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Cultural Dance with Arpana Charkavarty
From the moment Arpana Chakravarty could walk, she danced. Unable to ignore this instinct, her mother enrolled her in several varieties of dance class, and she quickly acquired an appreciation for many forms, from hip-hop to ballet. However, by the time she entered high school she had exhausted the varieties available, and began searching for a form of expression more closely related to her heritage.
“I grew up in a community that didn’t offer most kinds of ethnic dance, and I wanted to expand my horizons,” Chakravarty explains. “It was when I looked beyond what was readily available to me that I became particularly fond of cultural forms of dance.” She started venturing out into East-Indian dancing, including Classical, Folklore, Khatak, Bharatnatyum, and Devotional, but eventually she turned to the more dramatic and theatrical Bollywood style. She has now been dancing Bollywood for a decade, but its allure comes from its malleability, a willingness to incorporate modern trends for sheer entertainment value. “Bollywood allows you to strut your stuff, regardless of what dance background you may have.”
Despite spending much of her time at a desk (she recently achieved a Masters degree in Political Science) Arpana is fit. For much of her academic career her only exercise was dancing. “It doesn’t feel like a workout, it feels like a thrill. I am much more motivated when I focus on healthy physical activity that doesn’t have the exclusive goal of keeping me toned, losing weight, conditioning, etc.” Of course, when you dance three to four times a week for an hour to three hours a time, this too requires motivation, and to keep up that kind of dance regimen also encourages a specific kind of diet. Certain foods such as beef, caffeine, soda, and chocolate are completely absent from her diet. She primarily eats fish, greens, and grains.
This may seem like a large time commitment, but Arpana points out that it doesn’t feel like she is wasting time. Everyone reaches a point at work or school where anxiety and fatigue threatens a healthy mental state, and dedication to a physically demanding but highly entertaining activity is an excellent way to relieve stress, regulate physical cycles, and achieve mental clarity.
In 2012 the Ministry of Innovation had awarded Arpana a modest grant to launch a small business in her local community. “I wanted to give others the unique opportunity for artistic expression and physical balance that only dance can offer. There are more fun ways to burn calories, and stay in shape than simply hitting the gym.” Her company also brought together community partners both from the private sector, and non-profit organizations to create large-scale events and performances.
When in school or pursuing your own business, it is easy to let work take over and neglect other important aspects of living. “I’m a firm believer in balance,” Arpana explains, “you need to make time for the what you love, but also activities that encourage a balance between mind, body, and soul.”