Decked out in a colorful costume and veil, sophomore Priyanka Ghotra took center stage as she performed traditional Indian folk dancing in the Cal Poly Pomona theater.
Ghotra has been dancing since she was a toddler, specifically specializing in bhangra, a energetic dance involving jumping, and giddha, which focuses on the hips, facial expressions and clapping. After joining a non-competitive team when she was 7, dance has remained a major part of her life.
“I did dance for fun for the first four years, and then I joined my dance team at my temple and I’ve been doing it ever since then,” Ghotra said.
Ghotra is following in the footsteps of her parents, who once participated in this style of dancing; her mom did giddha and her dad did bhangra. She said that they were her main sources of motivation when she began dancing.
Ghotra has practices with her team at her temple every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning in January when their annual season begins. On top of her long practices on Sundays, Ghotra practices at home everyday for one to two hours depending on how much school work she has.
“[This type of dancing] is so different, unique and upbeat that at the end of the day you may be tired but you had fun because it was so energetic and you could just feel your body move,” Ghotra said.
Ghostra competes at an annual festival called Vaisakhi, where several teams from temples near Los Angeles perform, showcasing their routines. The festival is dedicated to celebrating the birthdays of the Punjabi gods and is usually held at the Cal Poly Pomona theater. At the event, awards are given to individuals on each team, and Ghotra has won several over the years.
“I’ve gotten sportsmanship awards, as well as being one of the best dancers on the team, and for bhangra I’ve gotten best captain and best dancer awards,” Ghotra said.
Not only is Ghotra a performer, but she also acts as a co-captain on her team and often helps teach the routines. Ghotra said she works with her teammates to improve interaction to ensure that their movements and steps are synchronized.
Although her primary focus is Indian folk dancing, Ghotra is open to expanding her horizon to learn other types of dance such as hip hop, jazz, and Greek dancing. Ghostra said that she hopes to participate in this activity for as long as possible.
“I love dancing, it’s my one way to get away from my stress or problems in my life because it calms me down,” Ghotra said.