A look at how Simran Sakhawalkar has grown as a dancer and what struggles she faced

Neha Zope

Staff Writer

     For over ten years, sophomore Simran Sakhawalkar has experienced the extracurricular of dance. Learning a variety of different dance styles, enduring struggles during competitions, creating mini choreographies, making new friends along the way, she has undergone a lot as a dancer and it is just the beginning.

“There’s a lot of pressure [when performing] because you are put in that dance and given an expectation that you need to follow through with, but I try my best to not think of it as a competition and just enjoy myself because I’m doing what I love to do.”

     Sakhwalkar is a talented and creative person and dance is one of her passions that she plans to carry on with her for a long time.  Both her family friends and dance friends see her love for dance and narrate her as a very talented and exceptional dancer. A sophomore at American, one of Simran’s best friends since childhood, and who has also been dancing with Simran for many years, Vidhi Chellani, commented on how she viewed Simran as a dancer.

     “Simran is really focused on dancing. When she dances she doesn’t think about anything else, and she wants to do it right. When she has a question even for the smallest things, she asks a bunch of questions. [Also] she is really graceful,” states Chellani.

     Sakhawalkar explains how she started doing dance and the different styles she has tried throughout her dance life. 

     “I started dancing when I was five and originally it was just because my mom put me in it, because I wasn’t really able to make decisions on my own, since I was five. I did [Bharatanatyam dance] for four or five years and then in fourth grade, we moved over to California. Then because my other family friends were doing Bollywood dance, I stopped doing bharatanatyam and switched to Bollywood. My teachers taught me hip hop, and contemporary as well, they try to be more inclusive in the stuff that they teach, so we have done heels as well” she explains.

     While trying out all these different dances and having to learn the uniqueness of each one, she has particularly gotten close to a certain style.

     “Obviously when you are trying new things, it’s hard at first so trying to get down the style of each dance was hard, but I think I enjoyed doing contemporary the most. It is very different from Bollywood dance, which we are used to doing a lot so it was kind of refreshing to do something new,” she expresses.

     Chellani touches on how she views Simran experimenting with these different dance styles. “It just shows how versatile of a dancer she is. Since she has a base of bharatnatyam, it goes into all other styles and it makes her really good at the other ones too,” Chellani explains.

     While dancing is one of her passions that she truly enjoys doing, it comes with multiple struggles that Simran not only dealt with, but overcame.

     She elaborates on one of her main struggles during dance competitions, stating “My teacher likes to do things very last minute so whenever we are learning something, we tend to go super close to our competition day and we are often learning steps or cleaning up steps really close to that competition day. That stress from having to memorize that very last minute and then go on the stage and perform it the day after is something that is [a struggle].”

      Chellani, as a teammate, talks about her aspect of Simran dealing with this struggle explaining “We used to get really frustrated. Simran is someone who, even if she gets frustrated, she knows how to deal with it well. Even if we all said we were frustrated, she would deal with it smoothly even though she didn’t like it, she would just roll her eyes and deal with it, not letting it show on her face and in her dance.”

     Similar to Chellani, Zope states “[Simran] tends to keep it to herself. From what I have observed, she is not someone who says her problems out loud. I think the way she dealt was more personal and I imagine she would have confronted her emotions herself.”

     Pathare adds on to how she has seen Simran handle the struggle during classes and practices.

     “Definitely you don’t really see it. Obviously, everyone is struggling with getting all the steps really quick, but it’s not something that I have seen that affects her a lot,” she explains.

     In addition, many can find competition dance to be quite nerve wracking and tense. However, Simran manages to cope with it explaining “I [don’t] think of it as a dance competition, I kind of just perform for myself and enjoy it. Obviously at the back of your mind, you know that it’s a competition but I try not to think of it that way.”

     There was an additional struggle Simran dealt with internally. “I moved to California after fourth grade so in my previous state, Iowa, we used to do Indian classical dance and then when we moved here, we did more of Bollywood so the transition between that was kind of tough. Trying to switch between those styles because the styles are just very different …. [also] getting to know a bunch of new people in that environment was a bit challenging” she states.

     However she has been doing dance for a long time now, and has grown a lot with her dance skills as well as expressions. One of Simran’s close dance friends for over two years, college student Sonal Suralikal, commented on how she has improved as a dancer.
    “I met Simran when she was in sixth grade maybe, pretty early on in her middle school high school years. From what I can remember, when she was in competition, if she danced like that today, I would definitely not recognize her. Before you could tell that sometimes she needed a little help here or there but there is a lot of growth in her. Even in the course of the last year, with COVID-19, I would say her moves have gotten very clear from the past. I felt like back then, her strong point was classical of course, since she knew classical a lot, but over the years, she has gotten to the point where she is literally a triple threat,” Suralikal states.

     Chellani adds on “Simran started at such a young age in Iowa. In one year [end of middle school] she kind of just focused more and worked harder and basically became really really good. She was always good but that’s kind of when she started having confidence in herself and that’s when she got a real boost.”

     A close friend of Sakhawalkar’s mom, Meghana Yawalkar, who has also been a helper mom with props during Simran’s dances, touches on how she has improved in her dance, especially with expressions. “When she was young, she did a couple of stage shows, she was just trying to learn so that time the expression wasn’t there. But the older she became, she started to sing with the dances as well as she has been showing a lot of expressions which are appropriate for that dance. Her movements have become very fluent so most of the time, she is at the center part because she is a very fabulous dancer. From childhood, she has grown into the various stages of dance.”

     One of her plans in the future is to choreograph more. She has already had slight experience choreographing dances for friends and family and enjoys the aspect of being able to try something new. 

     “I am better at learning choreography but it’s nice to be able to come up with choreography and teach it to someone. I feel that patience is a really big thing [when choreographing]. Just knowing that people need time to learn it is a really big thing because you know what the dance is, but conveying it and teaching it to someone else, you have to have patience to know that they will get it eventually and they will not know it right off the bat” Sakhawalkar discusses.

     Sakhawalkar is a very creative person and an extremely talented dancer and this is only the start of the dance life she continues to carry on with her. “I think [dance] really teaches me good lessons. There’s a bunch of aspects of dance that are really good life lessons. If you take the competition, for example, obviously you aren’t going to win all the time so being able to suck it up and accept that is a really good life lesson for later on when you don’t get a job or something like that.”

Audio of the interview:

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