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UNC graduate student brings classical Indian dance to Chapel Hill Public Library

Chapel Hill Public Library.

Chapel Hill Public Library.

A UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student will teach the Classical Indian Dance Workshop on Feb. 10 at the Chapel Hill Public Library to promote the spread of Indian culture in Chapel Hill. 

Maddy Kameny, a second year graduate student studying health behavior in the Gillings School of Public Health, will teach the Chapel Hill community the mythology and history of the ancient Hindu dance, Bharatanatyam. 

The workshop includes an interactive portion where participants will learn dance moves. Kameny said she will adjust the dance portion of the class so that people of all levels of physical ability can participate. 

Kameny contacted the library to put on the workshop because of its educational and cultural aspects, so she could practice for her upcoming performances and because she saw a lack of Indian cultural activities in Chapel Hill.

“I still see Chapel Hill as sort of distant from that (Indian culture)," Kameny said. "Since I grew up more on this side of the Triangle, I’m passionate about bridging that (divide) and like in bringing this art form to Chapel Hill because I think a lot of people still don’t know about Indian dance here.” 

The Chapel Hill Public Library hosts many events, including an Intro to 3-D Printing class, a memoir writing workshop, and Giant Candy Land. Daniel Siler, marketing and communications manager of Chapel Hill Public Library, wants the library to be a place for the community to learn new skills and about different cultures.

“We at the library love to be able to get people exposed to things that they are not already familiar with and create some new connections,” Siler said. 

This is the first time the Classical Indian Dance Workshop will be held, and it marks a change in the library’s common activities. Pat Heath,acquisitions and collections specialist of Chapel Hill Public Library, thinks the community will enjoy the new aspects the event introduces.

The event will present the artistry of Bharatanatyam into the library’s community, and Kameny’s expertise in the dance will help that transition go smoothly. Kameny began studying at Durham’s Laasya School of Dance and Music with Guru Smt. Sridevi Jagannath at the age of 5. She has performed and taught Bharatanatyam since high school and competed nationally in college.

Bharatanayam focuses on telling ancient Hindu stories with hand gestures, footwork, facial expressions and sign language, all while maintaining a stiff torso and bent legs.

Kameny said she will teach her audience to have a greater appreciation for the hand gestures and footwork of the dance and its relation to the statues located in the temples of southern India. She designed the workshop for adults and teenagers who are interested in Indian culture or traditional dances.

“There is a lot of interest in multicultural programs and we do a lot of art and science programs," Heath said. "But we haven’t done a lot in the way of dance, and we thought people would really enjoy that, so we partnered with [Maddy] to present the program.” 

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