El Centro: Dancing through

I sat on a brown, wooden floor sprinkled by sunlight, drawing a cautious half-circle around my folded legs. I was four. I was on the second floor of my preschool building where we had after-school programs, first-year homerooms, and an upstairs dance studio. I was at my after-school gymnastics program, twirling around in my pink leotard and tutu. White stockinged legs and pink ribbons crisscrossed the studio twice a week. Today, I’m surprised to reflect that I had, in fact, experienced some kind of dance before ever joining a choir or singing club.

This upstairs studio at preschool was exactly where my school-organized and mandated dancing “career” began. From superhero-themed dances to mini-flag waving marches, younger students at my preschool were assigned specific dances that required hours of training, good behavior from 4 and 5-year-olds and even homemade costumes for which mothers sat in front of sewing machines for hours. This legacy carried on into elementary school, where for every field day, we practiced dances, from acts with homeroom-colored pom-poms to gymnastic formations. We would engage in practices that became the highs and lows of each day, and in the competitive spirit of the field day, sweat through many hot summer days to “beat” the other homerooms through grace and skill.

Dance is not something I’ve engaged with much as an extracurricular. Growing up, I’d always wanted to learn ballet, but every time I’d attend a trial class, I’d hate it with passion — for its rigidity, for its harshness, and would walk away happy that I could. Of course, when I attended a friend’s ballet concert, I would stare dreamily at the dancers’ feet that seemed to float through the air, to paint fairytales and tragedies, and I would continue on my quest for dance, to dance.

Now, I take Kathak dance as a class. I never imagined I’d take a dance class at college. I realize that it isn’t uncommon at Tufts, yet as a complete non-athlete, being more of a singer than a dancer, I still don’t really know why I am still in this class. Perhaps for pure enjoyment? Taking this class has helped me reconsider why I take certain classes and the point of double majoring. It has helped me reflect on extracurricular choices I make, in reflecting on committing to things I do perhaps because I always have. Dance, for me, has been an unconventional avenue of exploration, in unusual directions. Reflection isn’t all I’m gaining from Kathak. I have come to appreciate the sense of rhythm my mother, music teachers and singer peers have helped foster in me. I see the connection between my experience singing in a choir and dancing to a — albeit completely differently organized, but still similarly kept — beat. I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what it means for a person not from a particular culture to teach a culture-specific art. I’ve had a chance to witness both very trained classmates and less experienced but just as committed peers. There are only a handful of Tufts students that I know to be deeply involved in dance, but I know many who strive to reach for dance, and I am beginning to understand why.


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