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Attuned to my culture
- Rucha Desai, Ridgewood, NJ

March 10, 2007

(Rucha Desai won Honorary Mention: Bharata Natyam Arangetram DVD in the Dance Essay Competition conducted by Cultural Centre of India, OH, on the topic "Why is being a dancer important to me.")

Dance ignites the flame that illuminates my soul. When I move, I feel a surge of energy reverberate through my veins. However emotionally or physically exhausted I feel, dance invigorates my senses, bringing my heart and mind together. When I am dancing, I am not a girl, a student, or an Indian - I am empowered to become simply me. As an Indian girl attending American schools, I have been subject to stereotypes. When I am dancing, I forget my labels, remove myself from arbitrary categories, and delve into a world without external forces trying to shape my life. As a dancer, I am alone, but not lonely. Driven by this passion of art, I become one with the world around me.

Dance has brought me closer to my roots. I partake in all forms of dance, currently swaying to Bollywood and Middle Eastern beats. In the past, I have participated in Kathak, Hip Hop, Ballet, Modern, West African, and Salsa. Through the Kathak and Bollywood styles, I have become more attuned to my culture. I learn to move to the rhythms of my people, and understand our channels of expression.

Dance has provided me more than the dense pages of a history book has ever given me. I come alive when I am performing. When I dance in front of people, I am telling them a story. I speak through my dance, acknowledging emotions I do not express through words. Like Nora, in Henrik Ibsen's 'A Dollhouse,' I am "dancing as if life depended on it." Without passion, a human is merely a machine, operating by social mores. Dance is my passion; it allows me to develop my own being, express myself, and become aware of my senses. Without dance, without an illuminating force, I would be another machine. Through dance, I attain light, bliss, and peace. I am a dancer.

Rucha Desai is a student of 12th grade at Ridgewood High School in NJ, USA. She learns Bollywood and Middle Eastern dance from Lateefah Ravish, Arya Dance Academy.

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