Dance Mandal Ensemble Members
Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya
Prajwal is a priest of one of the Vajrayana Buddhist lineages of Nepal and a ritual master both of the Charya Nritya dance tradition and other ritual forms performed by the Newar Vajracharya lineage. Prajwal began his training in Charya Nritya at eight years old, receiving formal instruction mainly from his father, the Buddhist scholar and ritual master Ratna Kaji Vajracharya. Prajwal Vajracharya is now the premier teacher, practitioner, and performer of the tradition and is a veteran of several world tours with beginning and advanced students around the globe. He founded Dance Mandal: Foundation for Sacred Buddhist Arts of Nepal to preserve and expand this rare art form and its related traditions. With the survival of this sacred ritual dance threatened by modernization, Prajwal, at his father’s wishes, has dedicated his life to bringing this unique Buddhist heritage from the temples of Nepal to the world, while adhering to its original purpose as a profound spiritual practice. Prajwal Vajracharya is now based in Portland, Oregon, and regularly offers the following throughout the United States:
§ Sacred Movement Workshops
§ Dance Performances (solo and/or with Dance Mandal dance troupe)
§ Presentations on Charya Nritya and Vajrayana Buddhism
§ Traditional initiations and rituals such as: Purification Rituals for Body, Speech and Mind; House Blessing and Purification; Marriage Ceremony; Blessing Ceremonies for Babies; Birtha Brandha (Newar ceremony for boys under 12 years old)
§ See “Offerings” page for more information
“Prajwal is a generous human being who extends compassion and wisdom in everyday life as well as throughout his formalized teaching . He lives up to the ethics and ideals of his Buddhist founders, who strive to remove the suffering of others as a primary goal in life.”
– Ter Ellington, Professor, comparative religion, ethnomusicology, Washington University, Seattle.
Helen Fox Appell II
Helen came to Charya dance with a constellation of talents, experience, and knowledge that uniquely prepared her to delve deeply into this sacred art and become a major figure in its establishment in the West. A serious Buddhist practitioner, she studied Vajrayana for many years in India and as an ordained Zen priest co-founded No Abode Hermitage in Marin County, California, engaging as well in study of Sanskrit and Tibetan. Artistically gifted, Helen also brought a finely honed aesthetic sensibility developed through creative engagement with a range of arts, such as woodcarving, music, and dance; the study of several musical instruments and training in western painting, Tibetan thangka painting, and Indian classical singing. Seeking to integrate her interests in yogic arts and dance into her Dharma path, she began to study Charya Nritya with Prajwal Vajracharya, progressed to performing with him, and now choreographs and teaches. They co-founded Nritya Mandala Mahavihara, the first Newar Buddhist temple and study center in the west, to serve as a traditional ritual space for this ancient Tantric tradition . In her role as Creative and Organizational Director, Helen is devoted to unveiling the spiritual integrity of Charya dance in its new setting.
“Helen has contributed greatly while advancing her spiritual path, not only for herself individually but also for the whole community…She is personally deeply dedicated to the spiritual path and the exploration of the spiritual world. I’ve known Helen for a long time and I am greatly inspired by her genuine spiritual exploration.” – Yangsi Rinpoche, founder Maitripa College, Portland