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Thematur's start with Kathak wasn't an enthusiastic one. She's a Girl Scout, a soccer player and a Bollywood dancer. Those activities are all breaks from school. This was the first extracurricular activity that felt like school. Kathak is more than dance. The dance form emerged more than two thousand years ago as a way to share stories from Hindi texts. It's a dance drama. Each movement of the hands, the feet, even the eyebrows is a crucial part of telling a story. Kathak is language as much as dance, and — just like learning a new language — learning Kathak involves study, discipline and regular tests. For Thematur, tests for dance seemed like a bummer. Dance is supposed to be fun, right? Something happened along with the memorization and study, though. All those stories Thematur heard in Sunday school became real. As she danced, as each arch of her eyebrow and gesture of her fingers conveyed meaning, she lived and breathed those stories. Thematur, now an eighth grader at Randolph Middle School, developed a new pride in her Indian heritage. "Kathak opened my eyes to the culture," she says. "Even though I'm not in India, I still have a connection to it … I can still have my roots." She used to get teased in school about being Indian. Years ago, she'd stay quiet in response. But now, she says, she stands up for herself and her heritage. She's proud to be Indian. The culture, the stories, the food! It's all beautiful to her. The transformation is exactly what her Shweta Ahuja Courtesy of Monica Pradhan Adreeja and Ahana Mukherjee, seen above with their brother, Brian, at last year's show, danced with another performer at the same event (top photo). Courtesy of Shweta Ahuja BALLANTYNE SPRING 2019 43 Feature

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