It was a cloudy afternoon in November 2006 when my mom took me to my very first North Indian classical dance class. Dreading the coming hour, I would’ve traded anything in the world to be practicing my lay-up on the basketball court, running on a field and kicking a soccer ball or — dare I say it — practicing the trombone (which I didn’t enjoy playing, for the record) instead. I was about to be thrown into a class that felt more like a project to my eight-year-old self, something that was supposed to keep me in touch with my cultural roots. Little did I realize that 11 years (and counting) later, I’d define the person I am today by dance.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and after coming to college, I indeed realized that aside from missing my family, friends and other extracurriculars, I actually missed dance. Eight-year-old Avanti would’ve been appalled, but 17-year-old Avanti was enchanted. Who knew dance could have such a big effect on me? As I thought back to every year up until then, I realized that most of my memories were associated with dance. Intense field hockey practices were always followed by dance practice. Visits with extended family always meant showing my new dance skills, ones that sometimes even brought tears to my grandmother’s eyes. Surprise birthday parties and endless laughs were a reminder of the friends I had made in class — dance class.
I was that much more thankful I got to dance for my first two years in college. I realized that every single piece of advice my dance teacher had given me was right. Practice truly does make perfect. Discipline and respect will get you far. Enjoy what you’re doing.
Dancing for so many years has made me appreciate all forms of dance. There’s something innately magical and universal about dance — no matter what type of dancer you are, we all have something in common, as we dance to the rhythm of eight beats that so many forms of dance share. The dance moves that look so flawless and easy on stage probably took us hours, if not years, to perfect.
Last summer, my sister and I went to watch the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. Though I’ve never done ballet before, I was immediately mesmerized by the dancers. When Misty Copeland, the first African American woman principal dancer in history, came on stage, I unexpectedly got goosebumps on my arms. Seeing her dance live, I realized that one day, I wanted to have a similar impact on others, and I could never give up dancing because it had become a part of me. Her performance even inspired me to start ballet classes this semester. I realized that at the end of the day, I’m dancing for so much more than to say I’m a dancer. Dancing is a rewarding sport; it’s supposed to make you tired and sore, but it’s also supposed to make you happy — otherwise you’re not doing something right.
While my set of jewelry may gather a thin layer of dust this year and my outfit may not be used that much, there’ll still be a beat in my step, lots of music in my heart and sincere passion in my eyes. I couldn’t be more thankful that my mom saw something in me so many years ago to sign me up for class, and for my teacher who pushed us to not give up and continue practicing. But I’m also proud of myself for not letting initial hesitancies or unexpected obstacles along the way stop me from continuing.
This National Dance Day, I don’t need a reason to dance, besides that it makes me happy. While dance has brought me blood (in the form of disgustingly large blisters), sweat and tears, it’s an art form that I never want to stop learning. It’s an escape space that I love getting lost in, and I just wish eight-year-old me had seen this a little sooner.
Avanti Mehrotra is the assistant blog editor. Contact Avanti Mehrotra at [email protected].