A Brighter Day Charity's Teen Talent Showcase spotlights the Bay Area's most talented teens as they dazzle a virtual audience with their talents.
SAN RAMON, CA / ACCESSWIRE / November 17, 2021 / In this article, we interview first place winner Sia P. about her decade-plus journey of learning Kathak dance.
Sia P. is a California High School student who danced her way into our hearts, winning the most recent Teen Talent Showcase with a magnificent Kathak dance performance. SIA P.
The reverberating buzz of a sitar marks the start of the Kathak dance performance. She assumes a relaxed, poised stance. The drumbeat begins, and in unison, her elaborate footwork starts up. Her feet strike the floor with 1/24th of a beat accuracy, acting as percussive rhythmic instruments. She wears 2.5 to 5 pounds of bells (ghungroo) on her legs, which emphasize her rhythmic foot movements as she twirls and twists in harmony with the music.
Who is she? She is Sia P. of San Ramon California - a California High School sophomore, an accomplished dancer and violinist, and the first place winner of A Brighter Day's Teen Talent Showcase. Her first place entry to the Teen Talent Showcase? A breathtaking video performance of the North Indian classical art form, Kathak dance.
Kathak - a word derived from the Vedic Sanskrit Katha, or "story" - is a deceivingly complex style of dance that requires deftness, stamina, and grace. Kathakas are kinesthetic storytellers who communicate through sweeping hand movement, rhythmic footwork, and facial expressions.
Sia P. poses in her Kathak dance costume. SIA P.
Sia gave us a short history of Kathak: "[It] started in the ancient temples of India and was a very sacred art form as it was considered a type of meditation. When the [Mughals] invaded India, they brought the art form into the courts of King's palaces for entertainment. Furthermore, when the British invaded India, they abolished all dance forms, and Kathak remained a hidden art form available to only a few. After India gained its independence, Kathak started to flourish again."
Kathak is known as "meditation in motion" because dancers must align their mind, body, and spirit to achieve the mind-body connection, stamina, and endurance to perform the dance. She explains, "One has to focus to such an extent that even one distracting thought can put you out of rhythm." To get into the right state of mind, Sia begins each dance by saying Namaskar and acknowledging her space, her surroundings, and others in the room. (Namaskar means ‘"the divine in me greets the divine in you.")
She credits Kathak with helping her find some reprieve from the thoughts and ideas that swirl around her head all day long. "When I get on the dance floor, all of that disappears. All my thoughts go away. I just focus on my dance."
To build the stamina to dance Kathak - a style of dance that involves lightning-speed pirouettes (chakkars) and the fastest footwork in the world - Sia has undergone rigorous training and extensive practice. "During school, I usually practice three times a week for about 2-3 hours at a time. During summer breaks and vacations, I make sure to practice almost every day so that I can keep getting better and stronger."
Kathak dance is a family affair. Before having Sia, her mother, Mamta P., trained with the legendary Guru, Pandit Chitresh Das. "The late Pandit Chitresh Das, my mom's teacher, taught us to respect the art form as a meditation in motion. His training was quite rigorous and only a few succeeded in getting to deeper levels."
As a toddler, Sia started off with ballet and gymnastics classes. After attending a beginner Kathak dance class, she immediately took to the challenging and beautiful art form. She's been dancing Kathak ever since, and even has been part of a preprofessional Youth Dance Company for the past seven years.
Getting to this level of mastery hasn't been a walk in the park. For one, Kathak requires a great deal of dedication. To master this physically and mentally intense art form, Kathak dancers must dedicate ample time practicing and performing.
Between the rigors of college classes, playing classical violin, and mentoring younger Kathak students, Sia jokes that she has barely any free time - but admits that dancing is so much fun that she'd do it in her free time anyway. When asked about her inspiration to continue deepening her practice, Sia simply said, "My mom inspires me to keep on dancing, and I want to dance like her one day."
Another challenge that Sia has had to face, and overcome, was a stress fracture in her foot that put her on crutches and off the dance floor for 9 whole months - an eternity, given how easy it can be to fall behind without regular, frequent practice.
In spite of her foot injury, Sia knew she had to continue carrying on. She explained, "Dance comes from my heart and that is the main reason why I love Kathak dance so much, and why I have so much respect for it." Her passion propelled her to dutifully continue attending her dance classes, not missing a single one. In fact, while sitting out, she adapted by paying extra close attention to her teachers and the rhythm. It paid off. Sia recounts, "My recitation and sharpness in rhythm and timing improved from listening and watching so it actually helped me when I got back to the dance floor."
Sia credits her mom's love for classical dance with sparking her own passion for Kathak dance. SIA P.
Sia & Teen Talent Showcase
When Sia heard about the Teen Talent Showcase, she immediately knew she wanted to submit her entry. As she explains it, "Talents are meant to be shared with the world, and I wanted to start off by doing my part - spreading the knowledge of the art form I love so deeply and spreading happiness through my dance. I knew that this was the perfect way to do so."
We asked Sia about life after winning the Teen Talent Showcase. She mused, "The Teen Talent Showcase has impacted my life by making me realize how impactful and special each of our talents are. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people experienced many emotions like sadness and anger. I feel when I indulge in my passion and go on the dance floor, all of the negative things around me disappear. I feel more energized, happier, and have more mental clarity. It's like magic. I've always wanted to give back to the community because coming together as one and spreading happiness is the most important thing. I've been trying to find different ways of how I can give back to the community. It was after the Teen Talent Showcase that I realized I can spread happiness through my talent: dance! When I watched and saw all the special talents everyone showcased in the Teen Talent Showcase, it made me so happy to see all those people do what they love. When I went through my neighborhood and showed all my neighbors my dance piece, they felt happy, moved, and proud. I finally knew how I could help and spread joy."
She continued, "The Teen Talent Showcase also made me realize how much support I have in my life from my parents, family, friends, neighbors, and such amazing and supportive organizations like a Brighter Day Charity. All of these people in the community watched my talent and others' talents and saw how important and impactful participating in the Teen Talent Showcase has impacted all of our lives in such a positive way."
Sia captivates her audience through intricate footwork and precise rhythmic patterns. SIA P.
This winter, Sia plans to keep busy: she continues to choreograph more Kathak dance pieces, complete some college-level courses, and spend the remainder of her time practicing both Western and North-Indian classical violin. She's also giving back to her Kathak community by mentoring younger Kathak students who were once in her shoes. She is part of the East Bay Youth Orchestra; she'll be playing First Violin in the Symphony Orchestra this fall.
To other aspiring dancers, Sia offers some words of encouragement: "I just want to tell other teenagers to follow their hearts when it comes to the arts! If I can, you can too! Never give up. Push through the challenges of the dance and keep going! You can do it!"
A Brighter Day is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, working to stop teen suicide, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A Brighter Day was founded by Elliot Kallen, Wealth Advisor at Prosperity Financial Group, and his wife Tammy, in memory of their son, Jake Kallen.
Elliot & Tammy Kallen are the Founders of A Brighter Day Charity. ELLIOT KALLEN
The Teen Talent Showcase is a virtual youth community event run by A Brighter Day, a 501(c)(3) profit based in Lafayette, CA, that works to help teens understand, protect, and sustain their mental health. The Teen Talent Showcase will award one winner with a cash college scholarship.
For more information or to watch the latest Teen Talent Showcase, please visit TeenTalentShowcase.com and www.ABrighterDay.info. For collaboration opportunities, please email Michael Hurwitz at [email protected].
Charitable giving is a wonderful way to make a positive philanthropic impact and lock in tax deductions. If you need help with charitable planning, please contact Elliot Kallen, President of Prosperity Financial Group, at (925) 314-8500 or [email protected], to help maximize the size and longevity of your gift.
SOURCE: A Brighter Day