Last Thursday, March 16, Ragamala Dance Company visited Trenton Central High School for a special masterclass with students from the dance department. The previous night, Ragamala performed their “Fires of Varanasi” program at McCarter Theatre. This masterclass was co-sponsored by McCarter and TAP.
Ragamala specializes in Bharatanatyam, a highly expressive South Indian dance form. To introduce the TCHS students to Bharatanatyam, Ragamala kicked off the masterclass by performing a brief excerpt from “Fires of Varanasi.” Then, they taught the students several hand gestures and movements. Company dancer Tamara Nadel emphasized the importance of following one’s hand movements with one’s eyes, quoting from the Nāṭya Śāstra, a Sanskrit treatise on the performing arts:
“Where the hands go, eyes follow.
Where the eyes go, the mind follows.
Where the mind goes, a flavor is born.”
Ragamala also showed the students how to “build a garden” through dance, unfurling their hands to create flowers. They concluded the masterclass with a brief Q&A, during which they discussed their path to Bharatanatyam.
“TCHS is an incredible place! We were so impressed with the facility, and had a wonderful time teaching this group of smart, engaged, and enthusiastic students,” said Nadel. “Thank you to TCHS, Trenton Arts at Princeton, and McCarter Theatre for a lovely experience!”
Reflecting on the masterclass, TCHS junior Sandy Garcia said, “Ragamala was a very fun experience and a great way to learn about Indian culture. Our class was taught a few hand gestures and the movements to tell a story about nature. We were also taught about praying to Mother Earth and how important it is to do so before and after the dance. I really enjoyed working with Ragamala and understanding their concepts of dance and learning new information.”