A Mission to My Arangetram

I always think of Classical Indian dance as the Indian version of ballet. It’s such a strong foundation that really builds you into a refined dancer. Every step, hand gesture, pose, and facial expression has a name.

If you’re south-Asian, then you generally start your dance journey with some type of classical form. For me, it was Bharatanatyam. I started when I was about 5-6 years old and continued until… well, now I’m 30. Everyone who knew me knew I was a classical dancer and I flaunted it as often as I could.

Somewhere along my childhood dance journey, for whatever reason, I decided i didn’t want to do classical anymore. I really can’t tell you the reason why my 11-year old dramatic-self decided that I’ve had enough. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I completely stopped classes; despite my Guru calling my house and even stopping by my dad’s store and asking him to send me back. I know you’re not supposed to live life with regrets, but, whenever I look back on my life thus far, I always wish I could take back this decision.

During my hiatus, I started choreographing and teaching on my own. It wasn’t classical; mostly, cinematic, bollywood and folk. I soon realized that I had the confidence TO choreograph and TO teach because of my background in classical. It was such a strong foundation from so early on which gave me an obvious edge. Over the next few years, I started realizing that I wanted to see my classical career fully through.

I finally went back about three years later because I could tell I was losing my skills. I was so nervous to go back, and, when I had my first class back, I knew it was for a good reason. While I regressed because I spent so much time away, my dance-mates progressed. I was in awe watching them (I literally could watch them all day) and knew I was further behind than I initially thought. I graduated from dance my senior year of high school right in time for college, but knew I wasn’t done. I wanted to complete my Arangetram.

As soon as I got on campus as a college freshman in 2006, I was on a mission to find the first south-Asian dance team. The audition process was two days and I was so excited that it held a strong classical presence. As I was experimenting new dance styles and trying different things, I was able to do most of it with ease because of a strong dance foundation.

Right after moving home after college, I visited my guru and asked her if I can restart my training to complete my Arangetram. I wanted to open a studio so badly, but felt like I had to prove to myself that I could do this first. That I finish what I told myself I would do. She agreed. After about a year of training every day, relearning a lot of things from scratch, and stepping out of my comfort zone I finally completed it in October 2013. I remember lifting my head off the stage floor after a three hour recital and getting up to bow to an auditorium filled with family and friends celebrating what was a milestone 25 years in the making.