Ramita RAVI ’13, Dancer

Ramita RAVI ’13 lived the Ellis motto, Esse Quam Videri, full tilt when she took a chance and auditioned for the FOX competition show, So You Think You Can Dance, earlier this year. Her hard work, perseverance, and talent paid off as she was awarded a spot on the show and subsequently won the hearts of viewers across the nation with her unique Indian Contemporary style. While Ramita didn’t make it to the finals, her desire to represent herself and her heritage on the stage ignited her drive to pursue dance full-time. From the Ellis Auditorium to the bright lights of Hollywood to the Big Apple’s concrete jungle, Ramita reflects on her time on one of the biggest reality shows on TV and shares how The Ellis School shaped her into the person she is today.
Years at Ellis:Grade 5 to Grade 12
Location:New York, NY
Occupation:Student & Dancer
Education:B.A. Public Health, University of Pennsylvania

You were a contestant on this season of So You Think You Can Dance, what inspired you to audition?
I’ve been a fan of So You Think You Can Dance since its second season. Every year I would watch, but I never saw anyone who looked like me. It was always a dream of mine to audition for the show and represent my culture as an Indian American. My best friend auditioned a few seasons ago and when the audition dates came out this year, he encouraged me to go for it! The style I auditioned with was called Indian Contemporary, which is a mixture of Classical Indian Dance and Contemporary. I see it as an embodiment of my mixed Indian American identity.

What is the biggest takeaway from your time on the show?
My biggest takeaway is that representation matters. I wanted to share my story because dance was integral to my understanding of Indian and American cultures. However, it blew my mind to see the response from those of my heritage or of other immigrant backgrounds that felt they had been represented by my dancing. I am so lucky and humbled to have represented those narratives on this platform. Doing the show has inspired me to connect with others who are paving the way for diverse identities to be valued in popular media.

You’re a recent college graduate, what’s next for you? Do you plan to dance in addition to your professional pursuits?
Yes! I recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Public Health. I actually sub matriculated into the Masters of Public Health program at Penn, but I am taking a gap year from that program to pursue dance full time in New York City. Once I go back to school, I intend to pursue dance and public health side by side!

Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him or her?
After freshman year of college, I met Brinda Guha at New York City’s Broadway Dance Center. I quickly joined her company, Kalamandir Dance Company, through which she melds Classical Indian Dance with contemporary—specifically focusing on making Classical Indian Dance modern and accessible with integrity. This mission resonated with me. We practice different styles of Classical Indian Dance, but I’ve grown so much from working with her. She has helped me become a better dancer and artist while also allowing me to grow my own brand and vision.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a dancer?
Currently, living as a dancer in New York, I am struggling with the notion of ambiguity. I have never thrown myself into such a fluid career and lifestyle. As a dancer, days don’t follow the same structure as typical careers, which makes me uneasy at times. It’s also tough to go against “traditional” routes that my peers are following. However, I feel that pursuing dance full-time is worthwhile and imperative to my growth as a human being.

What is your best Ellis memory?
I loved Culture Jam! It was amazing stepping away from the classroom to talk about diversity, race, and problems that exist in our world every day. It was also great to connect with students from many different schools to hear their unique perspectives. It was one of my favorite events every single year.

For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
What differentiates Ellis girls from others is our confidence and ability “to be rather than to seem”. Never be shy about being an Ellis girl because the foundation the School gave us goes beyond a normal education. Ellis shaped us into strong willed and strong minded young women who can conquer the world— remember that; let it inspire you and others!

When you think of Ellis, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
The place that built my values and gave me confidence in my passions, abilities, and identity

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate. Competent. Supportive.

When do you feel empowered and how do you empower other women in your life?
I feel empowered when I’m on stage, when I’m working with women and girls, when I’m connecting with minorities, and when I step back to admire all the people who have built me up throughout my life. My family, friends, and fellow Ellis girls have helped me feel strong, passionate, and empowered—especially about my art and my identity. I’d love to help girls feel the same, encouraging them to embrace that their art, identities, and perspectives are powerful.

What woman inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by Payal Kadakia, the founder of Classpass and an incredible South Asian dancer. With a passion for dance, health, and fitness, she built and scaled an incredible brand that now touches people all over the world.

What is the last book you read?
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—a short book, but powerful and relevant.