Information for Students
As a prospective student, you may have questions about various practical details of our dance classes. Some of them are answered on this page. If not, feel free to contact us with your question. This may eventually turn into a FAQ page, but for now it has a list of topics:
- How to Dress for Dance Class
- What to Bring to Class
- The Class Routine
- Class Etiquette
- If You Miss a Class
How to Dress for Dance Class
Wear Indian clothing that's suitable for stretching and dancing. Since you'll be moving vigorously and getting some exercise during dance class, you don't want clothing that gets in the way. Typical sports clothing would work, but there are reasons for recommending Indian clothes.
- When you perform, your dance costume will consist of Indian clothes. Unless you're accustomed to moving in Indian clothes, you'll look uncomfortable on stage.
- The more immersed you are in an Indian atmosphere, the better you'll pick up the feeling of the dances. Clothing is one way we can make the experience more Indian.
If you have long hair, it should be braided, tied in a bun, or otherwise secured so it doesn't swing into your face.
Dance practice, and all performances, are done barefoot. At all our class locations, footwear must be removed at the entrance.
For beginners and new students, any loose-fitting and comfortable Indian clothing will be alright. For young girls and boys, pyjamas and kurtas work well. Older girls may wear a salwar-kameez outfit. As you get used to the clothing and the dance forms, you can start wearing the traditional clothes used for dance practice.
Traditionally for Bharatanatyam practice, men wear a dhoti. Women wear a "half-sari".Dhotis and half-saris are inexpensive and available at Indian clothing shops. We can help if you're having difficulty finding them. We can also teach you how to wear them, if they're new to you.
For practice, men may wear the dhoti with a t-shirt. Men traditionally perform Bharatanatyam without a shirt or upper garment, and Rangashree follows this tradition. However, for practice you may find a t-shirt more comfortable because you may be sweating.
The half-sari worn by women is always worn with pyjamas. You may wear it with tights, if you find them more comfortable, but they must be calve-length or full-length. Half-saris are never worn without leg coverings of some sort.
What to Bring to Class
Bring a water bottle. There is water available at all the locations where classes are held, but water breaks go smoother when more students have their own bottles. Note that the advice given by our gurus is not to drink during dance practice. So, drink water only when really necessary. You can drink after the dancing is finished.
If you're concerned about sweating, bring a towel.
Students in intermediate or higher levels should bring a dance note book and pencil. When you learn a new item, you'll need to take notes.
The Class Routine
Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the class is to start, and warm up. You'll be taught the exercises and stretches for warming up before class and cooling down afterwards. However, you're responsible for doing them on your own outside the class times. This leaves more time during the class for learning new things.
An exception to this rule is for beginners classes. For them, the warm ups are included in the class time.
The class begins with recitation of shlokas, or verses. These shlokas offer respects to Nataraja, the lord of the dance, and the guru. The shlokas also ask blessings from all the eight directions, and from the Mother Earth, before dancing.
In some classes, usually every other session, the last 10 minutes of class is spent on theory. About once a month, about 20 minutes of the class is spent on a narrative. A sentence, or short story, is chosen, usually from Indian mythology. The students are shown how to narrate or enact the theme using the expressive language of Bharatanatyam. In advanced classes, about once a month, the students are given a 15-20 minute exercise in rhythmic choreography. They are encouraged to come up with their own combinations of adavus, or basic steps, to create a composition.
Classes end by offering gratitude to the Mother Earth for her blessings.
Part of the learning experience in the class is learning Indian etiquette. There are customs of respect for the teacher, for the implements of dance (like books, musical instruments, and ankle bells, to name a few), and for the art itself, that will be taught. You'll learn how this attitude is expressed in day-to-day life. This can't be summed up simply here, but you'll pick it up in class.
When you come to a class, you're expected to be present through the entire class. If you need to step out for any reason, ask the teacher. If you don't like the class, you can discuss it with the teacher afterwards, but you shouldn't leave mid-class. It can disrupt the instruction for other students.
There are various opportunities for performing each year, and students who are ready may take part. The teacher will decide if you are ready for a particular performance based on your ability. At Rangashree's Annual Students Performance, all students may perform. There will be items suited to all levels of ability, and you can take part in at least one. Participation is voluntary; performing is not mandatory.
For most performances, you'll be given instructions well in advance about details like when to arrive at the venue, what to bring, and how long you'll be there. You (or your parents, if you're a minor) will need to confirm that you can do what's required. Sometimes you may need to report early for make-up and dressing in your costume. Sometimes you'll need to arrive dressed.
Rangashree provides the costumes for all folk dance, and some Bharatanatyam performances. Advanced students often have their own Bharatanatyam costumes, and usually use them. When Rangashree provides the costume, there's a nominal charge for having the costume cleaned. Almost all of them need to be dry cleaned, which costs $5 to $20 depending on the complexity of the costume.
Performances aren't a platform for self-promotion or showing off. Our aim is to create something artistic and beautiful that the audience enjoys and finds uplifting.
On various occasions, like our annual function and some folk dance competitions, you'll be in the audience when you're not performing. You're expected to be respectful of the other performers and pay attention. You'll learn a lot by watching other dancers, be they more advanced students at our function, or other teams at competitions.
A special note about competetions. Our goal is to do our best, and give a sincere performance, and we want others to do their best as well. A strong competition shows that the art of dance is alive and well, and that's more important than whom the judges like best. When you're in the audience, behave in a dignified manner, show respect for the performers and the audience. That means no hooting, screaming, or cheering that disturbs anyone, even if you think you're showing support, and even if everyone else does it.
If You Miss a Class
If you miss a class, you'll need some extra work to catch up with the rest of the students. The arrangements are a little different depending on your class location.
At our Norwalk and Riverside locations, the space is available to us only for scheduled times. Separate make up classes can be arranged with the teacher, but they will be conducted only at our home studio location in Duarte. If this is not practical for you, you can arrange to come 15 minutes early for some extra instruction. A couple of such sessions is usually sufficient to catch up. Note that you must make arrangements in advance, before showing up for make up lessons. Also, if your class time is between other classes, you'll have to come before the first class of the day or after the last one.
At our Duarte location, there are a number of back-to-back classes, so make up sessions just before classes are not possible. Separate make up sessions must be arranged.