Professor shares passion for classical Indian dance

Professor shares passion for classical Indian dance

Professor shares passion for classical Indian dance
November 21
16:35 2012

Marlene Gonzalez
Senior Staff Writer

Instead of speaking out about social issues using words, educational psychology professor Prathiba Natesan addresses them through dance.

She is a three-time Indian national champion in the classical Indian dances of Bharatanatyam and Kathak. Natesan won the titles in ’93, ’94 and ’96.

“It’s one of the most liberating experiences,” she said. “It’s the language I have to say what I think. It’s something I use to convey my opinions on social issues.”

Natesan’s mother was a single parent and faced discrimination in society. Natesan said that the caste system is a social evil in India.

“This is an issue that has been very close to my heart,” she said. “I thought it was time to use my art to do something that catered to social issues.”

When she was 10, Natesan traded her violin for dance after watching a young woman dressed in a radiant red salwar kameeze at a competition.

Captivated by the performance, a headache Natesan had disappeared. She thought the woman had powers and wanted to learn the art form.

Natesan, who has been dancing for 22 years, said these dance forms are physically demanding and force people to push their boundaries. She said they take several years of practice to master.

Although there is an age limit to competitions, Natesan still finds ways to balance her full-time job and passion for dance.

She practices at least 10 hours a week by taking a modern technique course at UNT and practicing in her living room.

Natesan said she is often asked to judge dance competitions such as those put on by the SAPTAMI Foundation in Dallas. The organization promotes local talents by giving them the opportunity to perform in contests, according to the website.

Putting aside her vibrant salwar kameezes, Natesan opted for a bright orange kurta and navy blue harem pants to conduct yesterday’s Bollywood workshop.

She matched her facial expressions with her circular arm motions and precisely positioned fingertips as she swayed to the beat of Indian music.
Dance sophomore Tony Picciolo said he had fun at the workshop.

“It was actually really fun, more traditional-based than folkloric,” Picciolo said. “It’s just nice to immerse yourself into a new culture every once in a while.”

Dance professor Sue Collins said Natesan has demonstrated traditional Indian dance styles to her Survey of Dance class.

Natesan also taught choreography to a group of students to perform at East Indian Festival two years ago in St. Louis, Mo.

“I wish there were more people like her on the planet,” Collins said. “She is such a giving sprit willing to teach for free and be patient with college students.”

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