On a recent Saturday morning, 6-year-old Aayushi Bajracharya joined a half dozen other young children at the Basant Dance Center, in Elmhurst, Queens, for a fun morning of learning Nepali dance. Started by Vijay Nakarmi at another location in 2010, the dance school draws students from 6 to 60 to teach them traditional dances.
But the school, and Nakarmi, have another, more stealthy objective: To teach young people the Nepali language. With the exception of counting, which still seems to take place in English, Nakarmi uses only Nepali while instructing, and insists that children try to speak the language.
For parents who bring their children to classes, and sometimes join them – as a number of fathers did recently to prepare for Losar New Year celebrations by practicing dance steps – the effects have been dramatic. Said Aayushi’s mother, Anjana: “This rule is very good. Aayushi is speaking a little bit of Nepali at home, too.”
Adds Nima Sherpa, whose 6-year-old Lakpa has been taking dance lessons for more than a month: “We speak Nepali with her at home, too. She usually replied back in English. Now she tries to reply in Nepali.”
Anuz Thapa, a member of the 2017 class at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, checked out just how Nepali is taught through dance. Watch his video above.