Dance preview: Kaustavi Sarkar engages the global community with dance

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From the August 15, 2013 edition

For years, Kaustavi Sarkar struggled to reconcile her love of dance with the harsh economic realities that often go hand-in-hand with pursuing a career in the arts.

“I’m from a middle-class family and art is something that was always a hobby,” Sarkar said. “But I never had the courage to go all-out and forget economics and forget the financial security.”

This all changed just months after Sarkar’s April 2011 wedding. “I still remember the date,” she said, “It was the 15th of August in 2011.” At that time the dancer’s husband, noting her displeasure with her career path, encouraged her to pursue her passion full-timeIn 2012 she completed the transformation when she enrolled in the graduate studies program in Ohio State’s Department of Dance.

In an odd bit of timing, Sarkar is currently spearheading a performance entitled “Drishti, the Vision” that is scheduled to take place at the Ohio Union this Thursday, Aug. 15 — exactly two years to the day after she made the decision to forego a promising career in economics. The event, which also coincides with the eve of Indian Independence Day, will feature performances by 50 dancers ranging from children to seasoned pros with decades of experience.

Sarkar, 28, took up dance at five years old, and has spent much of her life immersed in the study of Odissi, a traditional East Indian form defined by its sculpture-esque body movements.

“I have trained in various forms — even contemporary dance — but I have dedicated myself to Odissi because…this particular form is very like me and it shapes the way I am,” she said. “It’s a very graceful form, and it has a soft touch to it. It’s my soul.”

The dancer, born in Kolkata, India, to an electrical engineer father and a mother with some strong artistic chops of her own (“My mom was a very good singer,” she said), hopes events like this one will help foster a better understanding between different ethnic groups, since the arts are such an important part of any culture’s heritage.

“My research is about engaging the community and going out there and spreading the word,” Sarkar said. “We can learn from each other. We’re always in a learning process, and this [performance] is a small part of a larger outreach.”