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October 26, 2023

An ode to her: Love expressed through dance (with video)

Placing my tired feet right on the marked blue masking tape on the Granville Arts Center stage in Garland on a sunny Saturday, I fold my hands, with a smile on my face so big that it probably extended from ear to ear. Trying to take in the standing ovation, I bow and listen to the seemingly endless claps from the audience standing below me and it hits me – I finally did it.

Three months earlier.

“Rhea the sequence is very simple. It is just stomp, stomp, jump, cross over, stomp, stomp, jump and hold!

Hearing my dance teacher Madhusri Sethuraman’s frustration for what seemed to be the thousandth time, I sat down on the cold wooden floor in exasperation, prepared to hear her yell at me. 

Women’s History Month is a time of year to celebrate the women who play an important role in our lives. The Sidekick staff writer Rhea Choudhary expresses her appreciation for her Indian classical dance teacher, Guru Madhusri Sethuraman. Photo courtesy Prasad Golkonda

Madhusri Aunty sat in her chair and told me how I had to let her in and how she wouldn’t be able to help me if I didn’t place my trust in her. Hearing those words made tears roll down my cheeks as I thought to myself, I’m never going to get better at this. There’s no way I can even think about being able to do my Arangetram.

As someone who had previously been forced to participate in a multitude of extracurricular activities, Bharatanatyam was never an area I considered myself to be strong in. 

Bharatanatyam is a traditional Indian dance form that originated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, involving intricate footwork, expressive hand gestures and graceful body movements to depict ancient Hindu stories. An Arangetram is a significant milestone in the training of a Bharatanatyam dancer, a three-hour debut solo performance that marks the dancer’s mastery and graduation of the art form after years of training.

I was 5 when I started learning this form of art and was told by many opinionated teachers in Austin that I was not going to improve. My younger self believed my teachers’ lack of confidence in me originated from my family’s roots stemming from North India rather than South India, where Bharatanatyam is originally from. Therefore, dance classes used to be a long weekly hour of torture that I was forced to attend.

After moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I took lessons under the Srutilaya School of Dance founder Guru Madhusri Sethuraman. Madhusri Aunty began her training at the tender age of 4 and completed her Arangetram at the young age of 8. Madhusri Aunty has previously taught more than 1,000 students and conducted more than 130 Arangetrams since 1992, performing globally in America, India, Europe, Australia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Women’s History Month is a time of year to celebrate the women who play an important role in our lives. The Sidekick staff writer Rhea Choudhary expresses her appreciation for her Indian classical dance teacher, Guru Madhusri Sethuraman. Photo courtesy Prasad Golkonda

After hearing about this well-experienced dance teacher my mom chose for me, naturally, I assumed she would be like the previous teachers I had. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Madhusri Aunty became someone I thought of as my friend, therapist, mentor and inspiration, rather than simply someone who is being paid to teach me dance.

Madhusri Aunty never once told me that I wouldn’t be able to successfully do my Arangetram and always encouraged me to push myself harder. When I first met her, I was immediately drawn to how thorough of an effort she made to try to get to know my whole personality, both good and bad.

From teaching me a multitude of life lessons and always being able to give the best advice, I don’t think a class has ever gone by where I haven’t been appreciative of how attentively Madhusri Aunty listened to not just mine, but everyone’s daily rants, especially when we “forgot” to practice. Whether I had a terrible day at school or just had a thought in the back of my mind bothering me, she was always able to push it out of me at our weekly Thursday private classes.

Madhusri Aunty has taught me more important life lessons than I can count, shaping me into the person I am today. I am constantly reminded that anytime she scolded or wanted more out of me, it was because she believed that I was capable of doing better, however, there’s one phrase she stated at my Arangetram that I will never forget.

Behind every dancer who believes in herself is a teacher who believed in her first.

Follow @rhea_choud and @CHSCampusNews on X.

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About the Contributor
Rhea Choudhary
Rhea Choudhary, Staff Writer
Rhea Choudhary is a junior at Coppell High School; she first took a step in D115 in order to pursue photography for The Sidekick. Despite her initial intentions, she is now a second year member, returning as a staff writer. At first, thought she wasn't the best fit for writing, but after deciding to give it a shot, she soon realized that she let her fear keep her from finding what she truly enjoys doing!  As an avid show binger, Rhea’s top three shows include Gossip Girl, Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill, as she can go on for hours talking about any of them. She also loves watching classic Hindi movies (with lots of iconic songs and actors in them), along with consistently enjoying listening to her 24-hour Bollywood music playlist, on a loop. Her favorite food is drunken noodles and sushi, along with loving any sweets that contain milk chocolate or caramel. As a member of HOSA, Rhea hopes to pursue a future career in medicine, specifically to become an oncologist. Rhea has completed her Bharatanatyam arangetram, a solo debut/graduation, and is still a dedicated dancer. As an only child that keeps the volume in her house very high at all times, Rhea’s number one friend is Teddy Graham, her mini goldendoodle. Feel free to reach Rhea at [email protected] or follow her on X @rhea_choud.

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    Nyah RamaMar 7, 2024 at 5:16 pm

    This was so beautiful Rhea!

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