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Thanksgiving Meditations: Dance

Posted on Saturday, Nov 23rd 2019

My second thank you note is for regaining something unexpected, something that I value tremendously: dance.

I studied Indian classical dance since I was four years old. I stopped studying when I came to college in the United States. In college, however, I choreographed and performed about five times a year. 

When I went to grad school to MIT, I stopped performing on stage, but I picked up Ballroom and Latin dancing, and had a blast learning to Waltz, Foxtrot, Swing, Rhumba, and eventually, started studying the Argentine Tango. MIT had a terrific Ballroom Dance club and I made many friends with whom I danced five times a week. It was an excellent stress management mechanism that I kept up throughout my years of running companies.

In the last 15 years, I haven’t danced that much.

Off and on, I would dance at a salon.

Off and on, I would go to a Milonga.

Two years back, I went to Colorado to do a 3-day advanced Argentine Tango workshop with Gustavo Naveira, one of the big names in the genre. I danced 16 hours in three days. My feet really hurt. When I wasn’t dancing, I soaked them in a tub in the hotel room. But I managed to get through the entire workshop. I managed to keep up with what was being taught without getting lost, without falling behind. It felt good.

This year, starting in April, my school in India entered its centenary year. I had studied in that school for 14 years (K-12). It’s the only school that I studied at in India. The school’s alumni association, for the last two years, has been trying to pull together a centenary celebration.

When we were kids in school, we had a wonderful tradition of house competitions. Just like Harry Potter, we had four houses, and the students were sorted into those four houses. Each year, we competed over a month long period in various disciplines from debate to drama to dance to sports. There were more than a dozen different disciplines across various age groups that we competed in, led by a House Captain. 

In my year, I was the House Captain. It was an incredibly enriching experience in learning leadership. In fact, through that experience I first discovered how much leadership talent I had.

I loved working with a large number of girls, putting together performances, training sports teams, so on.

For the centenary of the school, I felt that the best celebration would be to bring back that House Competition spirit and put performances together.

I offered to lead a weeklong series of performances involving alumni from all over the world.

The alumni association could not reach consensus to support my proposal. Organizational politics often hinder such institutions.

So I went ahead and orchestrated an all day music-dance-poetry fest at our 17th Century ancestral house near Kolkata.

There was much that I found enriching in that experience. Working with a group of women – young and middle-aged – in a spirit that we loved so much as young girls in school, was heartwarming. The process of collaboration using modern technology – Facebook, Google, WhatsApp – was interesting. The artistic choices – using different forms of classical dance within the same song – allowed us to do an ambitious program with no rehearsal.

And finally, I got back to dancing on stage after 25 years.

Here is the playlist of our performance – a celebration of Monsoon through music, dance, poetry – on August 18, 2019:

Now, a troupe with talented dancers and musicians have organically and unexpectedly come together. We’ve so much enjoyed performing together, that we’re planning to do another program on January 18, 2020. At our Diwali salon in Menlo Park this year, I performed one of the pieces that I plan to dance on stage at that next show.

And, this year, I have also managed to get back to a regular routine of dancing the Argentine Tango.

I am grateful for the series of events that magically brought all this together.

I am grateful for the cast of characters who have brought dance back into my life so beautifully.

I am grateful for my own physical capacity that allows me to keep up something that means so much to me. To all those of you who have contributed to this magic, my heartfelt thanks.

This segment is a part in the series : Thanksgiving Meditations

. Fire
. Dance
. Colors

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