main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

main menu

The India Program is Music to Their Ears

By Mandira Banerjee10/18/2016

When nine U-M students began their journey to India with Professor Stephen Rush in July, they thought they were going to learn about Indian classical music. But when they returned to campus one month later, they also brought vast new knowledge about themselves and each other.

Practicing yoga, interacting with a different culture, and making time for reflection were just some of the things that changed their perspectives on life.

"Seeds planted sprout at different times," said Rush, professor of performing arts technology at U-M's School of Music, Theatre & Dance. "But many, if not most, come back and rethink the meaning and purpose of their lives."

Rush, a jazz musician and composer, created the India summer program in 2005 to provide an opportunity for students "to do something unusual and immersive." He wanted them to "really sink into Indian culture in an experiential way," and it worked.

Each year the students spend a month in Mysore, a city in the southern state of Karnataka. They stay in hostels run by the nonprofit Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, eat vegetarian food and begin each day with an early morning yoga lesson.

Then they travel through the busy traffic to different neighborhoods where a teacher or guru gives each student a music, dance or voice lesson. These lessons usually take place in the guru's house, which is the center of learning for many families.

The experience, said Rush, is a way for students to learn how in other cultures, education is integrated into daily life-unlike the methods of traditional Western educational systems.

Kevin Allswede is in his final year of the Media Arts program at SMTD. He first learned about the program from his friend who went to India last year. Allswede spent his time in India learning Bharatanatyam, a traditional Indian dance.

"I was in a state of shock the first week," said Allswede, adding that it took time to adapt to the cultural and educational differences. "It forces you to slow down and that's when self-reflection begins. I learned about dance, I learned about teaching and I learned about what is it to be a teacher."

The India experience resonated with Chelsea Hamm, too, a junior in InterArts performance at SMTD. She bonded with her dance teacher, Kripa Phadke, even though the work was rigorous and intense.

"Dance is my favorite art form," Hamm said. "Being in India and dancing reminded me why I am so passionate about it."

Hamm, who hopes to be a choreographer, and said she gained newfound confidence during the month-long immersion. She hopes to return to India one day to study dance with her teacher.

In addition to individual lessons in dance, musical instruments or voice, students attended lectures in leadership, the history of India, and Indian cinema. They also learned about caste and gender to better understand contemporary Indian society.

In the evening, they visited temples, palaces and concert halls.

They even managed to escape the routine when they traveled to spend a week on the beach in Kerala, a neighboring state.

Peter Felsman went on this trip four years ago. Self-introspection led him to switch fields from music to pursue a Ph.D. degree in social work.

"After my time in India, I realized I wanted to go into social work with the same commitment with which my contemporaries and teachers pursued music and dance," he said.

Felsman's experience in the program demonstrates how the music and unique cultural immersion impacts students' lives, their research, their friendships and their work.

"People have asked: 'What's the value of the trip?" Rush said. "I tell them, 'I've seen profound personal changes in the students, and they simply come back better people.'"

past news

March 2016

Congratulations to junior dance major Danielle Fattore, who was one of four winners of the 2016 Joffrey Ballet School Summer Scholarship Contest! Fattore will have the opportunity to participate in a 2016 Joffrey Ballet School Summer Intensive of her choice!   03/07/2016

August 2014
July 2014

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Dance, Peter Sparling is a recipient of a Distinguished University Professorship. Effective September 1, Sparling will be a Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor. This appointment is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.   07/18/2014

U-M, GVSU collaboration to bring alternative-energy inspired arts performance to Muskegon 07/16/2014

December 2013

Students enrolled in the 2013 "Dance and Related Arts" course present Between the Hairs, an evening of collaborative works inspired by interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk. The concert is the culmination of a semester-long exploration of movement, music, collaboration, and the creative process.   12/05/2013

November 2013

SMTD Department of Dance professor Peter Sparling and U-M Life Sciences Institute professor Dan Klionsky collaborated on a project to explain the science of autophagy through dance. A segment of DPTV's "Detroit Performs" covers the story and can be seen on demand starting Nov. 13.   11/12/2013

October 2013

Congratulations to dance students Maddy Rager and Nola Smith, winners of the 2013 Maggie Allesee New Choreography Award for their duet "Small Victories," which they performed at Michigan Dance Day at Hope College. This is the second year in a row that the award has gone to U-M Dance students.   10/17/2013

September 2013

Judy Rice, associate professor of dance, is the subject of the cover article for the September issue of Dance Teacher Magazine. This is the "college issue" that includes a Higher Education Guide for its 80,000+ readers.    09/19/2013

Alumni to be Honored at Awards Ceremony on October 4 09/09/2013

November 2011
June 2011
February 2011
Chelsea Hamm and Kevin Allswede took Bharatnatyam lessons as part of the India program. Photo by Chelsea Hamm
Current News
Dean Dworkin's statement on proposed elimination of NEA and NEH more
 
Professor Croft receives 2016-17 IRWG grantmore
 
Glancing Back, Dancing Forwardmore
 
Always Inspirational, Forever Valiant: A Bicentennial Appreciation for the Performing Arts at Michiganmore
 

main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

×