It’s time… the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Everything turns pitch black. Already before the curtain rises we can hear our alumni and loved ones chanting “U-C-L-A,” screaming our names, and cheering uncontrollably. We all hold our breath in complete silence, waiting excitedly in anticipation to hear that one familiar beat and let the adrenaline take over. This is our one shot, our one chance to shine and prove we’re the best. It’s now or never… just remember to breathe.
It is because of this feeling that I do what I do. It’s a natural high that I can’t experience anywhere else. I dance garba/raas, which is a style of traditional Indian dance that involves complex formations, high energy, even higher hops, head bobbing, and vivacious expressions, all while spinning wooden sticks called dandiyas. I dance not only because it makes me happy but also because it helps me become everything I am not but strive to be: graceful and girly. In reality, I’m the complete opposite. I grew up as “one of the guys.” I don’t wear make-up or know how to flirt. I constantly trip over myself and snort when I laugh. I’m just plain awkward. It’s a complete transformation on stage. I don’t care what anyone thinks when I’m up there… I just let myself go and surrender to the music. It’s the most exhilarating, free feeling in the world. I feel invincible and for the first time in my life, everything is in perfect harmony. For once I enjoy the present moment and see the beauty within myself. My teammates have faith in me and show it through our random interactions throughout the dance… a wink here, a “hey sexy” there, all to remind me to trust myself and keep going. We help each other become our best. Win or lose, we’re a family and damn proud of where we come from. Dancing is my escape, my one outlet for all my bottled up frustration, and the one thing that leaves me smiling, truly smiling from my heart, because I have accomplished more than mastering an intense eight-minute routine—I have found a loving family, a passion that keeps me tied to my roots, and a new side of myself that I never knew existed. ☺