Dancing is Food for the Soul

I have always viewed dancing as a form of art. As art should be, dancing is sincere and honest; it is soulful and freeing; it can tell many stories and can evoke an array of emotions. I guess this is why I have always loved to dance. Growing up in Trinidad, and being part of an Indian- Trinidadian family, I fell in love with Indian dancing. It was a way for me to connect with my culture and when I would hear the music, I would just dance. Hence, my mother started sending me to train in classical Indian dancing. While I was learning I began performing in school with friends, for different school functions.

As I grew older, my love for dancing grew and I began to learn hip hop, swing and ballroom dancing. When I moved to Florida in 2008, I even joined the dance team and the team and I performed at several basketball home games. Then I began my undergraduate career at Berry College. In college, although I never lost my love for dancing, I did not have the time to pursue it. During this time, I also began feeling too out of touch with my Indian- Trinidadian culture. As a result, I began taking as many possible Asian Tradition courses, in hopes of reconnecting with my culture and my religion, Hinduism. While taking a Goddess Traditions course, my professor had asked me if I would be willing to teach the class a few Indian dance steps. I agreed. This turned into me choreographing an entire dance not only for the class, but for the Berry College Music Festival.

The Music festival was held annually in order to raise cultural awareness across the campus and the wider community. As such, music, art and dancing from around the world were presented on this day. That day, the dance I choreographed and performed (with two other students) was a success; most importantly, it reminded me of my love for dancing, and once again I felt connected with my religion and my culture. It was an experience I will never forget. 

Berry College:The Vagina Monologues Cast Spring 2011

Women in Religion: The Pros and Cons

My two minors during my undergraduate career were Women's Studie's and Religion. Both fascinated me. I was intrigued particularly in how I could combine the two different areas of study. The moment was presented to me one day during an Interfaith Council Meeting. During this meeting, the council members - which were made up of students and professors- were looking for events to host for the spring fall semester of 2012. I suggested that we hold an informational panel on the way in which women were treated in various religions.

A co- council member, Hayley, worked closely with me to develop the event. We decided to have a panel of four students, who were mentored by four professors who were familiar with the four different religions. The religions we chose to discuss were Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism. The intent of the panel was to show that every religion has pros and cons in the way they treat women. The final consensus on this project was that religion is interpreted in a way to confine or free women. It all depended on  how you viewed the teaching of the religion. 

After the panelists spoke, the floor was open to quesitons. Many students were interested in the topic and many of them were able to draw on their own experiences. The discussion flowed easily. I would say that the event was a success. It also inspired the council to plan many more events surrounding this topic.

Afghan's Women's Writing Project 2012

Berry College World Music Festival, Spring 2012: Indian Dance

Women in Religion: The Pros and Cons

While I studied at Berry College, I participate three times in the Vagina Monologues. Every time I inform someone about this little fun fact, (those who know Berry College) are always surprised that the school allowed these monologues to be performed. But, Berry College has a very strong Women’s Studies Department, as such, there are many activities related to educating the campus population on the issues women faced, and are still facing, and there are activities where the topic of conversation is how do we make a change and how do we help.

At Berry, before I knew about the Vagina Monologues, I became a Women’s Studies minor my sophomore year. It was in the spring of my sophomore year that I was asked to audition for the monologues. Not fully knowing what I was doing, I went to the auditions. I was provided with a script and while I awaited my turn, I read through the monologues. Each monologue was a story about a woman who overcame prejudice, and found their inner strength; the stories were about survivors or rape and domestic violence, and most importantly they were stories of women finding themselves.  

After reading the script, and already being a proponent of women’s rights and a Women’s Studies minor, I was determined to be a part of the show. I got through with my audition and during rehearsals prior to the show, the women I was surrounded by all had amazing stories to tell. We all came from different backgrounds; we were all different grades; most of us did not know each other, but by the end of the journey together, we were strongly bonded.

The night of my first show, while listening to my fellow monologue readers, and seeing the audience laugh, gasp and feeling them hold their breath at the appropriate moments, made me realize the powerful effect of these monologues. The stories are haunting, and some are fun, some are outright angry, but most importantly, they raise issues that are not normally spoken about; they raise issues that sometimes even women are afraid to talk about; they reassure every member of the audience that they are not alone and that they have the strength to fight.

After this one experience, I participated in these monologues until I graduated. Whenever I look back on those moments I am inspired to do better and to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Interfaith Council Event, Women in Religion, 2012

Privaleged to tell a Woman's Story, AWWP

The Afghan's Women's Writing Project (AWWP) are a compilaiton of heartwrenching stories about the issues women faced during the time of the Taliban. I first heard about the AWWP in October of 2012. My friend asked me to read a monologue that would be performed on the campus theater. The purpose was to raise funds for the organization. Without fully knowing what the project was about, I agreed. I was familiar with reading monologues, and I took any opportunity to raise awarens about the issues women face.

On the first day of rehearsals, I was given my monologue. As I read through it for the first time the chills went through me. It was a story about a girl who had an arranged marraige with a cruel man. She could not get out of it. But through it all she kept faith and hope that one day she would be free of this wrethced man and his family. But the most heartwrenching part of her story was the connection the girl had with her father. She loved him dearly, and he loved her. They kept in contact some, but soon he past away. She knew he died knowing her sorrow. From that, she was able to get the strength to run away.

This piece brought tears to my eyes, because it made me think about how much I love my father. It made me remember how he calls me his little angel. I could not have imagined being in this girl's situation and surviving it. The miracle was that she drew he strength from her dad and it reminded me that I draw my strength from my mom and dad. They are my rock and without them I could not do the things I do.

Needless to say, the evetn was a success. We managed to not only raise awareness about the AWWP, but we raised over $300 that night. The money was donated to the project. After hearing these women's sotries, I was inspired to learn more about how different cultures and religions treated and viewed women. Which lead me to my next big event.

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