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The Artist Spotlight: Gintu Kottarathil

Dance offers a rich illustration of one’s culture, spirituality, sense of expression and passion. While understated academically at Lawrence, students certainly do their best to study and practice dance in their extracurricular work, observed in such groups as Massive Movement, LU Shakti and Danza Mexica.

One of the student body’s proudest dance traditions, Cabaret, will be having its thirty-eighth annual performance Friday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. Featured in this year’s Cabaret will be a Bollywood performance choreographed and led by sophomore Gintu Kottarathil.

Kottarathil has trained in dance since she was four years old, with experience in Bharatanatyam, Kathak, contemporary ballet and hip-hop. When Kottarathil was 16, a professional dance company named BollyArts saw her perform in Times Square for the India Day Parade. They approached her and asked if she would like to pursue dance as a career. Of course she accepted this unbelievable opportunity. She has worked as a dancer ever since, performing with dozens of professional Bollywood dancers, teaching dance to kids and choreographing her own work.

“I think Bollywood dance is amazing,” Kottarathil said. “I think it represents how much India has grown. It’s empowering in a way. Girls back in the day had to be covered from head to toe with no way of expressing themselves. Now they’re able to come out of their shells a bit more. I love being classically trained, but I love having the Bollywood aspect as well.”

Alongside dance, Kottarathil is a biology major on a pre-med track. She enjoys working with children and strongly considers becoming a pediatrician.

“My mom is a nurse and my dad is a hospital social worker, so I used to be in hospitals a lot growing up,” Kottarathil explained. “I love the feeling of it, in the hospital, so I’ve always wanted to pursue something there.”

Regarding how she plans to balance her interest in medicine with her interest in dance, Kottarathil is optimistic.

“I always find a balance no matter what,” Kottarathil said. “I’m not going to give either up.”

The Bollywood performance will feature an interesting mix of styles, including such traditional Indian dance styles as Bharatnatayam, Bhangra, garba and dandias. 13 performers are expected to be in the show, although over 20 have attended practices. It will feature a solo dance by Kottarathil and a charming narrative piece that plays on Bollywood clichés. It will also have a hip-hop section led by Massive Movement founder Kenneth Herrera ‘16.

Mixing traditional Indian dance with Bollywood, or even hip-hop for that matter, is not something that is traditionally done, but Kottarathil is enthusiastic about the whole set. Kottarathil hopes to honor the traditions of Indian dance while jazzing it up with more western, modern dance styles. She expressed more gratitude and admiration toward her group than any amount of words could manage.

“We’ve put so much work into this,” Kottarathil said. “The fact that we have some way of showing our talents is just an amazing thing. I’m really excited to see everyone’s performances.”