Research Fellow 2022-2023: Dr. Nithya Ramesh

credit: Kalyan Goparaju

Dr. Nithya Ramesh is a current doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, with over 20 years of dance experience in Bharatanatyam. She was trained in Bangalore by guru Ashok Kumar in the Vozhavur style of Bharatanatyam and achieved a Vidwath in Bharatanatyam through the Karnataka State Secondary Education Board. Dr. Ramesh performed over 250 shows, including Matangi’s Skin at the Reimagining Medicine Festival 1.0 at Dartmouth Medical School with Shilpa. She states, “Due to my background in medicine and arts, I’m constantly thinking of connections between my two interests and conversations with Shilpa pushed the scope of my thinking. I began to think more deeply about traditional healers in India and stories from India that often don’t receive mainstream attention.”

Dr. Ramesh continues, “In my opinion, traditional arts in India are deeply rooted in culture and community. We are a product of our environment and as we learn in medicine, social determinants of health have a significant impact on an individual’s overall wellbeing. In my research, I’d like to study the influence of community, and women’s roles as storytellers and healers in their community. Women have had to fight for their place in society and during the revival of dance as a “respectable art form” much was lost that was considered inappropriate at the time. While most Indian classical dancers are familiar with the history of Kalakshetra and the contributions of Rukmini Devi Arundale, I am interested in doing a deeper dive on some lesser known stories of women in our epics, often ignored in current performance canon.”

credit: Kalyan Goparaju

She concludes, “I would also like to interview practitioners who hail from the devadasi lineage, such as Nrithya Pillai, and understand the intersection of caste and community, and the traditions passed down in the devadasi community. “

Dr. Ramesh is the founder of the Natyaroha company, where she continues creating riveting works of art.