January 14, 2012
By , Franklin, WI
Ten years ago my mom had enthusiastically taken me to a class to show me what Bharatanatyam is. I did not realize how immense of an impression my decision to join dance would have on my life. The Indian classical dancers looked so silly, sitting in a half-squat with their arms sticking out, but I thought I would give it a try. Dance is now one of the most important parts of my life.
Originating from India, Bharatanatyam is more than just poses and mudras (hand gestures). In addition to the dance elements, Bharatanatyam also has a deeper spiritual meaning. Dance has connected me to my roots and allows me to enrich the cultural diversity of America, and fostering a broader understanding of foreign cultures to Americans.
Over the years, I have gained much more from Bharatanatyam than just a dance education. While the class revolves around perfecting my movements, rhythm, and musicality, I have in addition learned the importance of hard work, patience, and facing my challenges.
The strict discipline of Bharatanatyam has taught me to work hard in order to receive the results I want; a principle I plan to apply to every aspect of my life. Though I may be sweating and my thighs and arms may be burning, I know if I push forward I will be rewarded. In dance this reward is becoming a better dancer; in my everyday life this reward is being successful in academics and other activities which are important to me such as art and tennis. Persevering through pain always proves to be worthwhile in the end, but I also understand that I need to be patient in order to attain ultimate success.
Last year I began helping my dance teacher with younger classes to prepare for our annual show. When I first began, I did not realize how much of a challenge this would be. Initially my job consisted of demonstrating the dance for the young girls by dancing in the front of the class so that they could follow along. My assistance then extended to correcting the students’ form and steps. One girl could not seem to pick up a certain step; she did not seem to understand what she was supposed to be doing. Noticing the missteps the girl made, my dance teacher asked me to help her one-on-one.
At first, I just demonstrated like I had previously and asked her to repeat what I did. Looking at me blankly, she still had no idea what to do. Not comprehending why she could not grasp the move, I again demonstrated it for her. With no response from her, I came to realize what I needed to do. I asked her to do the step with me this time, and slowly piece-by-piece we went through it. We continued to do this several more times until she seemed confident. I then let her do the move on her own and she conquered that, at the right tempo. Although we had a few slip-ups, in the end she finally learned the step, and I patience. While this was a challenge, it is not the biggest challenge I will face in dance.
As a senior dance student, I will be having an arangetram next summer. An arangetram is the debut on-stage performance of a Bharatanatyam student, after undertaking years of training. In my ten years of dancing, I have never had a performance quite like this one. Months of preparation will be necessary to perfect every piece, every moment of this rigorous two-hour solo recital. Dancing is a passion of mine so initially I was ecstatic to have an arangetram, but soon doubt began to creep into my mind.
Speculating whether I would be capable of such a performance, I began to question whether I was up to the challenge. Maybe my stamina wouldn’t endure the performance or maybe I would forget a piece on stage. I came to realize, though, that if I don’t try, I will never know. Everyone faces challenges, but what’s important is how we face them; there is always a choice. It is easy to let life break me, to give up, but I’ll never get anywhere if I do. Life will always put obstacles in my way, but I will face these challenges exactly how I have been taught to dance: with my back straight, my head held high, and a smile on my face.
I smile now remembering my little eight year old self choosing to dance on a whim. What began as an activity I had to do every Saturday has become something that is a part of me. Without Bharatanatyam I would not be the person I am today.

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