Indiana State University Newsroom

African, Indian dance classes engage mind, body

January 14, 2015

Dance styles from two different continents have a commonality among three dance instructors at Indiana State University -- lyrical movement is so integral to their lives, it's like speaking.

"Dancing is just you moving. My mom says, ‘If you can walk, you can dance,'" said Rachael Adeoye, a senior majoring in nursing.

Starting Jan. 23, Adeoye will share her love of dance during the "Africa Live" class. A week later on Jan. 28, Nandini Bhowmick, a lecturer in the mathematics and computer science department, will begin teaching "Indian Classical Dance," a structured form of dance similar to ballet. The classes are co-sponsored by the Community School of the Arts and Center for Global Engagement.

Adeoye, who spent the first 14 years of her life in Nigeria, is a returning instructor after having taught the class in the fall. Last semester, the class was co-taught by Nancy Kaj, a senior economics major who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"It was really a joy for Rachael and I to have the opportunity to share our background," Kaj said. "We are from different countries, but there are similarities between our cultures. Music and dance are some of them. Enjoyment and celebration in Africa is very, very important. We do it in every way -- funerals, parties, festivities, births."

It was a leadership opportunity for the young women, too, who had students of all ages and backgrounds, including some faculty and staff members.

"The first day of class, I was nervous. But as soon as we got to know each other, we got really comfortable with each other," Adeoye said. "I didn't think of it as teaching -- it became more fun. Just have fun, move. Follow what we do and move."

Adeoye says her apprehension was partially rooted in having to teach something that comes so naturally to her.

"Africans aren't ‘taught' to dance. As you grow up, you typically pick it up. While I was growing up, I'd watch my mom -- she would be cooking and dancing," said Adeoye, whose family lives in Chicago. "It's one of the ways we interact with one another. Sometimes when you dance, you can communicate. It's a form of communication."

Kaj describes dancing as her passion -- so much so many mistake her study track.

"Most people think I'm a dance minor, because I've had (classes in) jazz dancing, ballroom, Zumba," she said. "It's the curiosity and passion of learning different dances."

Bhowmick shares the students' enthusiasm for her style of dancing, although it requires more specific study. Known as Bharatanatyam, the word is derived from two words meaning "expression" and "dance form."

"It's a classical dance form that is very similar to ballet," Bhowmick said. "At the same time, you have to maintain your posture ... with that, we have hand movements. You have to keep your hands nice and strong, similar to martial arts. And then you have the dance steps."

And it's not just physically challenging. "It uses a lot of brain muscles .... Symmetry and balance are very important components of this dance forms," she said.

Bhowmick started studying Bharatanatyam more than two decades ago.

"It has made me more focused, goal-oriented, determined and physically fit and keeps my mind young, motivated. And it burns calories -- a lot of calories," she said.

Bhowmick says she'd like to have enough dancers trained one day to put on a ballet.

"Africa Live" participants will have a chance to perform in front of an audience this semester, as the class is also a collaboration with the Department of Theater and Center for Global Engagement. Students who are interested and available may be invited to appear in the production of "Miss Julie" in March.

Designed for individuals of experience level, "Africa Live" will teach students to dance and drum together while discovering the origins of songs, diverse tribes and the African continent and culture. Africa Live" will be 5:15-6:45 p.m. Fridays, Jan. 23-March 27.

An introductory Bharatanatyam class, "Indian Classical Dance" will explore different body movements, rhythmic patterns, leg movements, hand gestures and facial expression. A brief introduction of Bharatanatyam theory will also be provided. "Indian Classical Dance" will be 5:15-6:45 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 28-April 22 (except March 18).

Both classes are free. To register, call 812-237-2528.


Contact: Petra Nyendick, director of the Community School of the Arts, Indiana State University, 812-841-2884 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or