Daring to Dance

Sophomore, junior form club to increase cultural exposure

Center stage: Junior and president Rachitha Jadala performs in front of interested students at the informational meeting.

Johnny Nguyen, Associate Editor

An entire conversation plays out in junior Rachitha Jadala’s mind. The exact wording between her and theater teacher Ashlee Zoch, the subtle body gestures between these two participants and even the tone of all their words become visions that dance among the thousands of thoughts inside Jadala’s head as she stands outside the F-Wing. She knows that her request is an important one, a cultural decision that could give rise to an entirely different organization on campus, and so she continues standing outside for almost another 15 minutes, rewording her sentences and thinking of formal phrases, until finally, Jadala gathers up the courage to knock on the door of Zoch’s office, and the two discuss the potential sponsorship of the prospective Bollywood Dance Club.

“At first it was a little intimidating, knowing I would have to instruct and lead a group of students purely with my own knowledge and experience,” Jadala said. “However, I knew that my enjoyment of dance, culture and our community would greatly overshadow the feelings of doubt I had.”

With the goal of exposing students to another world culture, as many other organizations on campus already do, Jadala collaborated with sophomore Alina Ali to form the Bollywood Dance Club under the sponsorship of Zoch. While the club started in the spring semester rather than at the beginning of the year, the idea of the club had been in the back of Jadala’s mind ever since her freshman year, as she also went through personal dance classes.

“There wasn’t a particular moment that I can think of that inspired me to start a bollywood dance club,” Jadala said. “I think it was an idea that had been forming as I got more and more experienced with Bollywood dancing, to a point that I wanted to share my enjoyment of it with my peers.”

Jadala’s experience with Bollywood dancing, the style of dance prominent in Bollywood films, started young as her family and community exposed her to these films. Growing up, she also worked with other Indian friends who would often meet and choreograph dances to perform as groups at various celebrations, like New Year’s parties or in the auditoriums of cultural events. Now, according to Jadala, this club can bring similar opportunities to interested students.

“[The club] is mostly to expose students to the beautiful culture of Bollywood and allow them to get directly involved by learning the stylistic features,” Jadala said. “This club is a great way for students, both [for] those who have and have not been exposed to Bollywood music, to get involved and submerged into a different culture. It’s a way to portray to others the talent and beauty that lies within the culture.”

Ali, vice president of the club, first asked Zoch during her technical theater class about sponsoring the club, and after school on that same day, Jadala took a visit to Zoch’s office to confirm the sponsorship and the start of their collaborative, cultural contribution to the school’s community.

“I thought it was a great idea to bring another culture into the school,” Zoch said. “[It would also] encourage another culture and get people who maybe aren’t familiar with Bollywood dance or any other form of dance or arts to participate. I do plan on sponsoring the club in future years.”

Once the Zoch accepted sponsorship, Jadala and Ali planned and held an introductory meeting for any interested students in dance teacher Michelle Powers’ room after school on Jan. 10, where Jadala performed for interested students to show them examples of what prospective members could be doing in the future.

“The meeting was pretty good,” Ali said. “We didn’t really plan much. Even though the attendance was small, it was full of great people and we’re hoping it grows soon.”

Jadala and Ali will design and teach choreography during the early stages of the club, but as the organization grows through word of mouth or the growing confidence of early members, these participants will also be able to step up and take more leadership. According to Jadala, through performances at pep rallies, lunches and other cultural events, she hopes the club will resolve some of the unknowns of Indian culture, especially regarding the portrayal of the culture within an entertainment context.

“I feel proud to be able to represent my community in a positive light that highlights the entertainment industry,” Jadala said. “There are always misunderstandings of what the entertainment industry of India looks like, and although it’s not perfectly representative of individuals within India, similar to the problematic issues of Hollywood, I think it’s still important that the industry does get credit for the beautiful music, and dancing it produces.”

The club will allow students to get involved with and submerge in a different culture that for most, is not something they usually participate in. According to both officers, they encourage all students to join, even those who already have knowledge on Bollywood music and its dances.

“I feel like recognizing other cultures is really important,” Ali said. “Growing up in Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries, I‘ve always been exposed to all aspects of the culture, one of them predominantly being dancing, [and] I think that we don’t see enough representation both in and out of school.”