Dancing in Dhadkan

Claire Warner

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As one of the minority Caucasians in a racially diverse high school, I’ve often felt excluded from cultural events or activities that my peers participate in. Tino Dhadkan was one of those: a Bollywood dance team with members who only sport black hair. But since sophomore year, Dhadkan has consistently been my favorite performance at rallies. By my junior year, I desperately wanted to join in on the fun.

I considered auditioning, but as much as I wanted to be a part of the team and dance to dope mixes, I was still an outsider. What would they think if a white person auditioned for an Indian dance team? Would they reject me because I’m blonde? Or would they accept me only because they don’t want to look exclusive, even if I am a terrible dancer? I denied myself the opportunity in a burst of tears and frustration.

After witnessing a year of my hysterical Dhadkan obsession, my friend, Avika, encouraged me to audition with her for our senior year. At first, I was confident I wouldn’t go through with it. But after some last-minute consideration and panic, I attended the audition workshop to learn the try-out piece.

As soon as I arrived at the workshop, I wanted to hide behind a wall or put on a wig. I felt self-conscious, being one of only two non-Indians in the group. To make matters worse, Avika couldn’t attend the workshop with me. I had no one to act as my “in” to the group, and I stood awkwardly looking at my feet, praying no one saw me, meanwhile hoping for some casual conversation to save me from my own silence.

Fortunately, a couple of people reached out to me in my loneliness, complimenting me on my Black Panther t-shirt and telling me I was a great dancer. They never asked me why I was there or mentioned anything about my apparent differences. They acted as if they didn’t even notice, probably because they didn’t care that I was different. In fact, I think they just wanted a friend, too.

These past few years, I’ve limited my social opportunities on the basis of race, fearing people would judge me if I participated in an activity that diverged from “white culture.” It’s taken me years to realize that the only person questioning it was myself.

So thank you, Avika, for telling me to audition. Thank you, Zeal, for reaching out to me in the first practices. Thank you, Aashna, for teaching me how to pronounce “Dhadkan.” Thank you, Kriti and Kavya, for helping me understand “Bezubaan” and showing me the music video. Thank you, Soumya and Isha, for introducing me to my new favorite song, “Udd Gaye.” Thank you to the girl in the hallway who enthusiastically told me it was “so cool” that I was in Dhadkan. Thank you, everyone, for proving me wrong.