TRENDING STORIES

Hema Ramaswamy Dances Away With Down Syndrome

After years of preparation, Hema Ramaswamy of Middletown, N.J. readied herself to unveil her Indian classical dance skill at her arangetram. An arangetram, which literally means “ascending the stage,” is a major accomplishment that takes years of preparation. This moment, when a student of dance or music asserts her artistic independence, usually happens in the teen years. Jewish girls become a bat mitzvah; 15-year-old Latinas celebrate with quinceañeras. But for generations of Indian-American girls, the rite of passage is performing a classical Indian dance before a crowd of hundreds.

Ramaswamy, who has Down syndrome, originally began dancing for health reasons. “But then it became part of her, and she really loves and enjoys it, and it took her 13 years with a lot of challenges, midway, to complete this,” explained her father, Ram. “And now today is a perfect day for her — her graduating in this art.”

Images by Preston Merchant

She was able to achieve this despite her diagnosis and despite two major surgeries for a dangerous leak of cerebrospinal fluid. Her father said dance has strengthened Ramaswamy’s muscles and given her fine motor skills she simply didn’t have before.

“I feel so happy in dancing,” she beams, surrounded by a flurry of doting aunties while preparing for her performance.

Ramaswamy’s arangetram is 2 1/2 hours long and consists of 10 different dances. One is about the god Krishna, who, as a baby, starts devouring mud. Dancers usually try to mimic baby Krishna, but Ramaswamy becomes him. She then pivots into the role of Krishna’s angry mother, who discovers her filthy son and orders him to open his mouth. But instead of finding mud, she finds planets, stars, galaxies — an entire unknown cosmos lying within. This is the dance that brings the audience to tears.

“Thank you, everybody for coming and supporting me,” Ramaswamy says to a cheering audience. “I’m feeling so happy. Please enjoy your rest of your evening.”

Her father tells the crowd that Ramaswamy’s arangetram was more than a dance graduation; it was the day she became, in the eyes of the world, a full individual. Having achieved this goal, Ramaswamy says, she now plans to go to college.

Watch Hema Ramaswamy’s arangetram here

📣 Follow Indian Spice on TwitterInstagramFacebookTelegramTikTok and on YouTube, and stay updated with the latest South African Indian news and international Indian news.


The global lockdown has everyone’s mental health in a spin! Have you checked out our Mental Health resources by Indian Spice click here

The South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG) is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group open 7 days a week from 8 am – 8 pm. If you need a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group call SADAG on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26 and speak to a trained counsellor who can assist. Substance abuse hotline: 0800 12 13 14 is available 24hrs or alternatively email Zane on zane@sadag.org

Mental health India Helplines: Aasra: 022 2754 6669; Sneha India Foundation: +914424640050 and Sanjivini: 011-24311918

Stay at home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Connect with the Coronavirus Whatsapp services below

Connect with the Coronavirus Whatsapp services below

  • Coronavirus India Whatsapp tap here
  • Coronavirus South Africa Whatsapp tap here
  • SA Hotline Number: 0800 029 999

For more related coronavirus (COVID-19) latest news and stories click here

About Naufal Khan

Naufal Khan is Publisher at ADISHAKTI MEDIA and the editor-in-chief of the South African Indian news service Indian Spice. Khan is former Sunday Times journalist and also an occult fiction and non-fiction writer with several published titles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.