Workshop on exploring emotions of caregiving through dance at NYU's humanistic medicine program
In March 2023, I will work with medical students, staff/faculty at NYULMC/Bellevue, public health students, dentistry students, and nursing students as part of NYU's humanistic medicine program to explore the emotions surrounding caregiving.
Bharatanatyam has in it codified an array of emotions, called “rasas”. The nine rasas (“Navarasa”) include love, laughter, sorrow, anger, courage, fear, disgust, wonder, and peace. While Bharatanatyam is a form rooted in tradition, the emotions laid out are relevant even today, and perhaps more so.
In this workshop, participants will explore the various emotions they feel while taking care of their patients. By bringing in rhythm, movement, melody, and music, we will explore aspects of caregiving through the language of dance.
Presentation on caregiving through neuroscience and dance: a caregiver's reaction
In September of 2022, I was invited to speak as a keynote speaker at the Parents as Teachers 2022 conference in Denver (the video is here). Additionally, an article about this work can be found here.
I shared these with a colleague who is a caregiver and takes dance lessons from me at Goddard Riverside Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC), and here is his testimonial:
Invited to the NY Hall of Science to talk about happiness through dance and science
In December 2022, I was invited by the New York Hall of Science to talk about the Science of happiness. The event is for teens where they will explore the "happiness experiment" at the museum and have the opportunity to "skate into happiness" on our new synthetic indoor ice rink.
Participants will explore movement sequences, and I will talk talk about the intersection of neuroscience, dance and emotions, encouraging them to also share and even learn from each other.
Caregiving practices change the brains of parents and other caregivers as well as the children they are supporting and play a key role in children’s future success. Scientists have discovered more about the impact that caregiving has on the brain—not only the child’s brain, but also the caregiver’s. Earlier in fall of 2022, I was honored to share some of what I’ve learned at the Parents as Teachers annual conference in Denver.
An article about this presentation can be found on this link.
Exploring early brain development through dance and science
In September 1, 2022, I was invited to speak at the Parents as Teachers International Conference in Denver, Colorado. The title of my talk was "Exploring Early Brain Development through Dance and Neuroscience". Some pictures and the recording can be found below:
The song and dance of neurons!
At the STEMPeers 2022 conference in Philadelphia, I worked with Vikram Gadagkar. His story is of learning, performing, and error detection in songbirds, and my choreography explores these topics from the human perspective of teaching and learning a skill, in this case, dance. You can see the performance below:
A scientific study is, in a sense, a story about nature. I will be speaking at the STEMPeers 2022 conference in Philadelphia to present with Vikram Gadagkar's. His story is of learning, performing, and error detection in songbirds, and my choreography explores these topics from the human perspective of teaching and learning a skill, in this case, dance.
The work is entitled "The song and dance of neurons!"
On September 1, 2022, I was invited to speak at the Parents as Teachers International Conference in Denver, Colorado. The title of my talk was "Exploring Early Brain Development through Dance and Neuroscience". Keeping in line with the concept of Vichaar, I used neuroscience and Bharatanatyam to talk about early childhood development.
In future blog posts, I will talk about the exact ways in which I interspersed dance and science, giving examples of what I spoke about! I was thrilled to be one the same panel as Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu. Stay tuned!
The joy of movement
While the evolution of movement was for survival (moving towards food, moving away from predators), no one can deny the sheer pleasure of moving, of dancing, of moving our bodies to the beat of music. Below, on the left, you can see a video of my pup playing in the grass on a spring day (with a smile on his face). On the right is a short piece I did at The Frederic Fleming House at W22nd Street in NYC for its residents. I love the participant to my right who is having so much fun listening to the music!
What I love about these videos is that it brings together seamlessly "Creatures on the move" for Vichaar and "Bharatanatyam for all.
Movement has many benefits for physical health e.g. maintaining cardiovascular health, preventing falls, helping maintain balance, managing chronic conditions, and strengthening bones and muscles .
Movement has numerous benefits for mental health as well, including improved sleep and endurance, stress relief, increased stamina, and increased alertness .
The positive impacts of movement inform my work with senior citizens to promote creative aging in a program called Bharatanatyam for All. The scientific principle of synaptic plasticity (the capacity of the brain to change with experiences), the positive impact of movement for mental health, and the power of self-expression lie at the core of my work; these benefits of Bharatanatyam are what I hope to distribute to all.
My inspiration for creatures on the move
My inspiration for Creatures on the Move comes from helping my mother take care of the stray animals around our apartment, and later working at Animal Help Foundation, a spay-and-neuter shelter in Ahmedabad, where I was responsible for taking care of hundreds of animals every day.
Another thing that attracts me to study animal movement is the sheer diversity in the pace, gait, and manner of movement that animals display. From the sinuous movement of the snake to a raptor soaring in the sky, to a squirrel that jumps around, the study of movement reminds me of Darwin’s take on the diversity he saw around him and noted in The Origin of Species [1,2].
There is grandeur in this view of life,
with its several powers,
having been originally breathed
into a few forms or into one;
and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on
according to the fixed law of gravity,
from so simple a beginning
endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved.
This sheer diversity in the lifeforms around us in terms of what they are, what they eat, and how they move is one of the things I love about teaching evolution at the American Museum of Natural History. After all, what could be more interesting than understanding and exploring the natural world? And how lucky am I to study and understand this beauty around us through science, and express it through dance?
In this series, we will look at birds, insects, worms, and mammals, explore their movements, and how these movements can be used in Bharatanatyam.
Hand gestures for some of these animals, e.g. pigeon and bee are routinely taught to students of Bharatanatyam. Gestures for fireflies, for example, are not routinely taught but exist in the Abhinaya Darpana , and. for animals like bats and squirrels, I developed the hastas through observation and experimentation. What I loved about this process was thinking of Bharatanatyam and the hand gestures we use to make up a living, breathing, evolving language.
In a future episode of Vichaar, I hope to talk about language acquisition, how we learn and retain languages, and how dance is a language where movement comes to life.