Dancing Through Senior Year

Senior Aanchal Nair connects to her Indian roots through Bharatanatyam.

Alyssa Gagnon, Writer

Senior Aanchal Nair said she has been doing a classical Indian dance style called Bharatanatyam since she was five years old at the Nartan Dance Academy. According to Nair, this type of dance requires lots of technique, flexibility and skill. Nair teaches this style of dance to others as well. 

As a young child, Nair said she moved to the United States from India. Growing up, she said she struggled to connect to her Indian heritage.

“Once I moved to America, I didn’t have any way of connecting back to my culture,” Nair said. 

Dance, Nair said, was her solution for connecting to her culture. According to Nair, dancers tell stories of the Hindu religion through Bharatanatyam. 

“If I didn’t have this dance, I wouldn’t know a single thing about the stories that are a part of my religion,” Nair said. 

Nair said she started to show an interest in dance at a young age. She said her mom, Sapna Nair, was the one to push her into taking Bharatanatyam, and although Nair did not love it at first, she does now. 

“I always loved dance but I didn’t want to do Bharatanatyam because I thought it was too much work,” Nair said.

 Nair said that Sapna also loved the arts as a child, although she did not get to have the same opportunities Nair has now.

“[My mom] kept on pushing me to do [Bharatanatyam] and now I’m really thankful because I wouldn’t have been able to complete a whole arangetram and still continue dancing without her,” Nair said.

When Nair was in eighth grade, she said that she had started teaching Bharatanatyam to all ages, ranging from five-year-olds to moms.

“Being able to share my interests with someone else who is just getting introduced, especially with the younger ages, is very fun for me,” Nair said.

 Sophomore Siri Gowda is one of the students Nair teaches. Gowda said she has known Nair for two years and thinks highly of her.

“She knows when to push me to work harder but also knows the times where we can just have fun,” Gowda said.
Nair said Sapna did not grow up with enough money to showcase her skills in an arangetram, whereas Nair did. 

An arangetram is an important graduation ceremony for Bharatanatyam dancers. It showcases everything they’ve learned and worked on throughout the past seven to ten years, according to Nair. 

The downside of an arangetram is the cost. It varies between twenty to thirty thousand dollars to cover the cost of photography, custom costumes, jewelry and renting out a place to dance.

Nair said she worked on her dancing for several years before being able to showcase her dancing in an arangetram in 2018. 

Nair said that her arangetram was a huge deal. Over a thousand people came to watch her and musicians flew in to perform from India. 

She said the dance was difficult for many reasons, including the fact that the group performed for several hours straight. They had multiple costume changes in between and danced with close to thirty pounds of jewelry. 

Bharatanatyam is a very challenging type of dance, but Gowda said she admires that Nair is not one to step down from a challenge.

“No matter how hard it gets, she will keep pushing. When dancing, if she gets tired, she pushes herself more and puts in more energy when others will give up,” Gowda said.