Sarah Parikh


culturallyours podcast sarah parikh ballet and contemporary dancer

Sarah Parikh

Show Details

In this episode we explore Art and Lifestyle as I chat with Sarah Parikh, a 17 year old high school senior who is an avid dancer practicing many different forms of dance – from contemporary to ballet to bollywood. Sarah shares her life as a young dancer and how her successes as well as her failures have shaped who she is today. We talked about her journey as an artist and a dancer starting at the young age of 3 to performing in Switzerland with her dance studio, the highs and lows of competitive dance and so much more.

Show Notes

Karthika interviews Sarah Parikh, a 17 year old high school senior who is also an accomplished dancer. Sarah shares her life and lifestyle as a dancer who started when she was around 3 years old and how dance and creativity will always be a part of her life. For someone so young, Sarah has a very mature mindset in how she deals with success and failure both in her art as well as her life. She talks about the importance of being in a team as well as surrounding yourself with people who care about you – no matter what path you choose.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome. Sarah, thank you so much for joining me on Culturally Ours. I am super excited to have you on the podcast and I cannot wait to chat with you and get to know you a little bit better.

Sarah: Yes. Hi. Thank you for having me.

Karthika: Now before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about sort of who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for this conversation?

Sarah:  Yes. My name is Sarah. I am 17 years old. I’m going to be a senior in high school this next year, so that’s pretty exciting. I started dancing when I was three and have just never stopped. It has gotten me through so much and will forever be a main part of my life. My favorite subject in school is science and that is what I hope to study in college and eventually being part of the medical fields as well. I am from Illinois.

Karthika: You said you’re 17, love science, so a doctor in the future who is crazy about dance. I think that’s a phenomenal combination. I love it because I love the range of people and ages that I get to talk to because I learn something from everyone. And the fact that you’re 17 and you’re so accomplished. This is going to be a wonderful conversation. I know. Yes.

Sarah: I am very excited to chat with you.

Karthika: You said dance and you said you’ve been dancing since you were three years old. So talk to me a little bit about that. How did dance come about and what this whole journey with dance has been like for you?

Sarah: So I did start fairly early. That was my mom’s doing mainly, she saw me dancing around the house in my little ballerina outfits and just knew that giving me like the structure of a dance class would benefit me in the future. So yeah, I started when I was three, mainly just, you know, like the wiggle worm classes or the gymnastics and then around probably like six or so, I got more into it and I knew that I wanted to stick with dance and I got more serious about dance. That was when I was still at my local park district. And then after that I went to my first studio and I got more of the competitive aspect, a bit more of the jazz and the contemporary and the hip hop. And then I started to fall in love with ballet a little bit more so than I changed studios to a more ballet oriented one in Plainfield where I live. That’s just where I fell in love with the technique of it all. And then I was introduced to contemporary, which is kind of like ballet, just a little less structured I guess.

Karthika: There’s a lot going on with what you said. I want to pause and I want to ask this question because you said, you know, you said you were dancing on the house when you were very young and now you are more into it from a professional standpoint. What sort of attracted you towards this medium of creativity and creative expression? What did you find fascinating about dance? And I’m just curious about what the thought processes is for people when they kind of gravitate towards certain things.

Sarah: Right. Although it was my mom who started my journey as I got a little older, I started to just fall in love with the structured freedom of it, which is kind of contradictory right there. But ballet has hundreds of years of history and technique that we learned about as we are also learning the dance moves. We can make it our own, I guess, on and off the stage. I learned to appreciate the discipline and was attracted to the artistry from a young age. My mom has always told me that I was very grounded and mature and I feel like I just fell in love with the controlled aspect of it. I got it.

Karthika: That’s amazing and your mom is right, you do not sound 17. You are much more grounded and mature than most 17 year olds I know.

Karthika: So you started when you were like three, four, right? You have obviously done this for a few years and you’ve done many different forms. And I believe you also kind of traveled and you’ve met other teachers, studios, other creatives, other dancers. So can you share some experiences or people who have really made an impact in your life, in dance and maybe overall in mindset. What are some things that really kind of struck out for you

Sarah: Right. So yes, I’ve been to Switzerland actually is probably my biggest accomplishment. Me and two other girls were invited by my dance teacher at the time. Her friend who lives in Switzerland and she invited us to come dance at this charity event. And so we were there for a week and within that time I met so many amazing people and dancers and had the opportunity to take classes from world renowned dance teachers. So that’s my most like exotic experience I love, but it’s really the people at my studio at home that make the biggest impact on my life so far. There’s just so much dedication required for this art as with other activities in life. But my teachers and friends at my studio here have just kept me going and are my support system and that have made the most impact.

Karthika: Talk to me a little bit about Switzerland. It sounds like a fantastic experience.

Sarah: So during that week I was actually just starting this injury I had and my ankle so it was pretty unfortunate timing. So I took one contemporary class, which kind of stems off of ballet, I guess the technique. They fortunately knew English, so it was okay. But it was more at the college level institution because the dance works differently there. They were about like 20, 21 and they were in a company, whereas it is a studio here. So we took a class there, but I mean, we knew what we were doing, we were trying to keep up, but the teacher didn’t explain everything and it was a little bit difficult, but it was definitely a great experience.

Karthika: Yeah. I know what you mean. When I interact with other photographers or creatives, there’s just as just general vibe, right? I mean, everybody, at the end of the day, everybody has this love and passion for this thing and that’s what brings us together. So I imagine it must have been the same thing. But it’s kind of different from what you’re used to. But that love of the art and the dance, that must have been quite an quite some energy in that room. Now you said you like science, you have all these different forms of art and you’re still a teen. Just how are you doing everything? How are you balancing all these things Sarah?

Sarah: That is a great question. Throughout the year there are busy times and there are more relaxed times. I am a pretty organized person, so I like to think that that is what keeps me going. I do pretty well in school. I am advanced classis and I am taking two science credits this next year. Then I have to take two classes over the summer for school to make sure I get all my credits. But through the school year, all of my dances at night, so I go to school throughout the day and then get home and go to dance and then get home and then do homework. I feel like I’m just naturally attracted to being busy all the time and just keeping myself occupied.

Karthika: And your family must really be very supportive. And I know I’ve met and interacted with your mom and I think she is your number one biggest supporter.

Sarah: Yes, she’s always told me that she is my biggest fan.

Karthika: That’s awesome. I’m going to ask you this and I know just being 17 some of it may or may not apply, so whatever you are comfortable answering we will go with that. On a personal level, what have been some of your most beautiful memories or experiences? And you can talk about this in context of your dance or you know, just life in general. And on the flip side, what has been some of the harder ones and what did you get to these?

Sarah: Right. So some of my most beautiful memories I would say aren’t necessarily the performances or the trophies or competitions or even going to Switzerland. Those were very rewarding. I would probably say the most impactful in my favorite memories are just sitting around laughing with my friends during our seven hour long rehearsals. Or the classes in the quiet times at dance that I’m just going to remember. So I guess they just really get me through other aspects of life. But nothing will ever compare to the standing on the stage and moments before the lights turn on and the music’s not on and you can just hear everybody breathing in unison. And that’s also my favorite part too. You are an individual dancer, but you’d also part of a group. So that team dynamics and the group dynamics has got to play into overall. Right,

Sarah: And it’s the laughing and bonding is also very important to our dancing, because I am on a team and we all have to dance as one. It’s not so much as a solo act anymore as I’ve gotten older and we really work hard towards this goal of becoming one and becoming connected and just feeling everybody breathing. And my teacher always says is that we have to take two deep breaths before we start because we just have to breathe together so that we can then move together.

Karthika: Oh, I love that breathing together so you can move together. I think that’s so powerful. And any other sort of strategies or things that you feel like you guys apply really well as a group because, and I’m asking this because a lot of times we have people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and we want to make sure that we are being honest and truthful and being there for each other. In an honest way, not just for the sake of doing this something together.

Sarah: With dance, there’s just so much culture within dance. And I’m also a Bollywood dancers, so I also have the Indian culture also. And I think it’s just a great way to share the different cultures and different experiences. And we go to performances and see all the other styles of dance and the Irish dancing. And I just think that truly brings us together more to like celebrating our differences by sharing everything with each other and teaching each other. And that brings us closer together.

Karthika: So what is your favorite style of dance?

Sarah: I get this question all the time because I do have a very broad range of styles. I would say that Bollywood is my favorite just because it’s just so much fun and joy of learning about that side of my family and it also helps me connect. And I love all the performances and those are just so much fun. But I also would say that ballet is a very strong part of my dancing as well. I’ve just been doing that forever and it has just gotten me so far in the technique has helped me in every single other style that I do. And Bollywood was just a lot of fun though too.

Karthika: Wow. These are all wonderful. Sarah. Now getting sort of, go back to my earlier question. You shared these beautiful, wonderful experiences. What have been some of maybe not so beautiful, maybe slightly harder experience?

Sarah: So I do have a couple. My first one that I was thinking about was the defeat and rejection part of dance. And when I was around 8 or 10, I really got into making this a career for myself. So I would go and audition for places like Joffrey ballet in the city is probably my most prominent one. I would go there when I was eight and I would audition to be a part of their nutcracker, which is a very famous during Christmas time. And I remember the disappointment of not being accepted into the program. Its just really  memories like that that keep me motivated to get better, not only a dancer, but also as a person because as I have continued through high school and everything, I’ve realized that maybe dance isn’t the career I want to focus on, but it was the disappointment and the rejection and the motivation that came after that helps me decide what I wanted to do with my life. And then another one of my hardest memories would just be the injuries that I’ve faced, physical injuries, where it was I think two years ago now, I started to have a really bad ankle pain. And so that I took a break from dance because the doctors wanted to see what it would do without the pressure of dancing and everything. And then nothing was really helping. So then I had surgery actually and they removed a one centimeter bone from my heel that was actually being squeezed from all the dance that I had to do with my feet. So that recovery was also of one of my hardest memories I’ve had with dance.

Karthika: Oh my God, that’s got to be hard. But I loved what you said about rejection. It is a part of life, right? It happens more often than we like but persevering through it and realizing that maybe not as a career, but I can still dance, and I can still do what I love. I think that’s important, Sarah. Now what advice would you give other teens or even, you know, older people who are maybe trying to find that creative outlet? I mean, not all of us are so lucky in finding something that we love to do at a young age. How can we find, or how can, you know, just based on your experiences, how can we find that what sort of lights that fire in us and keeps us excited and motivated for ourselves?

Sarah: Yes. I’ve definitely appreciated the fact that I have found something that I love to do and can pour my heart and soul into it as such a young age. But I would recommend to everybody else that’s trying to find something like this to just be open to everything and not being afraid of trying new things. Finding role models to guide you through these new experiences and activities is really helpful. Somebody with experience that can show you like the beauty behind the different things that you’re trying. As part of my summer job, I am teaching dance to little kids at my local park district. So I hope to be that role model for some of these future dancers to show them the beauty and just my love for it. So hopefully it rubs off on them too.

Karthika: That’s amazing. Now did you have role models that you kind of looked up to too as well when you were growing up?

Sarah: Yes. My mom wasn’t really ever a dancer, but she just knew so much about art and just the love of culture and everything that I really truly started from her love for everything new and exciting. And then as I got into these ballet oriented at schools, I really looked up to the older dancers and even if they wouldn’t say anything to me, I’ve just watched them dance and just could see their passion on their face and it was truly inspiring.

Karthika: Yeah, for sure. I think just kind of being in that environment and seeing how other people not necessarily do it but also think and behave and just go through life is huge. Cause otherwise you can just sit there and imagine all of these things and not really get anywhere because you don’t know how to do it.

Sarah: Exactly.

Karthika: All right. So let’s start to wrap this up. In the interest of time, just a few more questions. Questions that will help us get to know Sarah a little bit more. So what do you do for fun? Like how do you unwind after maybe a long day at school or like a particularly difficult rehearsal how do you unwind?

Sarah: So to be totally honest, I don’t have much of a normal social life.  I am generally very busy with all my activities, but I love to go home after a long day and watch movies with my family. My family is definitely a big part of my life and they have not only gotten me through so much with my art, but also just having fun and smiling all the time. I have some really close friends that we like going out to the movies or going to get ice cream or swimming at the pool. I just find time to laugh my friends and just forget about everything else at school and just focus on dance or when I’m at school, not focus on dance so much and focus more in school. But even when I am trying to wind down at night, I still find myself thinking about all the choreography that I learn that day or the music or lots of dance related things.

Karthika: All right. So we are going to do a rapid fire round just so that we can get know you better.

  • Tea, Coffee or something else – Sometimes its an iced coffee to get me through all of my dance recitals. But my favorite drink at Starbucks is the Matcha Green Tea Frappuccino.
  •  A quote that you get inspired by – I really liked the quote that is the one which goes like this ‘Don’t wait for the storm to pass. Learn how to dance in the rain.’
  • Horror movies or action, adventure or drama – Action and adventure. I love superhero movies with my dad.
  • Then that kind of leads me to my next question – Marvel or DC? Marvel. My God. I know since the very first one my dad has made sure we watched them together.
  • What’s your favorite season? Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter – I like the transition in between summer and fall.
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? I am keeping an open mind with this but probably something in the medical field like nursing and of course something related to dance. I know it’s definitely going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life, even if that, just teaching some classes on the side.
  • Beach or mountains – That’s a really hard one. The relaxing beach and then the mountain adventure. I would probably say beach though.
  • What’s your favorite food? It’s a tie between Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.
  • Now you’ve traveled to Switzerland, have you been anywhere else in the world? I have been to France actually recently. I am studying French. I’ll be doing my fourth year French next year as a senior. And it was a school trip that I got to do with all my friends and my mom came with too.
  • What’s your favorite country to travel to in the world? So it’s definitely still France. I went there and I just fell in love with it immediately. But definitely one of my dreams is to travel everywhere. Traveling is an adventure that I think everybody should try at some point in their lives.

Karthika: So what lies ahead for you? What comes next? What are your dreams for the future with everything that’s going on?

Sarah: So like I said before, I’m trying to keep my mind open. For the most part. I just want to see what comes my way. I want to go to school for nursing for my undergrad, preferably in Chicago, in the big city. I love cities. But I also still have a year to figure this whole thing out, so I don’t know exactly yet. I want to continue my dancing throughout college. I’ve already looked, there’s a lot of dance studios that I could take classes on the side. One of the colleges that I’m looking at is actually UIC that has a Bollywood dance team.

Karthika: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Sarah. This has been absolutely amazing. I have known you for a few years now and your talent just blows me away. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your stories, your dreams and aspirations for the future.

Sarah: Of course. And thank you for having me.


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