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Announcements Cultural Heritage Language

In Memoriam: Laxmi Nath Shrestha

We are immensely saddened by the passing last week in Nepal of honored mentor and beloved teacher, Laxmi Nath Shrestha (1949 – 2020). I had the privilege and honor of studying with Laxmi ji at the University of Heidelberg (SAI Institute). His unique instruction of the Nepali language, often interspersed with cultural anecdotes, was engaging and effective. He achieved in a minimum of time what dozens of textbooks could not.

His endless energy and generosity towards students was the hallmark of his style. He was, in every sense of the word, a man of kindness and good humor, a man of learning who shared whatever he could to help others. The best memories of him will be those of dearest friend, discussing the law and our many travel stories, drinking tea and eating summer plums, and having long phone conversations into the night once he was back in Nepal.

Laxmi Nath Shrestha
Laxmi Nath Shrestha 1949 – 2020

Laxmi Nath Shrestha was regarded as one of the world’s foremost teachers of the Nepali language and produced several generations of notable scholars, among them Siegfried Lienhard, Bernhard Kölver, Leonard van der Kuijp, Axel Michaels, Alexander von Rospatt, and Christoph Emmrich.

For well over forty years his courses were in demand in institutions as varied as the Universidade de Lisboa, the Universität Wien, the Philipps-Universität Marburg, as well as the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (SAI Institut).

We wish him peace and love in the next life and a generation of new students who will, as we all did, come to love him as more than a teacher.

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Class Info

Fall Semester Dance Classes

Time to get fit and healthy for those long hours you know are coming in front of a computer screen as more and more people work remotely and schools begin their online fall semester. Workout machines are great, but nothing matches the joy and excitement of getting up and dancing your heart out.

Utpalasia is offering:

  • Himalayan folk dance
  • Bollywood fusion
  • Beginner/Intermediate Kathak
  • Advanced Kathak
Himalayan Folk Dance

Want a great workout and enriching activity for learners of all ages with no prior dance experience? Give Utpalasia’s Himalayan folk dance classes a try! Get a first hand view of Nepal’s cultural heritage as you learn to dance using easy-to-follow choreography.

Bollywood Fusion

We’ve also got you covered with classes in popular styles like Bollywood fusion, a mix of Indian movie dance paired with hip hop, contemporary, and other styles.

If classical Asian dance is more your speed, we offer classical North Indian Kathak at beginner/intermediate and advanced levels. You’ll find incredible beauty in this challenging visual art and reap a long list of physical and mental benefits along the way.

The fall semester starts on September 6. Sign up for classes before August 24 for the early bird special to save $25!

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Announcements

Utpalasia Loses Its Mascot

Mauri, the “Friend”, Utpalasia’s beloved mascot, lost her fight with illness this evening. She was allowed to pass peacefully and without pain, carrying with her our love, devotion, and gratitude. She was in a class by herself.

Mauri Close-Up
Mauri, Utpalasia’s mascot

Originally a shelter rescue, Mauri joined us in 2007 when she was just 3 months old. Constantly busy and interested in everything, she earned her name, which means ‘bee’ in the Nepali language.

Mauri Outdoor Sports
An accomplished outdoor sports feline

A quick study, she maneuvered her way into everyone’s heart and created successful strategies for hijacking unguarded chicken legs, buttered zucchini from the pan, and sliced peaches from Anil’s breakfast, all in the blink of an eye.

Princess
The princess holds court

She loved shrimp and was not above creating distractions to slyly remove several of them from unsuspecting victims. As her personal caterer, I had to monitor that humans and our other feline wouldn’t be shortchanged, if you get my drift. It was a full time job.

Her facilitator in other criminal activities and wild play sessions was usually Tarik, our tech engineer; she no doubt enjoyed owning her very own human. Mauri loved kneading his blankets and dozing with him into the wee hours of the morning.

Hard at work
Deep in thought

She clearly envisioned herself as a self-appointed critic in dance and supervised classes and recordings. It was well-known that her sinuous movements surpassed anything Tasherit could ever choreograph, but she gladly shared her epic inspiration. She periodically stuck her head into Visaic’s studio for gentle head pats and then disappeared under layers of blankets in whatever bed she fancied at the moment.

Birds, hamsters, dogs, and the younger cat-in-residence, Sennia, did not intimidate Mauri. She knew her rightful place was at the top of the chain of command. We all reported to her. Like clockwork.

Party Animal
Party animal

She was my best friend, a confidante, and a boss lady who showed me so much love and affection that I can’t imagine a world without her. I’ll love you always, Boo Boo.

I reminded her before she walked into that starry night that she still had 8 lives left. I might be wrong, but I thought I saw a mischievous sparkle in her eye.

Time to lock up that shrimp…

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Announcements Shop

Himalayan Vintage & Designer Art

Summer has arrived with a big blast of heat. Some of us are out and about in our jobs, others are working online, and many are still sheltering safely at home. While we are all navigating the ‘new normal’, one thing to keep in mind is self-care. Do good things – eat better, exercise more (we suggest dance!), and keep it positive and stylish, even if you are just commuting from your kitchen to your home office.

Etsy Sale July 2020
Shop for vintage treasures and designer wearable art at Yak Yak Yak Nepal

The beauty of change is something to look forward to. Find a different side of yourself by trying a new look and stepping outside of your status quo. We’d suggest a stop at our shop https://etsy.me/2VAx2KC for some inspired ideas. Enjoy and Happy 4th weekend!

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Announcements Class Info Dance

Advanced Kathak Workshops – Summer 2020

Kathak is one of the main classical Indian dances that inspires and delights audiences with its fast spins, energetic footwork, intricate hand moves, and artistic presentation.

Jaipur and Lucknow, the two principal schools of Kathak, differ considerably. The former is more athletic and vibrant, while the latter has a subtler and more emotive style. Like most dance forms today, Kathak is learning to reinvent and reinvigorate its classic lines with more modern fusion elements, such as remixed classical music and vibrant original compositions by vocalists and musicians. However, the basic core of nritta, or pure technical dance, remains a top requirement in any piece.

In traditional classes, foundational skills are endlessly repeated until they are more than second nature. The ability to generate nritya, or expressive, emotional dance, is integrated into the learning process early on, but really only develops over time and with consistent practice. Many gurus say that life and experience make for the truest ability to portray emotions. All of these facets of dance come together to form natya, the full drama in which dance and artistry play a very important role.

The wonderful quality about Kathak is that it can be learned and enjoyed at any age. The current evolution of the dance allows for a continuation of the strict classical style while incorporating more exciting and dynamic modern elements. This makes it even more accessible to a wider artist and audience range. We definitely foresee a revitalized future for lovers of Kathak!

Utpalasia will be presenting advanced Kathak workshops this summer. Each session will include a different piece that focuses on the following:

  • tintaal & matta taal
  • intensive footwork
  • chakkars (spins) and jumps
  • stage presence
  • musicality and texture
  • pacing and stamina
  • technical skills

Two years of prior experience with Kathak is highly recommended for these workshops. Questions? Just shoot us a line at https://utpalasia.org/contact/. We hope you’ll join us for a great experience and super workout!

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Announcements Class Info Language

Summer Language Learning with Native & Bilingual Tutors

Everyone knows that along with dance, learning a foreign language is a great activity to keep you mentally alert, foster long and short term memory, and improve your all around knowledge base. Besides, it’s cool and a lot of fun! Education has been migrating to online platforms for quite a while, but it got its biggest push ever with the appearance of COVID-19. A lot of people now have more time than they know what to do with…so why not learn a new language or improve your existing skills?

World Languages
Learning a language sharpens focus, improves memory abilities, and develops the brain.

Well, you say, there are so many free or low cost online apps available. Why should I go one-on-one with a native or bilingual tutor? That’s an easy one to answer. While commercial apps are fun and informative, they lack the human to human element, which is key in language learning. They can provide you with common vocabulary, but not teach you how to put it into sentences that are usable and practical. They can’t give you cultural notes or discuss how words can alter their meanings in different contexts. You also won’t make that all important “think in the target language” shift without the help of a expert on your side.

Utpalasia has been involved with languages for years. We tutor privately, teach at international schools, interpret professionally in court, translate for academic purposes, and act as cultural intermediaries and ambassadors for artistic programs.

Most of our staff speaks at least two languages. Utpalasia’s own Cordula Sturm Dahal was rated in the 96th percentile out of almost 18,000 tutors on Wyzant. Check out her profile here and find out what student say about her phenomenal success. You can schedule an online class in German and French for any age or level on Wyzant’s site.

You can also arrange personalized classes directly with Utpalasia. It’s easy and fast to register. After assessing your experience, skills, short and long term goals, and specific learning style, we customize a program just for you. Our innovative methods are unique and get solid results. No contracts, no commitments: just classes that fit your schedule and get you on the road to speaking another language with confidence.

One hour, one fee. What could be simpler?

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Announcements Class Info Dance

Bollywood Fusion Workshops – Summer 2020

Dance is a multi-faceted activity that not only works your body, but has a positive effect on mental health as well. It is a tremendous stress reliever and pumps you full of endorphins, essentially giving you a shot of happiness.

Health organizations all recommend doing consistent cardio throughout the week and dance is a fun way to reach your goals and stay fit! At Utpalasia, we integrate the many diverse styles that now make up Bollywood fusion, from cinema Bollywood, classical Kathak, and traditional folk dance to hip hop, belly dance, and more to present you with original, exciting content.

Still not convinced about what dance can do for you? Here are some of the major benefits:

  • Increased coordination
  • High and low intensity training
  • Development of natural rhythm
  • Full body workout
  • Stress relief
  • Toning
  • Flexibility
  • Enhanced memory
  • Superior balance
  • Calorie burning (on average 450 an hour)
  • Enriched musicality
  • Defined technical skills
  • Improved muscular resistance

We could go on and on! Even if you are currently taking regular dance classes, Utpalasia’s three online workshops in June, July, and August will give you some amazing challenges. These sessions are designed to provide an aerobic and cardio workout meshed with learning an originally choreographed Bollywood fusion item. They will also encourage you to maximize your competence and confidence in presenting performance ready pieces.

Each session features a different piece and focuses on key elements such as:

  • a customized warm-up for flexibility and stretching
  • greater precision with form and technical skills
  • dance texture and timing
  • consistent body lines and extensions
  • nuanced facial expressions and acting
  • stage presentation

We recommend at least 2 years of Bollywood experience and/or a firm command of another style, such as hip hop, but we also welcome the brave at heart who want to be courageous and try something challenging and new!

Sessions will be held online via Google Meet.

We hope you will join us in having some fun, getting healthy, and loving dance as much as we do!

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Announcements Cultural Heritage Dance Performances & Programs

International Dance Day

IntlDanceDay
International Dance Day 2020

No time like the present to learn, practice, demonstrate, and share your love of dance! UNESCO’s CID is offering the opportunity of uploading your event for free tomorrow in honor of International Dance Day. So get up, get moving, and pass along some happiness by sharing your favorite style with the world. To catch some of the latest videos of our lead dancer, just check out her Instagram (Tasherit.SturmDahal). ENJOY!!

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Cultural Heritage Shop

The Magic of Lokta

For almost 2,000 years, the Daphne Cannabina, also known as “lokta”, has been prized as the source for handmade paper in Nepal. It grows at an elevation of 2000 to 3500 meters in the understory of forests. The bush, which is an evergreen shrub and a subspecies of laurel, grows wildly and in abundance. Amazingly, once harvested, it can regenerate to a fully grown 4-5 meter plant within only 5-7 years!

LoktaVillageDance

The paper which is made of the fibrous inner bark of the bush is durable and resistant to tearing, humidity, insects and mildew, and it is these qualities which have made it the preferred choice for official records and religious texts.

The process of making paper is a traditional one: cook the bark twice, consecutively wash it, chop and beat it with wooden mallets, pour the soft pulp over a wooden frame, spread, and then sun dry. The consistency of the paper is rough, but attractive, and it can be made in thin to thick grades, left in its original buff color or dyed with natural colors.

Today eco-friendly lokta is gaining popularity and is being used as chocolate packaging, wrappers to keep incense, spices and medicines fresh, for origami, and (best of all!) as dress material!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not check out our limited edition selection of lokta handmade cards in our Etsy shop https://etsy.me/2GeEx23 and pen your beloved a message of love that will withstand the test of time (and bugs!)

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Cultural Heritage Festivals Hinduism

Nepal’s Tihar in a Nutshell

Tihar is a five day festival celebrated in Nepal. The first day is dedicated to the crow (or kaag) who is seen as the messenger of death.

kaagtihar
Kaag Puja

The second day focuses on the dog (or kukur). Dogs are believed to lead the souls of the dead to the underworld. They are also honored as trusted and loyal companions of man.

Kukur-Tihar-01
Kukur Puja

The third day of Tihar combines the worship of goddess of wealth, Laxmi, with Gai (or cow) tihar. People clean their houses, place lamps, candles, and bright lights everywhere to ensure the goddess will find her way into their home.

laxmipuja
Laxmi Puja

Cows are sacred animals and symbolize the role of a mother. They are honored in a similar way to Kukur tihar, by being garlanded, worshipped, and fed special food.

gaipuja2

The fourth day of Tihar is Mha puja, or the worship of self. This is particularly important to the Newari community who also celebrates this as the start of a New Year. Other people worship the ox (or goru) since he is vital for farmers and villagers everywhere.

gorupuja
Goru Puja

The last day of Tihar is Bhai (brother) tika in which sisters honor and celebrate their brothers and pray for them to have long, healthy, and prosperous lives. While sisters place a particular tika on their brother’s forehead and offer gifts, fruits, and favorite sweets to them, the brothers also offer their sisters money and gifts, often clothing.

bhaitika3
Bhai Tika

During Tihar young people go about their neighborhoods and sing Deusi or Bhailo songs. These are a beloved style of traditional folk tunes. In return, elders will shower children with fruits, sweets, and money.