“Tha, thai, dhit. Straighten your arm! Tha, thai, dhit. Watch your hands! Tha, thai, dhit. Smile!”
Freshman Anika Radadiya chants out the rhythm while keeping the beat on a kathakali – a small wooden block with a narrow stick. She begins to speed up the rhythm, and the faster she goes, the more the small dance studio fills up with the laughter of young girls who cannot keep up. Radadiya stops the beat and laughs along with her legging and gorta clad students.
Their laughter is interrupted when one girl in the front comments that it feels like summer in the room. Her friend tells her it’s because they’re dancing.
For two hours every day and up to seven hours a day during vacations, such as spring break, Radadiya spends her time at the Nartan Academy of Dance, helping to teach students how to dance in the style of Bharatanatyam. Her classes are filled with girls ranging from four-years-old to their mothers.
Radadiya took her first dance class when she was three, beginning with Bollywood classes and later switching to bharatanatyam, which is a more traditional style of Indian dance. Two years ago, as she approached her graduation from the dance studio, she decided to deepen her study of the dance by helping to teach classes at the Nartan Academy of Dance. The Overland Park based dance studio began in the house of owner Ritu Daga, but now occupies a small two-room suite near 133rd and Antioch.
Beginner students learn all the initial steps, but don’t put them into dances until after their first three years of instruction. Radadiya’s job is to not only teach these steps to the beginners, but also to help refine the steps of the more experienced students.
Being the same age or younger than some of her students gives the class an interesting dynamic.
“[Radadiya] can be strict sometimes, but she’s usually easy going and she lets us sit a lot which is nice,” Subha Sundar, a student of the studio said.
When teaching, Radadiya tries to encourage her students to not only dance, but also to act, convey emotions and always bring happiness. Her favorite part of teaching though, is the interaction with the students.
“I like interacting with the kids, seeing how they like to learn, like when they learn new steps they get really excited and they love to dance and they’re fun to work with,” Radadiya said.