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ahimsaEver since she was 6 years old, Ahimsa Aradhya has been in love with every aspect of Indian dance, from the facial expressions to the foot gestures. Now 17, she is using her passion to promote cultural diversity throughout the South Jersey community.

Aradhya says when she was younger, she was aware of a significant lack of culture in the media. When she began working toward earning a Girl Scout Gold Award, Aradhya realized she could do something about it.

“I just thought, ‘That has to change,’” she says, “People should be aware of many cultures and different art forms.”

Aradhya wanted to show others what Indian culture was, but she also wanted them to experience it with her. With the help of her teachers and fellow dancers at Shishya School of Performing Arts in Lawrenceville, Aradhya put together an Indian dance workshop and show she performed at Burlington County Library and Princeton Public Library.

Over the course of a year, Aradhya spent nearly 80 hours planning the workshop, which was attended by 30 participants and audience members at the Princeton event, and 60 at the Burlington event.

Each session began with a brief class on Indian dance. Aradhya showed everyone the many hand and foot gestures, facial expressions, and ornate costumes that are integral parts of the art form. Participants joined her in performing the moves.

“It’s just something that I love,” she says. “You can escape, and you’re in the moment when you’re dancing. You’re not thinking about anything else.”

 

 

She says most audience members told her they hadn’t seen anything like her performance. Because of the positive feedback, Aradhya was asked to return and host an additional workshop at the Burlington County Library.

When Aradhya isn’t dancing or promoting cultural diversity to a mainstream audience, she is focused on a career in science. She’s volunteered at Virtua Memorial Hospital for three years, being promoted to a higher position each year. She now serves in the emergency department.

As she applies to colleges, Aradhya plans to continue dancing through college, whether she joins a local studio or student-run dance team on campus. She also says she would like to continue teaching these workshops to keep spreading awareness.

“It’s just something that brings me back to my cultural roots and grounds me, and reminds me of where I come from,” she says. “It’s a great way for me to embrace my culture.”

 

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