Bharatanatyam in Ryan Studio Colgate Students Learn About Ancient Dance

Hadley Rahrig

Bharatanatyam, or Bharata Natyam, is described as a traditional dance originat­ing in Southern India. Development of this style of dance began to form as early as 300 B.C. and is based upon the poses of ancient Hindu sculptures that depict dance as a form of devotion. Bharata Natyam dance essentially mimics elements of nature that demonstrate the power and joy of the universe. Furthermore, this In­dian dance is often considered a means of meditation and reflection. With this rich and spiritual history, Bharatanatyam today has moved from the temple to the stage. While it continues to draw on traditional movements and inherent spirituality, this dance is now celebrated throughout the world and is embraced as a means of cul­tural enlightenment. Fortunately for Col­gate, students were able to experience this multifaceted dance last Friday, October 14, as Vijay Palaparthy and Nalini Prakash per­formed traditional Bharatanatyam. Togeth­er in a vibrant choreography they displayed Bharatanatyam at its most sophisticated level and ultimately provided students with a cultural educational experience.

Vijay Palaparthy, cofounder of the Spilling Ink Project, has developed his creative abili­ties by studying Bharatanatyam in locations such as Kuchipudi, Nupur Anjali School of Dance in Cleveland and Chennai, India. Af­ter decades of studying dance, he and Nalini Prakash have taken their foundation of dance a step further as they developed their own choreography, creating dance projects such as “Spilling Ink and Samhita: Conversations in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi.” Likewise, Nalini Praskash, a world-renowned dancer who has performed throughout India and the United States, has studied Carnatic music ex­tensively and has also established a school ded­icated to instructing Bharatanatyam in Coonoor. Together, their perfor­mance not only encompassed long-established Indian dance movements and style, but also displayed an emo­tional narrative through dance. In solo and duet performances, Prakash and Palaparthy utilized elements such as hand and facial gestures as well as traditional body positions to convey emotion and story. Along with im­pressive, colorful costumes and capti­vating music, the entire performance was riveting. This dance effectively demonstrated Indian dance culture at its finest.

A fundamental aspect to this traditional dance is education. The performance allowed students to gain perspective about a dance deeply routed in Indian culture as well as its spiritual source. The lecture-based demonstration provided at Colgate ulti­mately provided this and makes what was once a dance reserved for Indian temples accessible even to the people of Hamilton, New York. The Spilling Ink Project contin­ues to participate in arts-in-education by reaching out to college students across the nation to enlighten people from all areas about the meaningful art of Bharatanatyam.

Contact Hadley Rahrig at

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