Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Hand Mudra Ceramic Sculpture Interpreting Classical Indian Dance

An art teacher pondered how a classical Indian dancer would fit into her high school sculpture curriculum. As she and the artist talked, the idea of gestures, mudras, as sculptural expressions took hold. Folk arts are inherently interdisciplinary, making traditional art forms, ways of teaching and learning, and artists’ passions easy to integrate into most content areas and engaging for all ages. No matter the genre, learners can answer, Where is something like this in my life?
Videos of Kathak dance, hand mudra photographs, sculpture clay, various clay tools, clear glaze. Artist interview question handout, history of Indian classical dance worksheet, Artist Statement and Artist Portrait.

A Culture, Community, and the Classroom Lesson by teacher Susan Pabody, with artist Apoorva Sonavani.

TITLE: Hand Mudra Ceramic Sculpture Interpreting Classical Indian Dance

Susan Pabody is a high school (10-12) sculpture teacher at Elmira High School in Elmira, New York.

ARTIST COLLABORATOR: Apoorva Sonavani (Kathak dance teacher)
Apoorva Sonavani is a watercolor artist, a percussion enthusiast, and a Kathak dancer living and teaching in the Southern Tier of New York.

LENGTH: Two 80-minute class periods for the artist residency. Five 80-minute class periods to model the clay hand mudras.

Find the complete lesson plans in the sidebar under “Downloads.”


HS Proficient

 VA:  Cr3.1.HSI

  1. Apply relevant criteria and the feedback of others to revise and refine works of art and design in progress.

HS Proficient


  1. Generate and develop work in a self-directed manner.

HS Proficient

VA:  Cr1.2HSI

  1. Consider a range of materials and methods of traditional and contemporary artistic practices to plan works of art and design.

HS Proficient

VA:  Pr5.1.HSI

  1. Analyze and evaluate how decisions made in the preparation and presentation of artwork affect a viewer’s perception of meaning.

HS Proficient

VA:  CN11.1.HSI

  1. Investigate ways that art and design from one culture or time period can influence artists and designers from a different culture or time period.