to Ananth’s 25th year!

Thanks to Jaya Mulraj and Vinayak Raj for the beautiful artwork for this blog post!

Ananth’s LIFESMART Planner

We have started building Ananth’s planner to organize my SMART projects and other elements of my experience. Copy Ananth’s planner in Googlesheet and create your own LIFESMART planner for 2023! You can view his planner in Googlesheet here.

Project 1: The White Peacock

Ananth’s first project for December 2022 was presenting The White Peacock story at a webinar on his birthday on December 2, 2022. Ananth enjoyed sharing the story. Since he blogs for, he also enjoyed narrating the story.

Project 2: Cats are my Purrfect Companion

A second project that was also completed on December 2, 2022 was a blog post for SpecialSaathi. Read Ananth’s blog here. Thanks to Vinayak Raj for his creative representation on Ananth learning storytelling and drama with a teacher and some cats!

Project 3: Creating Lesson Videos for The 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) for Parents Project

A third important project took shape during our visit to the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning. Thanks to Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for creating two lesson videos with Ananth. A simple and valuable SMART project that seems likely to set other SMART projects in motion!

Ananth and I are implementing these videos and more in our days 1-7 practice of Smile Brightly and Dance. We invite you to try it with us!

Choose one or both lessons to try and practice. The first lesson is a Bharatanatyam aduvu (structured movement patterns taught to Bharatanatyam students). You do not have to be a Bharatanatyam dancer to try this video! It provides a glimpse of what Bharatanatyam training. Try it with your child and share your experience. The second video is a song about body parts. Both videos were developed as part of our 100 Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for parents.

Week 1 Lesson: An introduction to Aduvus (a structured movement pattern) in Dance

Week 2 Lesson: Body Awareness

Project 4: Storytelling with SpecialSaathi

Ananth wrote about his first oral storytelling experience with SpecialSaathi. Thanks to Drov Tikoo for the beautiful artwork for the white peacock story. Read his blog post here.

Project 5: Smile Brightly and Dance – Part I

Project 6: Visualization with Folding

Ananth organized what he learned from the interview with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh using a folded circle.  I have been folding circles using the Wholemovement approach ( since 2007.  Folding is a unique way of organizing ideas by dividing a whole (the circle) rather than by adding parts together. This project was a sub-project of the blog post (see project 5)

Project 7. Ananth’s Adventures on Pinterest

We are compiling Ananth’s Adventures on Pinterest. View his December gallery below.

Project 8. 100-Days of Smile Brightly and Dance

We bought a stand for our IPAD and experimented with ways to tape the practice. Our plan is to share one recording each week. The recording will be documentation for us and a resource for the LIFESMART community as we share our experiences.

Project 9. Preparing for Krishna Dootam Play with RASA

Ananth is busy preparing for his role as Krishna in Krishna Dootam on December 28, 2022. Hopefully, the Smile Brightly and Dance project will help him play this role well!

Project 10. Creating Ananth’s Website

We have also resumed work on Ananth’s website. We expect to do significant work on this site in January 2023.


The LIFESMART canvas is a tool for visualizing learning experiences in a systemic way. We will discuss one or two components of the LIFESMART component in our post each week. The focus of this week is on SMART projects. The canvas shows an important relationship. SMART projects grow our Six Cs (Connections, Conversations, Clarity, Choice, Competence, and Coordination).

Chance favors those who invest in their Six Cs!

Ananth’s Six Cs have started shifting because of his SMART projects in December. We are waiting to see how things evolve in 2023!

We invite parents to do the SMART projects (based on lesson videos and other resources) shared in our 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) for Parents project. Grow your Six Cs! Parents’ Six Cs have an important impact on the child’s Six Cs. Parents’ Six Cs are of particular importance for neurodivergent children and adults who may have communication and other challenges. Join the LIFESMART 100-Day TAHD project here.

BloggerSaathi CreativeSaathi

Smile Brightly and Dance – Part II

Exploring Theater as a Tool for Stress Management 

Many neurodivergent individuals and their parents face significant amounts of stress. This stress arises not only because of challenges that an individual has in areas such as motor functioning, executive functioning, and communication but also due to the environment. Finding the right environments for neurodivergent individuals to thrive is not easy.

Can Theater Arts for Holistic Development be used to teach stress management?

This is the question that I have been mulling since Ananth started his Bharatanatyam lessons with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, a senior faculty and artist at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL), Bengaluru.

Ananth has been learning Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years.  Even during the first lesson with Ujwal, I felt a striking difference in his approach from Ananth’s past experiences. I had connected with him through the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) program by RASA India. So I already knew that his approach was shaped by TAHD. As lessons continued, I realized that his approach represents an integration of The Ramana Way and The TAHD Way! Ramana Maharshi is one among the great spiritual masters of India who has guided the world to get back to their own nature which is divine and blissful. Thank you Morpheus for your amazing artwork for our blog posts! Ananth and I are happy you shared your portrait of Ramana Maharshi with us for our blog.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

The question below and the response (emphasis added) is from Ananth’s blog post yesterday that included an interview with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh.

4. Did you start incorporating Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings in dance before integrating TAHD?

Yes, Ramana came first and with it came the understanding of the true purpose of dance  which is to realize our true nature. I loved listening to stories always. After the training of TAHD the primary goal of all the lesson plans was to understand that our true nature is happiness. These lesson plans includes song, dance and stories.

The first time I observed Bharatanatyam lessons at RMCL, I was struck by the opening lines:

Omkaranai idhayathil ninainde

Mahizhudun Punnagai Purinthen

Thai ya thai ennum spurana thudane

Thataduvai nam saidiuvum

Lyrics by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh Tamil Translation: Dr. Sarada

These lines invite the student to think of God’s power within themselves and smiling before starting dance. We did four lessons during our first visit. Somehow, these opening lines caught my attention each time. Later I realized that these opening lines shifted aduvu (small patterns of movement and expression that are the building blocks for Bharatanatyam) practice in a subtle but important way.  I continued to observe aduvu teaching during online sessions. The theme of being attentive to God’s power within you and smiling brightly were a part of every lesson!

Smile Brightly and Dance – A 100-Day Project is Born

Over the last month, I have been considering the possibility of TAHD as a tool for practicing emotional regulation and stress management. The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) video on Strengthening Stress Resilience and Immunity is a useful resource to think about aduvus as a stress management practice. 

Stress is an internal state of the organism and mental processes. A need or demand that is perceived to exceed the resources available to effectively deal with it at a certain time or disease can cause stress. The description of the video notes that MNRI® offers new approaches to enhance stress resilience and immunity, as we contend with the neurodevelopmental impact, the emotional/physical trauma, and the panic from the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and challenges during the pandemic and other situational factors have resulted in a period of stress for Ananth.

So I was intrigued by the possibility of Smile Brightly and Dance as an approach for teaching stress management while teaching dance. Since MNRI is not easily available in India, TAHD and especially the aduvu practice as a way of affect regulation and stress management is a possibility worth exploring.  Even if MNRI were readily available, dance brings the practice into a fun and engaging activity for the learner to take ownership of this practice rather than a therapy organized by others.

Our 100-Day TAHD Project Begins

Once I saw the possibility of using aduvus as a tool for practicing emotional regulation, I started thinking about a 100-Day project.  Aduvus struck me as a powerful tool for creating opportunities for learners to practice facial expression.  Facial expression is also practiced in storytelling and drama but aduvus provide a systematic, incremental, and consistent way of practicing affect regulation daily.  

Hence, the 100-Days of Smile Brightly and Dance project was born.

Day 1: 12-15-2022

Pay attention to God’s power within you.

Ananth is beginning to internalize this message.  Today, he told me that he had a hard time with fast transitions because he was not paying attention to God’s power within him!

Building Positive Thinking Trails

Today, I had an aha moment. Ananth has a tendency to get stuck on negative thoughts/experiences.  So I suggested that the next time he has a negative thought, tell himself that God’s power is within him.  Since Ujwal brings this message daily in one or more ways, this thought (and related thoughts) can provide an alternate path for thoughts.

What we did

Ananth and I did the following together

  1. Vyayama
  2. Tattaduvu  (We tried the Aduvu Adaivu video in the morning but for our purpose, the one Ujwal and Ananth did at RMCL works better.  It is slower and repeats Omkarane twice.

I have decided to practice the exercises and aduvus with him.  While he is doing fine with a teacher or in a group, his attention and concentration have been significantly affected during the last year.  In the early days of learning dance, I used to practice parts of the lesson with him.  For this 100-Day project, I will be doing exercises and some aduvus with him as I think it will help get the most benefit out of this practice.

Day 2: 12-16-2022

Ananth learned one more aduvu in a slower format in his class. We will add that to our daily practice for the 100 days.

Day 3: 12-17-2022

We practiced the mettaduvu. We are seeing a goal for skills practice. Side bending while doing mettaduvu is our goal for the coming week!

The poster below shows our project timeline.

We invite you to create your own Smile Brightly and Dance 100-Day project or some other 100-Day Theater Arts project and share your journey with us in our LIFESMART groups!