The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Sophomores navigate traditional dance and culture through quarantine challenges


Sophomore Isha Jagadish rushed through the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in October 2019 as she hurried to meet her parents and drive to her Bharatanatyam performance 60 miles away. After a long day of band performances during a competition there, Jagadish changed costumes and makeup in the car and arrived in Pleasanton just five minutes before her dance started.

On pre-pandemic Saturdays at 7 a.m., Jagadish had to travel to her studio in Fremont to learn Bharatanatyam, the oldest form of Indian classical dance. Now, she has found herself limited to weekly classes over Zoom.

Though Jagadish initially found it hard to adapt to virtual classes, she appreciates how the format has provided a faster and more efficient way to attend practices that had once been a logistical challenge to attend.

Still, Jagadish said COVID-19 has shown her how much she truly values the in-person performances she used to have so frequently. 

Even though the pandemic didn’t ruin any specific plans for Jagadish, she witnessed many classmates forced to reschedule their arangetram — the final solo many performers do to mark the end of their dance journey — to summer 2021 or possibly 2022.

Sophomore Druthi Palle, another Bharatanatyam dancer, was originally taken aback by the changed circumstances but was able to adapt quickly. Although she said classes have been going well, she said she would prefer traditional in-person classes and performances.

“Learning new dance moves in an online setting usually takes longer since it’s hard to follow the facial expressions and dance movements,” Palle said. “Performing is one of the biggest aspects of dance, so not being able to do this has made me feel a slight disconnect.”

Despite all the obstacles, the girls’ passion for Bharatanatyam has not faded. The dance, famous for its colorful outfits, facial expressions and abstract movements, represents centuries of rich culture and history.

While the present form of Bharatanatyam is approximately 200 years old and continuously evolving, sculptural evidence dates back nearly 3,000 years, where it originated in the Hindu temples and courts of Tamil Nadu in South India. The philosophy behind the dance is to both search for the human soul and unite with the Supreme Being central to Hinduism.

Bharatanatyam has three defining aspects: Nritta (abstract movements with rhythm), Nritya (using hand gestures and facial and body movements to communicate emotions) and Natya (spoken dialogue and mimery to illustrate a narrative). Each focus on specific aspects of Bharatanatyam: technical dance, expressional dance, and dramatic storytelling, respectively. 

“I love the fact that I can express myself through Bharatanatyam,” Jagadish said. “In order to tell a story, you need to have a lot of facial expressions. There are also many intricate hand movements and footworks, which make Bharatanatyam an exciting art form.”

Jagadish remembers loving dance ever since she was little. This, coupled with her desire to connect to her Indian culture, ultimately led her to the Nrithyollasa Dance Company, where she has been practicing for more than 10 years with dance instructor Indumathy Ganesh.

Although COVID-19 has taken performance and social opportunities away, Jagadish continues to look forward to post-pandemic performances and credits Bharatanatyam for helping her through all aspects of her life.

“I learn something new almost every week, and it is my job to remember and practice what I learned in time for the next class,” Jagadish said.

Palle also started Bharatanatyam as a young child. After learning dance at the Jayendra Kalakendra institute with Smt. Suganda Sreenath in first grade, she began enjoying the various aspects of the dance form and has continued for 10 years. (Smt. is the abbreviated form of Shrimati or Shreemati, an Indian honorific for married women.) 

For both dancers, Bharatanatyam is more than just a hobby; it’s a stress reliever and passion. Through countless hours of performances and grueling practices, Palle has learned the details of the dance style, the richness of South Indian culture, and internalized the importance of dedication and efficiency.

“When I first started performing, I would get nervous and conscious, but over the years, being on stage was no longer nerve-wracking,” Palle said. “Dance has helped me develop confidence, and now, performing on stage brings me joy.”


Leave a Comment
Donate to The Saratoga Falcon

Your donation will support the student journalists of Saratoga High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Saratoga Falcon

Comments (0)

All The Saratoga Falcon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *