A Dancer Returns to Her Passion To Recover From A StrokeSep 18th, 2011 | By | Category: Dance Stories
A young artist, Aarthi Muthukumaran, who has been in rehabilitation since she suffered a massive stroke in December 2005, has chosen to return to her passion—classical South Indian Bharatanatyam dance—to help her in her extensive recovery process. After several years of dedicated and intensive dance training with noted dance/movement therapist and accomplished Bharatanatyam teacher Nalini Prakash, Aarthi returns to the stage in a recital that will be presented on October 2, 2011 at Chi Movement Arts Center in South Philadelphia at 4:30pm. The performance seeks to show the therapeutic qualities of dance/movement, and the innate healing powers of the classical Indian art forms, which tend to be spiritual and religious.
“Dance has been a firm anchor around which I have been building up my faculties, especially as I progress in all of my learning,” Aarthi said. “I was privileged to have therapists who greatly assisted me in this journey, often going out of their way to create exercises and therapy modules structured around my dance movements. In 2008, I was very fortunate to meet and start working with my current dance teacher, Nalini Prakash. She was able to help me rediscover the joy of dance, aiding me to progress in my dance training.”
In 2005, Aarthi was an active sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and worked part-time as a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Shortly after Thanksgiving that year, Aarthi suddenly felt unwell and called her friends for help. By the time they came down from the floor above, she was totally unconscious. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, her friends immediately called for help. The doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania decided to perform an emergency surgery to manage severe cerebral bleeding from malformed blood vessels in the brain, a condition known as AVM. Through numerous surgeries and complications, the staff at the hospital helped Aarthi through her immediate crisis and through subsequent surgeries. Her AVMs were eventually removed and she faced the hard work of rehabilitation. At the time, she was unable to walk, talk, hear, and her memory was very limited. She literally had to relearn all her basic functions. Dance, however was a constant thread of inspiration. Even in those difficult days when she could not hear anything, her body and mind could feel the rhythm of dance music.
“While working with Aarthi, I used principles of dance/movement therapy and its inherent, important foundational aspects which were delivered through the medium of Bharatanatyam movement,” Nalini said. “One of the principles of dance/movement therapy is a matter of how a therapist meets an individual where she/he is most comfortable and capable—emotionally and physically—and works with her/his strengths. The goals that Aarthi and I worked on were to improve her self-esteem and self-confidence, accept her new body image with its limitations and to move ahead.”
In 2008, Aarthi started her work with Nalini. At the time, Nalini was working towards her graduate degree in dance/movement therapy, part of the Creative Arts Therapy program at Drexel University. Today, Nalini is a registered dance/movement therapist and works full-time at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. She makes weekend trips to Philadelphia to work with Aarthi.
“Under Nalini’s guidance, I have realized how much I love and enjoy dancing—as much as I did before my injury,” Aarthi said. “While choreographing the rhythmic technique-based Thillana piece for the performance, I was able to apply my learning and understanding of choreography, which has been wonderful. It has given me great joy to prepare for this event.”
Aarthi began her dance training in 1993 at the age of seven in New Jersey. Three years later, she and her family moved to India, where she continued her training in Chennai. In June 2000, she presented her Arangetram, an auspicious and traditional premiere performance, in Chennai. For the next four years, she performed frequently in numerous venues throughout South India before returning to the United States to pursue a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering.
“When I first met Aarthi, she talked about dance as something long gone—a passion in the past,” Nalini said. “She used the words ‘was’ and “can’t” a lot. Today she only speaks about the future—what more she can do. It’s all about looking ahead. This performance is not about artistic talent or skill—or even mastery. It is to show the healing potential of art and how perseverance and passion can help an individual cope and slowly recover.”
Classical South Indian Bharatanatyam Dance Recital by Aarthi Muthukumaran
Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 4:30pm
Chi Movement Arts Center, 1316 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147
Post-performance reception at 5:30pm
Please RSVP by September 20 by phone (215-316-9807) or by email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)