My Life Unpacked: Ramita Ravi


My Life Unpacked: Ramita Ravi

“My Life Unpacked” is a recurring series inspired by Pointe Magazine’s “Show and Tell,” which will features leaders from various groups on Penn’s campus. By detailing the items these outstanding students deem worthy of carrying to practice, I’ll try to unpack the passions and activities that have allowed them to grow.

Packing a bag may feel like a mundane activity or sometimes even a chore, but there is often more weight in choosing what to carry than one might think. I recently sat down with the Chair of Arts House Dance Company, newly elected DAC Chair, and member of Penn Thillana, Ramita Ravi to discuss what the many objects in her tote signify for her.


So, you’ve brought some items here today. Can you pick a few that stand out and tell me why they are important to you?

I’ll start with the little Nataraja statue. In Hinduism, that’s the God of Dance. There are a lot of Hindu gods, and you can pray through whatever venue you want. Classical Indian dance really taught me a lot about religion and culture growing up, and I’ve kind of always prayed through dance and that god specifically. I got that statue when I went to India to perform at a sacred temple that was supposed to be where dance originated. There were a lot of big clouds and a ton of thunder as I was dancing on this outdoor, stone stage, and as soon as I stopped, it just started IMG_9752pouring. That experience was one of the most magical moments of my whole life, and I got that statue while I was there. I just always have it with me.

The book is my journal that I put everything in. I use it to choreograph a lot. I usually just draw boxes and make the people little dots, just to get out my thoughts that way.

The bells are worn on my ankles for classical Indian dance. They’re basically just to accentuate the rhythms and the beats, and they complement the music really nicely.

The Choreographer’s Handbook is for a dance class that I’m taking, which is one of the first dance classes to exist at Penn. It’s less of a manual and more of an emphasis on choreography as an experience.

Going along with your course’s book, I understand that you’ve been working with the UA recently about more academic opportunities for dance at Penn. How has that been and what do you hope to see happening in the future?

RR: So, it’s really hard because you need a lot of resources to create a dance program, and right now, there aren’t even enough classes to establish a curriculum. It would be really cool if in the next year that I’m here, there could be one or two more classes related to dance. One professor is bringing back an old dance history class that she taught last year. But I think ideally, the goal would be building up more courses that are dance study, like dance in history or psychology. Just ways in which dance can interact with different things because I think there are a lot of possibilities.

I agree. That would be really great. So, has dance always been such a huge part of your life?

RR: I actually started wanting to do gymnastics when I was little. Then they opened up an acrobatics and ballet studio near my house, and that became the perfect combination. Every year, I would just add a new style: tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, lyrical, and eventually, I started competing. So, it all just happened. I was pretty bad when I was little, but I just kept doing it. Growing up, I was the only Indian I ever saw at dance competitions or in this American dance world. My parents kept telling me to stop every year because all the other Indian kids were involved in other activities, and I was at dance all the time, so I didn’t really have time for other things. We had that conversation every year until seventh or eighth grade, and eventually, they realized I wasn’t going to stop dancing. I’m really glad that I continued though because I love it.

Pull Quote Luo


And you’ve kept going even through college. How has dance affected your time at Penn?

I didn’t realize coming in that I would learn so many other things from dance. At first, it was about getting better at the physical dancing, but I’ve also learned how to put a show together, how to work on a team and as a leader. I’ve gotten the chance to produce deliverables and to make ideas tangible. Just a lot of things that I didn’t expect at all to happen.

What’s it like to be in multiple dance associations? 

Throughout my life I’ve always tried to combine American and Indian dance in different ways. I really knew that I wanted to keep up with both, and Penn is one of few schools with a classical Indian dance team. I’ve had a lot of opportunity here to combine the two styles. I was inspired after working with Brinda Guha in New York, who combines North Indian style dance with contemporary. For Arts House’s collaboration with Masala, I tried to make Indian contemporary into my own style, and it was a really nice time to experiment with that. It’s been really cool to collaborate with other groups because I really like learning different styles. There’s so much history behind all of them and ways that they are similar that I’d never even thought about.

Do you hope to continue dancing after college?

RR: Hmm…Yes! I would ideally like to take a year to just dance professionally. I don’t know if I would want to be a dancer my entire life because it’s so hard obviously, but it’s definitely something I would want to do on the side. I feel like I’ll never stop dancing. It’d be sad and weird.

– Nicole Luo

Images Courtesy of: Ria Vaidya

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