dance – friends – live

Gema Benavides Jimenez


April 20, 2019

Just turn the music on and I will no longer own my body or mind but the
music. Throughout my whole life dance has been a vital part of it, from
moments of extreme happiness, joy, pride, and excitement to moments of
confusion, sadness, fear, and hopelessness. Dance has been through it all.
Even though I have my preferences when it comes to the styles I enjoy the
most, I am always ready to learn a new one. To challenge your body to
recreate and memorize new postures, face and hand gestures, feet positions
and train your ear to understand the beat of foreign melodies and exotic
music instruments is an adventure of its very own kind.

India is a paradise for dance lovers like me because Indians love dancing
themselves! Most of the Hindu festivals feature dancing in a way or
another, a large amount of people practice an Indian classical dance –
there are seven of them, mostly people in Maharashtra practice Bharatnatyam
and Kathak, but each state is different! Besides, is also common to find
Bollywood hits randomly playing in the streets – which always encourage
people to move their hips to the rhythm of the music!

Also another sweet surprise, your gender doesn’t matter when it comes to
enjoying dancing! Here the coolest people are those who come up the
quickest with the most unusual and fun steps for everyone else in the
circle to follow. So step up your game if you want to make some local
friends!

For me, the best types of friends are made while dancing. In the past, many
of my close friendships started from dancing together or from either me or
them teaching each other. And in Pune, it couldn’t be different. During my
time there, I joined a dance group where I did Hip Hop, Bollywood, Jazz and
Contemporary. By the end of the year, we performed in a showcase and for
me, the most fulfilling part beside how extraordinarily and beautifully we
all performed was to see how tight and synchronized of a group we had
become and the deep love and trust developed for each other. My dance group
and coach made leaving India a hundred times harder. Once again I had to
leave behind a dance group that nurtured me, help me to improve and
believed in me so much. However, I hope that wherever I go I will keep
finding new dance groups that are as welcoming, caring, fun and supportive
as the one I just had to abandon.

But the dance group was just one of the ways in which dance was present in
my life in India. I always had a deep fascination towards Indian classical
dances – especially Bharatnatyam since it was the one that I had the most
exposure to and knew the most number of people that practiced it. The way
their facial expressions, hand movements and feet tapping are synchronized
with the music in order to tell stories and thrill the public is exactly
how I have always conceived the purpose of dance – the ultimate tool for
storytelling.

It was not until late February when the crazy idea of learning a piece of a
Bharatnatyam choreography came to mind. I have friends that have been
learning Bharatnatyam for 12 years and I knew that dancers spend years and
years of practice just to learn the basics so that is why I never really
considered learning it. Nevertheless, with the GCY Annual Farewell
Gathering approaching, I started wondering if I could at least learn a
simple choreography that could give me a grasp of the basics and that I
could perform at the show. And that is exactly what I did.

My good friend Sayuri, who has been training Bharatnatyam for over 12
years, became my dance teacher (I was her second student!) and together we
work towards resetting my posture and previous knowledge on dance, in order
to adapt my body to the new moves and postures – muscle memory is a real
thing y’ all and it is a bit of a challenge sometimes, especially when you
try to learn something completely new and different from what you are used
to doing. In the end, it became more than just Bharatnatyam lesson but also
the strengthening of our friendship.

Being up on stage dancing has always felt like my natural habitat so I
usually feel really comfortable, nevertheless, I have never been more
nervous about performing than when I danced Bharatnatyam. The performance
meant a lot to me – I wanted to make my friend proud and I wanted to
properly honor this wonderful type of dance, which I as a foreigner had the
luck to discover and practice and also it was my last dance performance at
home.

No matter where I go, dancing will always be on my way, or maybe it is the
path itself.






Gema Benavides Jimenez