Dance

Bharatanatyam by Ramana Maharishi Academy for Blind students: Dancing in the dark

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These dancers proved sceptics wrong when they entered the Guinness World Records

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When Bharatanatyam was introduced as a subject for students at Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind in Bengaluru in 1985, many people were sceptical. Could the visually challenged students really excel in a visual art, they asked. No one could have anticipated that the students — some partially and others fully blind — would one day enter the Guinness World Records.

Dance has also had an immensely positive effect on other aspects of their lives. Amirta, one of the teachers, says the students’ movement, coordination, orientation and mobility have all improved.

Three decades down the line, many students from the school have performed in India and abroad; some have taken it up as a full-time profession, while others have studied for degrees from the Karnataka State Board dance exams.

Watching the students learn and perform is a unique experience — the way they measure their steps to get a sense of space, or the way teachers use touch to teach posture, mudra and expressions. “When nature takes away one of the five senses, the other faculties get fine-tuned. The sense of hearing and touch is heightened,” says Shruthi M.S., one of the teachers.

Dinesh V.K. and Dharmaraju S., who joined the academy at a young age, now teach as well as perform. “Many people discouraged us, but we decided to take it up as a career,” says Dharmaraj. Their performances today are indeed on a par with other professional dancers.

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