Graduating Senior YC Spotlight: Simran Arora

Menlo School's International Fair celebrates the diversty of cultures on campus. Photo by Pete Zivkov.

Menlo School’s International Fair celebrates the diversity of cultures on campus. Photo by Pete Zivkov.

When did you begin your study of Kathak with Chhandam?

I began studying Kathak approximately 9 years ago (3rd grade).

When did you join the CYDC and why?

I joined CYDC in 2009 (7th grade). I joined youth company because I had already been dancing for three years and I was looking for a more challenging environment with higher expectations and a faster pace. Furthermore, CYDC members have self-selected to audition and commit to dance, and I wanted to be surrounded by dancers who were serious about their Chhandam education. Obviously YC also opened the door to numerous invaluable resources including Dadaji, his senior disciples, more class opportunities, and more performance opportunities.

How has your study with Dadaji most affected your life?

Dadaji taught me to support my words with my actions. From respecting people, to practicing, to healthy eating, he always fully embodied whatever he spoke about. Dadaji also taught me about self-confidence, ambition, and the importance of humility.

What has changed over the last five months for you as a person/dancer/ artist?

This year, I am moving away from all of the people who have watched me grow up and who have shaped the person that I’ve become. I will be leaving my family, friends, Chhandam, and other people whose presence I’ve grown accustomed to. My attitude towards relationships has changed over the past five months. I’ve put more effort into making the most of my time with people, being patient and positive with siblings, and expressing my appreciation for the people who’ve helped me reach where I am.

You’ll be graduating high school this year. Where will you go to college and what do you think you will pursue?

Beginning next year, I will attend the University of Pennsylvania, one of eight ivy league schools on the east coast. Within UPenn, I am a part of the Vagelos Molecular Life Scholars program. Approximately 50 students from the Penn undergraduate applicant pool are invited to the program. I am particularly interested in physics and have spent my past two summers conducting research in both an atmospheric physics and explosives physics labs. I also want to incorporate computer science, biology, and economics into my undergraduate studies. I’m not sure what I want to pursue after college, but I am considering surgery, tech startups, or investment banking. These are all very different fields, but as I still have a while before I need to decide for sure, I am exploring my options.

What advice do you have for all the young dancers who are studying Kathak with Chhandam or considering it?

For new dancers at Chhandam: Attend lots of performances (not just the ones you are dancing in); stay present in class and teachers will respond with the same interest; and find people in your classes to meet up and practice with, because initially it can be hard to motivate yourself.

People considering Kathak: Despite all of my aversions, my mom pushed me to attend my first Kathak classes at nine years old. Aside from dressing up on major Indian holidays and visiting my grandparents in India once every two years, I was more or less removed from my Indian roots. My first year at Chhandam brought forth a sense of motivation to learn more about my heritage. Through expressing stories from revered Indian texts and depicting characters who are fundamental to India’s identity, I have learned a lot about Indian values, culture, and tradition. In addition, the most powerful aspect of being a part of Chhandam is the sense of community. Chhandam has introduced me to some of my greatest friends and mentors.

What is the most valuable thing an organization like Chhandam can give to its community, whether they are dancers or not?

In America, from cartoons such as the Simpsons or Phineas and Ferb, to shows such as the Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and Disney’s Jessie, South Asian characters are heavily stereotyped. Additionally, Bollywood is often the first thing people think of when it comes to Indian culture. Through expanding its presence, Chhandam has the power to revolutionize how people in the Bay Area perceive Indian culture.

Any thoughts you would like to share with your fellow YC Members, friends, family?

Thanks for everything!