A classical Indian dance, Bharat Natyam is composed of pure dance, expression and drama. Desai has studied the traditional dance form since age 4 at Atlanta's most renowned and acclaimed Indian dance academy, Kruti Dance Academy.
Studying Bharat Natyam is extremely demanding and complex in terms of dedication and practice not only for the student but for the family as well, said Desai, who was born in the U.S. to parents of Indian descent. Under the instruction of Academy founder Dina Sheth, Desai studied 11 hours per week in addition to teaching younger students at the Academy, where she still volunteers.
After mastering 11 different dances typical of Bharat Natyam and maintaining each over her 12 years of training, Desai celebrated her Arangetram, literally meaning, "ascending the stage."
"The Arangetram is a solo performance that lasts two hours where you exhibit everything you learn," Desai said.
Each dance requiring poise, grace and endurance ranges from 5 to 20 minutes. "You have to have strength and stamina to do it," said Desai who has also studied Indian classical music for eight years.
During her debut performance marking the completion of her formal training, Desai wore 11 different elaborate and authenticate costumes for each dance. "My mother traveled to India and purchased the costumes, jewelry and head dresses," said the daughter of Bina and Bharat Desai.
More than 600 local friends and relatives attended the performance at the Murray Arts Center as well as family from India and England.
"For some reason, I wasn't nervous," said the junior at the Walker School. "I'd been preparing forever for this."
Upon completion of the performance, Desai received a degree in classical dance that taught her about her culture and about life. "I think meeting other people with the same background drew me to," she remarked. "It helped me learn a lot about my own culture."
"The relationships you get from this is probably the best thing," added Desai, who also enjoys running and hanging out with friends.
Through this cultural experience, this striking young woman has learned life lessons of discipline, perseverance and strength and gained lasting friendships.
"It's demanding, but in the end I thought it was amazing."