Day 16 brought us a lot of driving. When I say a lot, I mean practically the whole day. And by the end of that day, the results were exhaustion and completely loosing our senses.
To start out, we drove through heavy traffic to the Kalakshetra Foundation, an Indian classical dance compound. The entire campus is contained in a small area with open-air classrooms, music rooms, theater, and outdoor dance studio situated nicely under a banyan tree. It was quite impressive to walk through and hear teachers counting out or giving instruction. We were also greeted by rice powder drawings that were created for us. Though we tried to avoid walking on them, we soon found out that it brings us luck to step on them. It seemed strange to destroy something so beautiful but what a welcoming gesture.
After watching some classes in the compound, we were treated to a performance by the dancers. The movement was beautifully performed and captured our attention immediate. Afterwards, we got to meet the dancers and talk to them for a while. We were also treated with mango water. Delicious!
Three hours later and a drive through the country, we found ourselves at the gates of Rising Star (the same place my dear friend Aubrie spent time at earlier that summer). No sooner than getting off the bus, we were surrounded by students in uniforms greeting us. We were walked to the cafeteria where we were treated to lunch on a banana leaf (a highlight of the day). After eating, we got changed into our performance clothes and then met up with the Rising Star students.
It had been previously arranged that we would do a performance exchange. While we waited for everyone to get ready, we taught the Rising Star dancers pieces from Steppin’. They, in turn, told us about their dances. Then we began. They showed us a great upbeat piece to a Michael Jackson song and then a slower piece that stole my heart and brought tears to my eyes. This piece was dedicated to the student’s family members who are lepers. It was so touching to see them that vulnerable and expressive onstage. In return for their pieces, we showed our own, which was received with great enthusiasm. At the end of the performance, we had to take off to get back to teach workshops. However, some stayed behind and enjoyed an afternoon of smiling faces.
Driving. Driving. And more driving. We returned to the hotel, had 5 minutes to unload and change and then were right back on the bus to be taken to two different locations to teach. I was taken to a studio with Annie, Kennedy, and Alyssa. We had planned a beautiful, flowing, and improvisational class for the students, but as soon as we walked in the door, we realized that was not going to work. We were greeted by 25+ men, in tennis shoes, practicing their break dancing. We dropped all plans and taught hand suspensions, and Steppin’ instead. Though we were just going off a whim and hoping that the students wouldn’t notice, it was actually a great class! The students were enthusiastic and the energy was high.
At the end of the class, we were each presented with bouquets of flowers, food, and drink. We were pulled into picture after picture and shown some of their impressive choreography. Finally, when taking the last picture, we were handed a large and heavy Hindu figurine; the goddess of dance. We thought it was just for the picture until the men urged us to keep it. We smiled politely and were genuinely grateful for such a wonderful gift. But there was something funny about giving a statue of a goddess to a bunch of LDS dancers… First of all, how to get it home!
We found our way outside to the road to meet our bus, still holding back giggles. Somehow, in the chaos of the day, we were forgotten by our bus driver, so Sherif drove us to meet the other workshoppers and eventually the bus. The other group of dancers showed us the gifts that they received, which happened to be the same goddess figurine. Annie, Kennedy, Alyssa, and I couldn’t hold in our giggles anymore as we pulled out our gift. Everyone on the bus exploded in laughter as we looked at the statue.
What were we supposed to do with it? How would we get it back to BYU? It was heavy and larger than most of our suitcases. Peals of laughter kept coming. That laughing didn’t stop the whole way back to the hotel. And it continued and grew as we showed the other tour members our gift. It really wasn’t that funny, but we all could tell, at that point in the trip, that we were exhausted enough that any little thing could set us off.
As I drifted off into sleep that night I still couldn’t stop laughing from the day’s experiences. Sleep finally overcame me only to replace laughing with a deep and hoarse cough.
*Photos by Mark Philbrick or Kyle and I