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EXPRESSIONS OF GROWTH Sanjna Pandit, a ninth grader at The Kinkaid School, began dancing Bharatanatyam at the age of 6.
Thayum thatha, thayum thaha, thai thai dith thith thai. These words don’t quite roll off one’s tongue, do they? That phrase is a dance sequence in Bharatanatyam, a 5,000-year-old Indian classical dance. Bha-ra-ta-nat-yam involves intricate storytelling, poses, and vigorous rhythmic dancing set to a live orchestra, as the dancer evokes interactive joy and emotions between herself and audiences.
My Bharatanatyam journey began at the age of 6 with my teacher, Mrs. Padmini Chari, founding director of Nritya School of Dance. Every Thursday, my “dancemates” (usually other second- or third-generation Indian-Americans) and I experienced one hour of invigorating practice. We learned our ancient heritage and developed confidence in other aspects of our lives.
It took me years to appreciate Bharatanatyam’s physical, mental, and holistic impact on my life. Padmini Auntie (as I call my teacher) holds an annual showcase of her students’ progress, and I not only grew more comfortable performing on stage but also grew in unexpected ways: from a little girl to a young woman, from donning simple dresses to ornate outfits with intricate jewelry and headpieces, from a five-minute basic performance to extended, beautifully choreographed numbers.
These were expressions of external growth; internally, I gained appreciation and acceptance of my Indian heritage. I am blessed to share stories of my Hindu faith and ancestral culture. I’ll never forget my performance depicting the Hindu god of dance, Nataraja, dancing to rhythmic beats that represent the heartbeat of the universe that unites us all. Power swelled and filled me with overwhelming happiness and connectedness to my audience.
I am preparing for my Arangetram, a Bharatanatyam dancer’s real test: a solo performance of dance numbers performed live to an audience of dancers, musicians, friends, and family. I am excited and grateful to be under the guidance of my teacher, who brought this ancient art form to Houston. I remain hopeful that my dance journey will continue to flourish.
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