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Suvekshya Rai, Grade 12
William H. Hall High School, West Hartford

I had never danced in front of an audience before. 

But, indeed, the 8 year-old me was about to do just that. Luckily for me, it was a group dance, so I was not the only one who wanted to hide and forget that I myself chose to get into this mess in the first place. Before I could even go over to my mom for comfort and reassurance, my dance group was called to the stage. 

“…Prakriti Dhakal, Mitrey Subedi, Nita Basnet, and Suvekshya Rai.”

The names echoed through the speakers, making their way into my already ringing ears. Was I ready? No. 
Was I prepared to be the laughing stock of that night? Also no. hh 

I slowly followed the rest of the members up onto my position on the stage, my heartbeat thumping in my ears, making the cheers of the audience sound distant. The mere two seconds before the music started were enough to take in the blurry faces of the hundreds of people in front of me. I looked around to see the other dancers in our group, searching for comfort. Much to my surprise, they seemed to be just as nervous as me. We gave each other a half-hearted smile and a nod -the sign we had planned to use on stage to signal that we are ready to get the show started. 

I garnered all my focus on only the dance steps. We pranced our delicate feet on the cold, hardwood floor and gave each other playful looks whenever we huddled close together in the center of the spacious stage. Everything was running so smoothly that I had almost forgotten the sound of my heart beating vehemently against my chest. Just as the song was about to end though, I made a very obvious mistake on stage. It was time for us to each pick up the tiny Nepali flags which had been placed on the floor prior to the start of our dance. My group members picked up their flags and were proudly swaying it in front of the audience, while I stood at the wrong side of the stage. My gaze quickly fell onto the flag laying on the other end of the stage and without thinking, I ran to pick it up. I ran in front of my fellow dancers, blocking them from the audience’s view. By the time I got to the other side of the stage and picked up my flag, the other dancers had already moved onto the next dance step. I became the laughing stock of that night.

You would probably think that it was the last time I tried to dance -but actually it was only the beginning. Having come to the United States as a young child, I wanted nothing more than to fit in. In doing so, I found myself distancing from my roots. However, through the years, the dance performances which were once forced by my parents became one of the most important things in my life. My love and interest in dance grew as my love for Nepali culture grew. I went on to perform at almost every single event hosted by the Nepali community, choreographed my own dances and even had the confidence to freestyle on stage for parts I forget. I started to feel the connection again with my roots, from which I had pulled away for so long. I found myself loving everything from interacting with the Nepali community to partaking in cultural activities and celebrating the holidays. I was able to be a part of different cultures from Nepal and learn from my experience, which I may not have been able to do if I stayed back in Nepal. 

Among the many things that dancing has taught me, the greatest one I’ve come to realize is that you aren’t expected to throw away a part of your identity to fit in. You choose to set that expectation yourself.

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