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'self respecting male' - common app essay for princeton

aktanuku 1 / -  
Nov 20, 2008   #1
A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

What kind of self respecting male would put on eye liner, lip stick and foundation and go out in front of hundreds of people? Apparently me. And while I probably know more about these things than most prepubescent twelve year old girls, I'm not a female impersonator. I am an Indian classical dancer.

Kuchipudi is the Indian classical dance from the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. It originated in the 16th century BC. At that time it was mostly performed by Brahmin males who passed the art down through a father- son lineage. Today, although this art form has become overwhelmingly dominated by women, I have been dancing for thirteen years. Many people have asked me why, as an American born Indian boy who does not speak a word of his native tongue, I started learning Kuchipudi. Let me be honest; I was four and my mother made me. Yes, that is the reason I started, but it is not the reason I dance today. If someone asks me why I dance the answer to the question will not 'force' but it will be a recollection of an event that occurred when I was twelve.

There was a show in Long Island one summer. I was invited to perform and I expected there were other artists who were going to perform as well. I also expected this show to be done, like most other cultural events I had been to, in about four hours. Unfortunately the program was filled with mostly speakers who talked for hours on end about Indian culture, belaboring the same points repetitively. There were only a handful of other dancers. It was so frustrating that by the sixth hour most of the audience had left the building.

There weren't many people left when I got on stage. I actually don't even remember too much of the actual performance other than being incredibly exhausted from waiting so long and slightly put off by the fact that there were only about forty people still there to watch my performance.

What I do remember, however; is that after I was done I was met with a sincere and enthusiastic applause that broke the dullness that had dominated the atmosphere until the sixth hour. The announcer called me back on stage and asked me if I had anything to say. Once again I was met with sincere applause and this time, through the applause, I heard someone call out: "Say anything you want."

There is the answer. It is the reason I put on the makeup and the dress and continue to do this ancient art form even today. "Say anything you want." Here is an audience that effectively sat through six hours of speeches and did not want to listen to what prominent experts had to say but all of a sudden after five minutes they were willing to listen to me. It is a connection; a connection with the audience that was more effectively established through the five minutes of dance than through the six hours of speeches.

It is a humbling experience seeing the effect a piece has on an audience. I feel that Kuchipudi, like all dance, transcends the costume and any other mundane formality of the art. The effect the dance has on an audience speaks louder than anything words can say. Dance is a voice which gives its practitioners the ability to stand up and talk. This is something I have grown to appreciate over the years.

I am sure the Brahmin families of Kuchelpuram saw the same value in the art which is why I think they worked so hard to preserve it. Here, in the twenty first century, I am able to perform anywhere within a fifty mile radius of my home within an hour. We have cameras and tape recorders that make the technology of our ancestors (a voice for the song and a wooden stick to keep the rhythm) seem primitive. Despite this, I feel today it is even more imperative that I share the gift that I have been given. Not only for myself, but for the men and women who have worked to spread their voice years before me with half as much as I have. It is my debt to them. It is my duty to sustain the art for future generations just as they have sustained the art to a point where I am able to practice it.

Years later I have performed in venues much more prestigious with many more people. Yet it is these performances which stick out in my mind: the performances where the audience is able to cross from the superficial viewing of the dance and truly become transported to another place and time. That is why I dance.
EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
Nov 20, 2008   #2
Excellent! This is a wonderful answer to the prompt. You do a great job of explaining the dance, why you do it, a fantastic example, and an appropriate conclusion. Except for the few errors I corrected, I wouldn't change a thing! Nice work!
vaibhav2614 4 / 7  
Nov 20, 2008   #3
Just so you know.. princeton does not require the common app essay.. I don't think they even read it.. They have their own essay in the supplement. So technically you dont need to bother doing the CommonApp essay for princeton if you apply through the princeton website. It looks like you've put a lot of work into this essay so you can still use it for other colleges..
quack09 2 / 23  
Nov 20, 2008   #4

GOOD JOB!!!!!!!!

to the person above, its better to apply through the common app in my opinion because your opening yourself to more options than just focusing on one school. Princeton also stresses using the common app more i think.

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