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Dance: my true calling
Anisha Kumar, Scarsdale, New York

March 10, 2007

(Anisha Kumar won Honorary Mention: Dances of India - World Calendar, in the Dance Essay Competition conducted by Cultural Centre of India, OH, on the topic "Why is being a dancer important to me.")

Mahatma Gandhi once stated, "All true art must help the soul to realize its inner self." Being a dancer has allowed me enter a world of precision in detail, self-discipline, and spirituality. Yet, most importantly, it has helped me find a part of myself that I never knew I had. It never really seemed to me that tennis, violin, or any of the other activities I did, represented all that I wanted to do. Even though I loved playing in orchestra and playing varsity sports with my friends, there was always something missing that prevented me from thoroughly embracing these activities. This void in my life was filled by dance. I started learning Bharatanatyam since the age of five, yet I never realized its true importance to me until now. Looking back, I've often wondered how I could have spent my entire sixth grade summer dancing six hours a day in strict discipline and then ascending the stage to perform solo in my Arangetram or how I could have dedicated eleven years of my life to this art without thoroughly loving it.

In dance, I have found so much more than intricate footwork and facial expression. Dance has provided an escape from the demanding realities of life into a world where competition and judgment disappears and one dances solely for oneself. The self-consciousness and doubt of everyday life are washed away, and the sole point of concentration is the beat of the mridangam (drum). As a dancer, my mind has been conditioned to ignore the pains of my feet maintaining perfect posture and my arms tightening into absolutely clear gestures; momentary pain is insignificant when it can create grace and portray the intricate symmetry and precision of this ancient art-form. However, true art is far more than its physical form.

As a dancer, I have been introduced to spirituality and Hinduism. Despite my parents' painstaking attempts to teach me about Hinduism when I was little, I have come to realize that one cannot truly understand the customs, mythical stories, and morals without experiencing it for oneself. Reading a picture-book on the life of Krishna cannot come close to the experience of depicting and feeling Devaki's despair when witnessing the deaths of her seven children, Krishna's mischief when stealing butter, or Krishna's majestic dance atop the serpent Kaliya.

Bharatanatyam has given me great respect for my culture and encouraged my desire to pass on its meaning to future generations. Not only has dance changed my life, it has allowed me to share my passion with others. By raising funds through dance to better the lives of people less fortunate than me, I was able to use this art to help the community. Dance has been more than a mere extracurricular activity; it has been a decisive factor in shaping my world. In high school, college, or later in life, dance will still be the art that helped me find my true calling and my inner self.

Anisha Kumar is a student of 11th grade at Edgemont Jr./Sr. High School in NY, USA. She learns Bharatanatyam from Indhra Rajashekar, Indhra Rajashekar's Dance Academy.

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