Learning culture through Indian Dance
What do parents often fear when they move to country with a different culture?
Growing up I have been witness to parents who moved to Norway in early seventies being afraid of losing touch with culture of their homeland. Most of all, they were afraid that their children will be too influenced with the culture they were growing up in. Many of the parents were so obsessed in keeping the children away from the new culture that they forgot to teach them to balance.
They often forgot to teach the children to find a middle way and integrate the best part from both of the cultures. In hectic day with jobs, homework, activities and social life, it is difficult to find time to concentrate on feeding children’s hungry mind with cultural balance.
Growing up in Norway with an Indian background, I found it easy to balance the two cultures because I had the information and knowledge I needed. I learnt about the Desi (Indian) culture trough dance. I did not even realize it until I was in my teens. I know I was different from Norwegian kids because I looked different, but also because I had parents with an Indian origin. We did not have close family or grandparents nearby, but we had a big Indian community that became dear to us then blood relatives.
I felt different from the children with Indian origin, even though we looked the same. We could see the same movies, go to the same parties, listen to the same music but still I connected best with the children that did some kind of cultural activates, like dancing, singing or played Indian instruments. The reason being that we learnt and understood the small and subtle elements of Indian culture that makes it vast and unique.
Movies, parties and festive celebrations
Trough movies, parties and celebration of festivals we can teach our children to eat Indian food, wear Indian cloths, even speak Indian languages. We can teach them to pray, bow for the elder and touch their feet, to wear the right color at the different occasions or to fast. But if we don’t explain why or give them an proper answer that satisfy them we would never get them to be proud of the ancient traditions.
When we went to parties I could feel proud of wearing Indian cloths because everyone else there were wearing it, but it was not until I was explained the reason of wearing bindi that I proudly wore it among Norwegians. Suddenly it made sense and I could explain the symbolism and reason behind it.
In Indian, boys are thought early on, that they have to bow and touch the feel of the elders to get blessing. Women don’t bow for the elders until they are married. Not many boys/men actually understand why they are doing it, they don’t question it. Because everyone is doing it, it becames a custom and a habit. Living in Norway, men don’t see the point. If we as parents don’tmake them see the point then the children will not do it.
What do we learn trough dance and music?
Through dance and music, children learn WHY the traditions are made and the BENEFITS we get from following them even if we live in a country where the majority of people don’t follow them.
For example; I just completed teaching my dance groups Ramlila, a dance drama of only 16 min. Where I on every scene explained the children, what was happening and why. Every detail and aspect of the play, so they can understand the meaning behind the mythology even if they are not with Indian origin.
Not only did we talk about the cloth they wore, but the energy flow and exchange between two bodies when they touch parents, elders, teacher’s feet. When the children understood
that it was in their interest to bow and get more from their teacher, they all wanted to do it. Nothing is compulsory and it is important to teach them that it is their own chose to follow the traditions, but there is no harm in knowing them.
This is just one example. There are endless examples of how dance benefits and make children proud of their origin and how they can use the art and technics in getting better grades and standing out in school. I keep getting feedback from teachers and parents that their children have changes from being insecure to confident, and that they are proud to have a desi origin.
Children learn easily trough dance, because it makes learning much more natural.
Being active, trough stories, acting, creativity, challenge makes the children use all of their senses. This strengthen their memory, physiology, which results in change in the emotional and mental development. In my work as a dance teacher, for 24 year, I have seen that; those children who learn dance or music are more confident and understand how to adjust and integrate in a community.
A study done at Norwegian School of Sport Sciences shows that, children generally tend to do more activities if it is social, encourage connection and friendships. Which I experienced to be true for me. I got the social circle I needed and wanted. I felt that through dance I could express myself, but still be part of something bigger. I was individual but I learnt how to coordinate and communicate with body language, with the other dancers in the group in order to follow the choreography.
Be an individual but be able to match with others. Understand and take the old; adjust and integrate, to create and develop new cultures and traditions. We have to give children the right tools; the knowledge, to balance the cultures and traditions and make new once as the time and society demands it from them. In my opinion and by experience dance
is the best way of doing so.
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