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Duke-UNC Sangeet is bringing tradition to Chapel Hill and breaking down stereotypes

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Photo courtesy of Priya Vasan

Duke-UNC Sangeet will be hosting Ramya Kapadia, a vocalist, dancer and choreographer, for a lecture demonstration on movement and mime in the ancient classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, which is over 3,000 years old. 

Kapadia will give the lecture on March 31 at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in Chapel Hill from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

For lecture demonstrations, the artist picks a theme and speaks about it in order to give background information to people who may not be familiar with the subject matter. Ramya will be performing her own demonstrations with music and dance to display what she will be talking about. 

“For example, this one is called ‘Movement and Mime’ so I assume she's going to be talking about the importance and significance of movement in this particular art form, and then she’ll portray the facial expressions and she’ll dance a few items to show exactly what she means by her lecture,” said Priya Vasan, a junior and president of Duke-UNC Sangeet. 

Vasan said Duke-UNC Sangeet started out as a partnership between Duke and UNC as a way to promote Indian classical fine arts on both campuses. She said there is a strong classical music and classical dance community in the Triangle area. 

First-year Jade Sterling said she never thought of miming as cultural and that it will be interesting to see how it ties in. 

“It’s just different," she said. "You can definitely see the culture through the dance.” 

First-year Isabel Stellato spent part of her gap year in India. She said she thought the classical, cultural and artistic performances that she saw were interesting and cool to experience.

Stellato said there is a strong Indian population on campus and it's important for them to experience their culture and bring it to campus.  

“I think it’s really cool how this dance form originated over 3,000 years ago in India so it’s a very ancient form of dance," she said. 

Vasan said Bharatanatyam relies heavily on facial expressions and deliberate movements to portray a story, usually in a religious context, but contemporary dancers are exploring things outside of that box. 

She hopes that through this event, people are able to learn more about this dance form. When people think of India, she said she hopes they will move away from things like Bollywood and belly-dancing and be able to learn more about these classical art forms.

“There’s a lot of history, tradition and just a lot of significance in the facial expressions and what we call Abhinaya,” Vasan said. “I’m not a dancer so I can’t speak to this much, but they’re just the most important aspects that come together to create this beautiful art form.”

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