Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Carmina Aguilar Mancenon ’14

Tokyo, Japan and Manila, Philippines • Operations Research and Financial Engineering View Profile

“Since When Do You Dance?”

Discovering a new passion at Princeton

Carmina Naacho Pose

It only takes a quick glance at the Admission Viewbook to notice the plethora of choices that await you at Princeton.

I spent hours before I arrived on campus watching videos and reading articles on the Princeton website from halfway across the world in Tokyo imagining my coming university life. With over 30 majors, 300 student-led organizations, and more than 1,300 courses offered in the spring semester alone, my bookmark tab quickly filled up with pages of organizations I wanted to be part of, performing arts groups I planned to try out for, and classes that I would take.

Yet, there are some experiences for which you just can’t prepare.

In the spring semester of my junior year, I found myself in a packed Dillon Gym dance studio with a number pinned onto my shirt about to audition for the Naacho South Asian Dance Company. It was the first time I had ever danced a choreographed piece in front of such a large group of people, and it was definitely one of my most nerve-wracking moments at Princeton, possibly on par with speaking up at my first Princeton class. I had absolutely no dance experience before coming to Princeton, unless jamming in my room counts, but had a stroke of inspiration that day to try out, thinking that a dance lesson would be the perfect alternative to Zumba exercise that day. To my surprise, that evening, a group dressed in black and red gear showed up at my doorstep and covered me in shaving cream to welcome me into the dance troupe!

Having spent my sophomore summer interning in and traveling around India, joining Naacho has provided me with both better insights and outlets for my thoughts and admiration toward the fascinating country. I’ve found a group on campus that will tolerate my miserable imitation of an Indian accent, join me in my Indian food cravings and encourage my impromptu Bollywood dancing in the middle of a study session. At the same time, I’ve continued learning about Indian culture and the meanings behind some of my favorite Indian dance moves well beyond the borders of my visit to South Asia.

Naacho has graced my senior year with learning and community. Beyond that, joining the group has allowed me to step outside my comfort zone to discover a hidden passion. My rehearsals for the group are some of my favorite hours of the week, perfecting my ‘deer’ and ‘flower’ hand dance moves. As a senior, I still chuckle when I am called a ‘newbie,’ an endearing term usually directed toward underclassmen members of the troupe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This coming weekend, I am dancing onstage for the very first (but hopefully not last) time with Naacho in our annual company show. Freshman Carmina would have never expected such a trajectory, and that’s the beauty of the Princeton experience—you can truly make it your own.