John Robaton

Cultural Movement

During her junior year at Syracuse University, Roxanne Kamayani Gupta journeyed to India to study with masters of the Indian classical dance tradition. Since then, and throughout her career as a scholar of the cultural anthropology of South Asia and Indian religious history, she has moved between these two cultures. Currently assistant professor of religious studies at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, she has performed Indian dance for audiences in the United States, India, and Europe. Now with the help of fellow SU alumni Kristen Woodward ’91 and Wayne Vettleson G’88—who are also professors at Albright—Gupta has combined her background as a scholar, dancer, and yoga practitioner to create a new dance program, Adi Shakti: Dawn of the First Goddess, which she takes to colleges and museums around the country. “The performance illustrates the evolution of the goddess according to the Hindu Tantric tradition, showing how the goddess’s myths and rites mirror the development of human consciousness,” she says.
      Gupta is also a teacher of hatha and kriya yoga, and an initiate of the Sri Vidya Tantric tradition of goddess worship. “Tantrism is one of the strains of Hinduism that honors the feminine principle as being the source of power within the human body and also in the external world, in the cosmos,” says Gupta. “It connects the microcosm and the macrocosm—what’s in the human is also reflected in the outer world.”
      For Gupta, dance has defined her spirituality since she first traveled to India. She continued her studies at Syracuse to deepen her insight into the culture, ultimately earning a Ph.D. in humanities in 1993 that combined the study of religion and anthropology of South Asia. “Like my late mentor, Agehananda Bharati [of the SU anthropology department], I’ve never been interested in only looking at text,” she says. “I’ve been looking at practices. And my own practice of these traditions has informed my viewpoint as a scholar.”
      Gupta also explores sacred Indian dance and traditional yoga in her book, A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance: The Yogini’s Mirror (Inner Traditions International), which offers a practical and theoretical approach to integrating these two spiritual disciplines. “I describe how the Indian tradition sees the connection between the two,” Gupta says. “I also bring my own particular interpretation—that of a Western woman involved in both disciplines.”

—Kathleen Miles

Ken Cedeno Photography

Teaching for America

Nadine Gomes fights the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., every day to get to her elementary school classroom on time. “I love working with children,” Gomes says. “I like the energy they bring into a room.”
      Gomes, who graduated in 1999 from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in policy studies, just completed a two-year teaching commitment with Teach For America (TFA), a national initiative that recruits recent college graduates to teach in rural or inner-city locations. “TFA has been a great experience for me,” she says. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
      For Gomes, TFA was a natural fit. She always liked helping children, and at SU she volunteered at community centers and worked with tutoring programs. “I joined the SU Literacy Corps and taught children how to read,” she says. “That was great.”
      As a TFA teacher, Gomes especially enjoyed throwing holiday parties for her classes. “Their little faces light up,” she says. “I can see why people who are in this profession love their jobs.”
      Gomes plans to attend law school in Washington, D.C., this fall and hopes to one day continue her work with children. “I want to be a child-advocate attorney, practice family law, and ultimately become a family court judge,” she says. “That way I will have the ability to make decisions about children’s lives and look out for them.”

—Erin Corcoran

 

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