HSA Concentrations: Dance

Photo Credit: Kaanthi Pandhigunta

Today’s HSA concentration highlight is a conversation with Kaanthi Pandhigunta, a senior who is concentrating in dance.

How did you pick your concentration?

I’ve been dancing for a long time, just like in my life. Initially, I thought I would be a politics concentration, or government, or something. But then I just took one dance course (Modern Dance at Scripps) for fun and to fulfill the breadth requirement. It was super fun, and I felt like it gave me a way to engage with a lot of social issues through the lens of dance. So after I took that one class, I decided to keep going with it.

What other types of classes have you taken inside the dance concentration?

I took another class called Intro to Dance Studies at Scripps. That one was cool because we got to learn different types of dances from around the world. Also, each person picked a dance that they had to give a presentation on every week. So that was a cool way to learn about history as well. This semester I’m taking Balinese Music and Dance. And that’s cool, because I feel like a lot of the dance curriculum is pretty western-focused so it’s one of the few fully Asian art form classes that are at the Claremont Colleges. So it’s been really cool to be able to learn to play the music as well as to do the dance. It’s very different from modern dance and stuff like that. But for me, having come from an Indian classical background, that one was a little more similar to things that I had learned growing up. So that was really unique for me.

A painting from the room of the Balinese dance class at Pomona. Photo Credit: Kaanthi Pandhigunta

Can you give me an example of something where you feel like the dance concentration really gave you a new perspective on something?

There was this one specific dance from Brazil, Capoeira. It’s sort of between dance, and martial arts. Especially that dance, I thought, was really interesting, because I had learned that it was used as a form of rebellion from the government at some point. That was similar to a lot of different types of dances we learned about like some dances in Africa, and some dances in Asia of colonized people. The colonizers wouldn’t let them do their classical or traditional dances, and they would use that as a form of rebellion.

Do you do any dance extracurriculars?

Junior year, which was last year, I was in Claremont Tamasha, which is the Bollywood showcase. That was super fun, I was able to be with people in my community. A lot of people weren’t Indian, so they didn’t necessarily know Bollywood, but they were super down to try it, which was really fun. Some of my friends participated, and a lot of my friends came to the performance, so that was super, super fun. It was a great way to meet people from the 5Cs. This semester I’m directing a play, and in the play we have a lot of dance elements incorporated, even though the script doesn’t really call for it. We thought it would be a good way to incorporate the creative talents of lots of different types of people, not just acting, but dancing and music and all kinds of things. So that was a way that I’ve been able to incorporate dance outside of class.

Kaanthi in front of a door

Kaanthi before a Bollywood performance last year. Photo Credit: Kaanthi Pandhigunta

What other types of projects have you done for the dance concentration? What does a typical workload look like?

The dance concentration usually doesn’t have much workload. They don’t really have all that much homework. They might have a little bit of reading to learn about the history of the dance, or something like that. So most of it is in class participation: dancing during class. In pretty much every class that I’ve taken, we had a final dance. These were like, you choreograph your own ten second or fifteen second piece, which was super fun. We had presentations in the Intro Dance Studies class. We had an essay in the modern dance class where you pick one specific dancer, and you critically examine their work. I picked an Indian dancer who kind of combined elements from Yoga, and Indian classical dances and martial arts to create a new dance form. She used that as a form of rebellion against the very strict social pressures for women at the time.

Do you have a favorite HSA class that you’ve taken for the breadth requirement?

I really liked Modern and Contemporary Art. It was a Mudd class. I really liked it because it wasn’t just learning about different types of artists, it was also creating your own art which I really enjoyed. I thought it was really fun to be able to look at the styles of certain artists, and then try to do a similar sort of thing yourself, which is different than what they’ve done, but still follows the same style. It was also really cool to be able to see the art of my peers, and it was nice that we all like to use a lot of techniques like machining that we learned at Mudd to be able to create art as well. It was a cool way to be able to use some engineering skills to make art.

Do you have any advice for prefrosh?

Be super open to anything! Don’t come in with a set view of “this is what I want to do” and stick to it. It’s really beneficial to try lots of different things, because you might find something that you didn’t know that you liked. A lot of things might be really influential and impactful to you in ways that you might not have thought of like, for example, dance and social issues.

This blog was written by: Malia Morgan '23 Computer Science Major: Springfield, Missouri