Sarah's Return to the Studio after Great Loss

June 27, 2023 [Sarina Jain]

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A dear student of mine, Sarah, returned back to Masala Bhangra after a 5 year hiatus. As soon as I saw her, my heart gushed with so much love! I was so happy she took out some time to come attend class. That evening she wrote me an email and with her permission, I am sharing it with you. If you are going through grief, loss of a loved one, or just loneliness, her message will resonate with you.

"Sarina, it was a gift to take class with you on Saturday morning at The Ailey Extension. It had been about 5 years since I stepped foot in the studio due to getting married, moving out of NYC, and having two babies back to back during the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as I walked in, I instantly felt at home. There you were, calling out the familiar cues, “Gimme Basic... Right heel, left heel, right heel, left heel... Balle! Balle!”

The beginning of this week’s choreography was all about calling out to someone and saying hello. I’ve always appreciated how you explain the meaning behind various dance moves and find ways to connect to the universal experience of being human. When you invite students to imagine themselves at an Indian wedding, you are giving them permission to dream. You are also providing them with valuable cultural awareness and skills.

Before meeting my husband, I used to love it when you invited students to “Call out to your lover!” I yearned to meet my special somebody, fall in love, and live happily ever after. It was empowering to imagine myself in love, especially since I was single.

Last Saturday, instead of calling out to my future husband, I found myself calling out to my brother who I lost 18 months ago. He passed away at the age of 37 after a courageous battle with esophageal cancer. I miss him so much. I think about him every day. I wish I could talk to him. And I wonder where he’s gone. People say that grief is not linear. It’s not something that you ever really get over. You learn to grow around it and through it, and it changes you. As I followed the cues of your signature warm-up, bending down, touching the ground, hands pressed together in prayer, I dedicated the class to my brother with my whole heart and every fiber of my being.

And as I continued to channel that energy throughout class, I thought about something I learned from my Mom. Before kids, she was a K-12 modern dance teacher, and she used to encourage me to face hardship by “using my wellspring.” As she explained it, when you experience sadness, pain, loss or hardship in life, you put that into your wellspring. The same goes for the more pleasant feelings too, such as joy, gratitude, hope, etc. The wellspring becomes a source of infinite inspiration, energy and creative expression, and it gives the dancer strength and power to dance with her whole soul. Suddenly, this concept made sense to me.

Not only was I having fun vibing out to the Bhangra beats, I also felt a deep sense of healing by connecting to my brother, to classmates old and new, and to the joy within myself - the joy of being alive and having the opportunity to dance again, knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Needless to say, it was an amazing workout and I will be back.

With all my heart,

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