By Duyen Le
As I walked into the workshop, I immediately noticed my instructor, Shilpa Ramesh dressed in a traditional Indian dress. She wore a beautiful smile that instantly made me feel comfortable and welcomed.
Before class started, I asked Shilpa about the type of dancing we were learning today (Bharathanatym) and if it was like the Bollywood style dancing from what I’ve seen in the movies. Once class started, Shilpa explained the differences in the two types of dances. She then continued our Indian Classical Dance lesson by explaining that there are 7 different kinds of classical dancing, as well as how they were different. Shilpa studied Bharathanatym dancing.
The first lesson was learning hand gestures. Who knew that there were so many hand gestures and that each hand gesture is used to say different things? It was almost like learning sign language! We then proceeded to learn about face and head movements. She explained that the face is useful in showing emotions such as happiness, anger, fear, love, disgust, etc. We had so much fun attempting to convey those feelings using only our faces. After, we moved on to learning about feet movements and posture. She explained that Indians dance with their bare feet because they want to feel direct contact with the earth. We learned about different counts and moving our feet in a rhythmic pattern.
Once we learned hand gestures, facial expressions, and feet movements, it was time to dance! I must say, it was very difficult, but extremely fun! When we realized our feet were off beat, we focused on getting our steps right, but neglected to pay attention to our hands, which ended up flailing all over the place. Once we realized we needed to fix our hand gestures, we neglected our feet movements and ended up tap dancing to our own beat. And our facial expressions? Everyone wore the same one: concentration. It definitely wasn't an expression that was taught to us, but it was one that should be added to the list.
We finished the class with some Bollywood style dancing. The song we danced to was very upbeat so there were a lot of twist and turns! Our instructor commented that she saw everyone smiling, so she was thrilled we were enjoying the class. The workshop was such a wonderful experience. Learning about another culture from someone who has lived there was also a rewarding. I’m excited to have met new people and hope to do this again! A huge thank you to the Gwangju Performace Project for giving the people of Gwangju such wonderful experiences every month! Hope to do more workshops of your workshops in the future!