Dance Symposium at Rutgers-Newark
- Marisa Pierson

October 8, 2013

A symposium on classical Indian dance was recently presented by the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, here in Newark, featuring Ramya Ramnarayan and the Nrithyanjali Institute of Dance. The free, daylong symposium featured a lecture/demo with Ramya and one of her students at noon at the Newark Museum in which Ramya explained the complex classical form of Bharatanatyam dance to the audience, myself among them. We were able to try some of the intricate mudras or hand gestures as well as other dance movements. Ramya’s explanations were good and very precise, and we came away with a much deeper understanding of this beautiful dance form.

In the evening, the Institute presented Ramya, 3 dancers and 3 live musicians from India in an hour-long inspirational concert of Bharatanatyam at the Bradley Hall Theater on Rutgers-Newark campus that was both powerful and moving. The program included the exciting varnam, a fast-paced number that demonstrated the technical skill of the dancers, and the eloquent ‘Rusali Radha’ that speaks of the love between Radha and Krishna. Ramya and her expressive gestures told the story of Radha and Krishna to the audience before the actual performance, leading to a more meaningful understanding of the dance itself.

The audience gave the dancers and musicians a standing ovation at the end. All who attended experienced a new and deeper feeling for Bharatanatyam and appreciated the layers of complexity that are inherent in this dance form. The Institute’s audience survey showed a great appreciation for the dance symposium. One gentleman who traveled all the way from Brooklyn to see the concert said, “I literally patted myself on the back for having made the decision to partake in this spiritually uplifting event... I’m now pondering whether the performers had cast a special light on my journey home. My heart is full.”