Dancing is one of my favorite things to do. I have been officially dancing in classes since I was 6 or 7, but my real love for dancing has been apparent ever since I climbed onto the fire hydrant in front of the DJ at a summer block party and boogied the night away all by myself at age 4. I have been classically trained in ballet, jazz, and modern. In college, I have dabbled in hip-hop and multiple forms of cultural dancing. I truly believe that dance is a great way to experience a new culture and express yourself. Keeping all this in mind, this weekend I got a HUGE treat. Seven of us decided to take a break from city life and explore Shantiniketan, a rural university town about 4-5 hours outside of Kolkata. Going into this trip I had no clue what to expect. I agreed without ever even looking up where I was going. All I knew is that I needed fresh air ASAP. Four hours into our bus ride this morning, my shallow sleep abruptly halted when we turned onto a dirt road, hit a bump, and my head collided with the window. Now fully awake I was able to take in my surroundings. We were in the middle of NOWHERE. I could not have been happier. For the next hour our bus struggled to squeeze down tight dirt paths, winding through villages full of cows, goats, mud huts and bamboo. The road was so bumpy it felt more like an amusement park ride than one in a bus. I gawked out the window at all of the new sights. When we finally made it to our destination I was elated. We were staying at an organic farm in cute little bungalows. (FYI, we are totally off the grid.) We were fed, shown to our rooms, and given time to explore around before we were informed that the women of the villages we had just driven through were going to perform a traditional tribal dance for us. Our tour guide translated that this dance was not something often performed for outsiders. It usually was just a form of expression kept within the tribes. However, some of the women worked at Rare Earth (our farm) and wanted to share with us a bit of their culture. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more excited than when I arrived, but somehow I was. This was an incredible opportunity to have a window into a culture that has been allegedly preserved for the last 20,000 years, according to our tour guide. The dancing was amazing. The women all locked arms in a line and alternated steps and songs in their Germanic tribal language accompanied by drums all while balancing vases of flowers on their head and rotating in a circle. The simplicity of the moves, but complexity of the whole ritual really created a beautiful scene. The best surprise was when the women came over to us and asked us to dance with them. I immediately kicked off my flip-flops and dug my toes into the ground in between two new dance partners. It felt so great to squish my toes in the soft warm dirt. In my head I flashed back to those block parties and running around barefoot on summer nights. When we all linked arms and the dancing commenced again, I was surprised at how difficult I found it to keep the beat. The drum rhythm seemed foreign and random, but after a few minutes and some guiding tugs on my arm, the beat settled into my body and the line rotated slowly in a circle with ease. The steps and chanting changed every few minutes and every few minutes there would be a bought of laughter from everyone while us newbies struggled to get the moves right. Names and hugs were exchanged at the end despite some small language barriers and I left the group with my soul at ease. I called my mom to tell her about it and she was equally excited. She told me how happy she was that I was having such amazing experiences and reminded me to hold these moments close to my heart. “Rub your feet in the dirt for me”, she said. Tomorrow I am refusing to wear shoes.