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July 9, 2014

Katie Abdilla: A Bollywood Dream

July 9, 2014

Katie Abdilla is a junior majoring in journalism in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences who recently spent four weeks on a new study abroad program, Beyond Bollywood: Taste of Indian Media, led by Amol Pavangadkar,  senior producer and outreach specialist with the Department of Media and Information.

After day of anticipation, it finally happened.

My weekend consisted of eight-counts and pivots, leaps and hip swings, all colliding and melting into the beat of a Bollywood hit. This week was filled with the sets and rewritten scripts that came with our chief task—creating a short film to encompass both our experiences and the world of Bollywood.

We chose to perform in our own dance sequence for the film with the help of professional choreographers and a camera crew, and although we knew about it all week, it didn’t feel entirely real until my feet were firmly planted on the wooden dance floor, learning the steps one by one.

Needless to say, I was pretty awful at first. But I practiced for hours and finally became at least mediocre at the routine.

There were definitely times when I felt insecure about my dance skills—or lack thereof—but practicing the routine again and again in the sixth floor lobby of my hotel definitely became a great bonding experience for me and the rest of the girls.

No matter where we end up after this trip, we will all have the remnants of a high-energy song stuck in our heads to bond us together. And although we might not realize it now, this experience ties us to the culture in a way nothing else can.

Little girls grow up idolizing the beautiful women in the Bollywood films, watching them sing, dance and fall in love on the big screen. I’d be willing to bet most of these girls would kill for the opportunity to work with a professional choreographer and have their moves memorialized in a film of their own. After learning a dance firsthand, the culture is forever a part of us.

On a professional level, there is one word to describe what the choreo session taught me: patience. Patience with myself and patience with others.

Although I always try to step out of my comfort zone and form new strengths, sometimes I’m easily defeated when I don’t get the hang of it right away. I haven’t danced in years, and while I was expecting it to come back to me naturally. I worked a lot harder practicing than I expected I would need.

So it works in journalism; everything will always take more time to pick up than you think, and in the words of a former colleague, it’s “the business of rejection.”

Learning a dance in a style that was completely foreign to me helped me realize how important it is be realistic about my professional needs. If I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, it’s always important for me to see it through—no matter how much sleep I’d lose in the process.

This entry originally ran in Beyond Bollywood: Taste of Indian Media blog on June 15, 2014. Read more from Abdilla and other students by visiting the page

Photo by Alyssa Cleland