Freshman Preesha Zaveri discovers passions for dance and volunteering within her Hindu culture
Every individual has their own unique culture, developed from the countries our ancestors come from, traditions passed down generations and religions people follow. One student in particular incorporates her culture in the dance studio and within her daily activities.
For freshman Preesha Zaveri, culture is more than a characteristic of her heritage. It is a part of her that is present in everyday life, whether it is through expressive dance or volunteering. With parents from India, Zaveri has found different ways to express herself through religion and has discovered multiple cultural passions.
“My culture is such a big part of me and literally makes me who I am today,” Zaveri said. “You can make a lot of really good friends through culture, like some of my long-time and closest friends I met through my temple.”
Zaveri, who is Hindu, found herself enthralled by Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the region of Tamil Nadu. Her interest in the dance came about when she was 6 years old after she had previously taken ballet classes.
“My mom’s friends had kids who were doing Bharatanatyam, so she took me to an introductory meeting where I was able to try it out,” Zaveri said. “I ended up really liking the teachers and the people around me, so I continued classes up until now.”
For one hour every Wednesday, she practices the traditional dance at her instructor’s in-home studio. This challenging style of dance involves many intricate steps that require practice, critiques and recommendations from friends to further improve her technique.
“If I ever get a step wrong, I have a lot of people and support around me,” Zaveri said. “The friends that I made in Bharatanatyam are from other parts of India, so it is really cool getting to learn about their individual cultures and traditions.”
Zaveri works every year to prepare for a recital at the end of every dance season. For the recital, which takes place in June, she dresses traditionally in vibrantly colored garments, called a sari. On her hands, she wears henna, a dye prepared from plants that is drawn in elegant designs, which is shown off during hand movements in Bharatanatyam.
“We also use a lot of facial expressions in the dance, so the way we do our makeup relates to the emotion,” Zaveri said. “For example, if we want our eyes to tell a story, we do our eyeliner a specific way so that they pop.”
Zaveri’s love for dance and her outgoing personality led her to participate in the Bollywood dance number at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Multicultural Night. As a part of the MSD Indian Student Association, her group put on a performance for students, faculty and the public to enjoy.
“If I didn’t have dance and Bharatanatyam, I wouldn’t be as culturally connected to my roots as I am now,’’ Zaveri said. “Dancing with everybody and learning new steps in the school production was nice, and the process of it all was really fun to do with my friends.”
Aside from Bharatanatyam, Zaveri has a passion for volunteering, specifically through her temple, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, located in Boynton Beach. There, she actively participates in walk-a-thons, harvest drives and other events that work towards specific causes.
“Our walk-a-thon this year is aimed towards raising money for our goal, which is to plant trees all around the world,” Zaveri said.
Wanting to be involved in her temple, Zaveri went door-to-door asking for walk-a-thon donations. She feels passionate towards the project to grow trees and wants to contribute as much as she can.
Zaveri also has passions that lie beyond her culture. At school, she is an active member of Key Club and DECA. Aside from school, she enjoys playing tennis at the Coral Springs Tennis Center.
“I went to an informational meeting for the school tennis team,” she said. “I’m going to try out, and I hope that I make it on the team.”
Zaveri is constantly pushing herself towards greater achievements. Over the summer, she took an online course on epidemiology and infectious diseases through Duke University.
“I have interest in the medical field, so I want to take more courses and involve myself in things that relate to what I want to do when I’m older,” Zaveri said.
In the future, she dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. In the meantime, Zaveri is working hard to raise money to plant trees around the world and hopefully get her classmates involved.
By finding ways to express herself, Zaveri has found a passion for Bharatanatyam, lifelong friends and an appreciation for her culture and religion.