Choreography Fellow 2022-2023: Shreya Ramanathan

Credit: Ravi Pothukuchy

Shreya Ramanathan is a rising sophomore at Emory University, majoring in Neuroscience and
Medical Anthropology. She has been studying Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Smt. Divya Shanker for the last 13 years in Austin, TX, and completed her Arangetram in August 2019. As a dancer, she concentrates on conveying complex stories on social issues through subtle facial expressions and graceful, yet energetic footwork and is particularly passionate about using dance as a medium to raise awareness for compelling issues. Over the years, Shreya has also trained under world-renowned dancers such as Smt. Rama Vaidyanathan, Srijith and Parvathy Nambiar, and Guru G. Srikanth. In the past, she has performed and choreograph short works centered around body image issues and eating disorders and the importance of destigmatizing mental health disorders. Today, her work has been recognized by many national and international organizations. Most recently, she was selected as a 2021 National YoungArts Foundation winner in dance for a piece centring around stigma around depression in the South Asian community. She was also selected as a 2020 IndianRaga Dance Fellow, and won first place in the solo and performance categories at the 2021 Saptami National Competition. For Shreya, her performance and choreography often centers around using combining her skills as an expressive dancer with her passion for medicine, particularly women’s health and mental health/cognition to tell compelling stories that raise awareness for important health issues around the world. As a researcher, she is particularly interested in how dance styles involving storytelling can be used to improve prevention and treatment techniques of disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

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She states, ” As someone currently working as a researcher in a cognitive setting, my research focuses on how systemic inequities and social stressors play a role on vascular markers of Alzheimer’s disease in transgender and black populations. This means on a daily basis, I hear many decades worth of stories from patients on the trauma and joys that they have experienced through their life- stories that often go neglected in care settings. Often times, when people are ill, their stories as individuals disappear and instead their illness represents the entirety of their identity.”

Her project this year as a choreography fellow focuses on creating a piece on cognitive disease in the South Asian community. She states, ” While initially, their story will be ignored in by doctors and they are unable to communicate their own experiences and passions, eventually they will find a way (dance) to communicate their experience and connect with doctors so that they can receive the care that they need. I envision that this story will involve a turning point of isolation and spiraling due to a lack of understanding in care settings and where the character will then turn to the universe to find an alternative way to communicate their story as an individual beyond their diagnosis. I hope to incorporate the sound of the salangai as a symbol of communication, where, before this means of communication is shown to the character, the character does not have any sound and is instead in the dark, whereas after, the character has the salangai as a symbol of their ability to communicate their story with their doctor.”