Ramya Raman (CWR ‘10) plans to use her love and knowledge of Bharatha Natyam dance to connect with autistic children in India as a Fulbright Scholar.
She will spend nine months conducting research at the Rasa Center in Chennai, India. The center’s staff members help individuals with special needs enhance their social, communication and motor skills.
“Bharatha Natyam is an ancient Indian dance form that incorporates music, drama, mime and movement,” Raman explained. The dance creates movements and patterns in space, coordinating with music and rhythm. “This stimulates both sensory and motor development. Current dance therapies in the U.S. utilize free-flow movements, not disciplined forms of movement. My study will look at this disciplined form of dance movements as a mode of communication and therapy for children with autism,” she said.
Raman, who majored in biochemistry, minored in dance and took communication classes, has studied dance since childhood. She visited India six years ago for her Bharatha Natyam dance graduation.
In addition to research, the Fulbright journey also will be personal for Raman, a Portland, Ore. native. Her parents are from India, and she has a younger brother who is autistic. Raman also plans to study in-depth the hand gestures of Bharatha Natyam at Bharatha Kalanjali.
She hopes her work is far reaching. “This study will be useful across the globe where traditional dances can be incorporated for therapy, education and cultural support for autistic children and their families that are socially isolated. I would like to spread the knowledge I have gained from the study to autism centers in the United States and around the world.”
Raman’s future plans may include medical school. She will document her Fulbright experience on her blog.
Raman is one of four newly-minted Case Western Reserve alumni to earn a Fulbright Award. They all began the application process as undergraduates.
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