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The science of dance

March 14, 2019
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ANN ARBOR— To most people, physics and dance have nothing in common. For doctoral student Shruti Paranjape, they’re really not so different.

“It’s a similar process,” said Paranjape, who will dance in the upcoming Indian festival in Ann Arbor – Rasa Festival. “Instead of working with equations, you’re working with your body. You’re exploring choreographic options to find which movements look good.”

She will be performing a style of Indian dance called Odissi, which she learned about a year and a half ago. It was not the dance she grew learning. “I learned Bharatanatyam growing up and the training from there really helped me accelerate my learning of Odissi.”

Since third grade, dance has been a central part of Paranjape’s life. It gives her a healthy, creative outlet, something she finds especially necessary as a physics doctoral candidate.

“It’s nice to have something that keeps you active and happy,” said Paranjape. “It’d be impossible to get through graduate school without it.”

Paranjape has been practicing for the Rasa Festival since March along with four other dancers. She has spent part of every day for the past several weeks in the dance studio of her teacher learning the movements for the upcoming performance.

“It’s an original 40-minute piece where we take verses from the Vedas, ancient Indian texts, and bring them to life.  The dance portrays the five elements—earth, water, fire, space, and air,”.  she said. “With each element, the movements change – water is more fluid, whereas fire is more dangerous.”

“The Rasa Festival has different kinds of events – poetry, music, art, dance, so there’s something for everyone,” she said. “It’s different, it’s interesting, and we’ve all been working very hard to prepare!”

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