Reflections on Dance: A Companion in Crisis by Aparna Shankar and Meghana Murthy
It is a strange time in our lives. Time feels weird, simultaneously zipping by and inching by, every day seemingly the same. My brain feels fuzzy. I binge-watch, I read, I cook, I put on outlandish eye shadow and play dress-up at home. The days start to blend together. Work days start turning into work nights and work weekends. And yet, despite my time being filled endlessly with so much “stuff”, I feel a void. I am a sieve, empty and bare, life seeping through.
While the pandemic has done ample damage, it has also given me time to reflect on the value of the arts in my life. Every minute that I spent stressed or indifferent, was a minute taken away from doing something that I loved. During a dance company rehearsal, Sahi asked us to portray what losing hope would look like. This struck a chord with me. I realized that the stress of my days was taking away something that brought me solace. Dance was the one thing that allowed me to remove myself – even momentarily – from my stressors, and brought me pure joy.
When I moved to a new state at the age of ten, I struggled to make friends. Everyone in school already knew each other and cliques had been set. I felt awkward looking to fit in. But my trusty companion, Bharatanatyam, stayed with me – reminiscing about good times through nattadavus and alarippus. Even through intimidating situations like a *gulp* varnam trikala jathi, this friend showed me that we are more capable than we think.
Then came college. Ivy rejections in spite of stellar GPAs and SAT scores. Heartbreaks. Organic chemistry. Again, dance came to the rescue. I rejoiced learning how to construct movements, crafting stories through adavus, creating my own narrative. I learnt to deal with life’s inevitable curveballs by drawing from deep within and aspiring for something greater.
The pandemic saw me go from a healthy work-dance balance to work-work-work. It left me wanting (to eat and sleep better), exhausted (from overwork), drained (by constant pressure), hollow (from not dancing as much). When I recommitted to dance, every rehearsal restored me piece by piece. It returned me to a place of solace, onto a path for my own health and happiness. My one silver lining to the pandemic is the realization that dance is not something I will compromise on, ever.
Through most of my adult life, I had been uncomfortable in my skin. Too Indian for America, too American for India. A diaspora cliché. But dance always centered me back; consistently empowering me to change, grow, heal myself. Dance is my sacred space, my refuge.
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