When the Indian Student Association at PSU put on their annual Diwali celebration and shared the "Festival of Lights" with the community this past November, the dancing and performances were like nothing many in the audience had ever seen.
Especially one performer, whose presence at Pitt State is for some international students a bit like having a celebrity around.
Sudha Sankar, a 22-year-old graduate student from Chennai, India, is a professional dancer in her home country. For the students organizing Diwali, it was an easy choice to ask her to be a featured performer.
Bollywood may come to mind when considering Indian dance, but many Indians cherish more traditional forms. For Sankar, who has been studying dance since the age of 6, being an established performer in the southern region of the country is an identity she's worked hard to build.
"Dancing and music are very prevalent in India. For me, dancing is a way to express myself and feel emotions I don't otherwise have an opportunity to feel," explained Sankar. "Classical dancing is a form of prayer for us."
Fitting college into the long hours of daily rehearsal isn't a common choice for Indians who have made dancing and performing a lifestyle. But for Sankar, her desire to become a psychologist meant she'd have to juggle both. And although coming to Kansas for her education put her professional performing on hiatus, she still practices her art several hours a week and is hoping she can one day return to performing while using her degree at the same time.
"For Indian students to take dancing seriously and also pursue academics to this extent isn't common, but I choose education as well," she said. "To do both takes a lot of dedication."