Just before heading off to Spring Break, students at Woodward Elementary got a presentation and performance of Indian dances.
Bharatanatyam performer and presenter, Sultana Nahar, visited first-grade through fourth-grade students Friday afternoon where she taught students about Indian culture and demonstrated several dances.
Woodward Principal Ryan Malany introduced her in the gym at Woodward and encouraged students to use the opportunity to learn about another culture.
One of the things Nahar taught students was “Namaste,” a traditional greeting in India, which means “I honor you” and taught students how to bow slightly during the greeting.
“I put [the greeting] there because it’s simple,” Nahar said. “I think about 50 minutes with classes of 300 students and what I can give them. So if they learn some hand gestures and greetings it’s easy and they can surprise their friends.”
Nahar also showed off dances she choreographed to go along with stories and taught students how to do them step by step.
One dance in particular tells the story of the Rahu, a figure in Indian mythology, and the solar and lunar eclipse. Nahar said the story is mostly told through hand gestures and movements.
“Everybody can relate to the solar eclipse,” Nahar said. “It’s all over the world. It’s common. That will be easy for the kids to follow and they can remember something.”
Another dance involved animals like birds, fish and butterflies, all of which had their own unique hand motions. Nahar said she hopes students will remember some of the moves and gestures as they continue to learn about the world.
“(I wanted students to get) some dance movements out of it,” Nahar said. “When they are reading a book they can imagine a bird, a butterfly, a river, a mountain but these small things you can do while sitting at a table, it doesn’t need much. It can be presented in a beautiful way.”
Nahar said she enjoyed dancing with the students at Woodward and hoped they enjoyed it and learned something. As students left the gym at Woodward, they passed by a table of Indian items and artifacts, which Nahar encouraged them to examine.
“I do enjoy it,” Nahar said. “I worry and I try to be funny. (I bring) artifacts so they can touch and feel it. It’s a full package, I try to bring the environment that they can take something home at least.”
Nahar said she does numerous presentations at libraries, schools, senior centers and even correction centers. Nahar said she choreographed the mythological stories into dances herself and hopes to share more mythology with students and others in the future.
“Nobody taught me, I composed it myself,” Nahar said. “I dream that one day I will do more stories.”
Malany thanked Nahar and the end of the presentation and told students this was a good way of learning how movements can mean different things.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.