Just moments after stepping out of Franklin Field following Commencement, Ramita Ravi (C’17) was on a plane to Los Angeles. She had received a callback from the famous dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance?
Ramita had been invited to “Academy Week”—the second round of competition—after auditioning what FOX dubbed a “riveting performance” of classical Indian and contemporary dance. She would compete in a pool of 100 participants in several routines of various genres, including hip hop, contemporary, ballroom, and jazz, before making it to the Top 30.
For Ramita and her different company members at home and in New York, being on So You Think You Can Dance? means so much more than a chance to win a prize or exposure—it’s validation for years of work and planning. As a kid, Ramita hand–drew a timeline of her goals, which included an appearance on the show right after graduated.
"The whole experience was really, really cool because no one had done Indian contemporary before [on the show],” Ramita says. “This was the first time an Indian dancer was on the show...in 14 seasons, so to be able to make it to the top 30 was literally nuts and probably the most humbling thing ever.”
The idea to audition for the show wasn't initially Ravi’s. Long–time college friend and fellow Arts House Dance Company member Nick Silverio, W’18, who'd also made it to the callback rounds in the 11th and 12th season of the show, encouraged her to audition.
“I was just like ‘there aren’t people like you in the world,’” Nick says. “There aren’t people who have been represented on television who are of South Asian descent and are brilliant dancers. So I had a feeling [the show] would be a really wonderful fit for her because she is trained in Indian dance as well as contemporary dance.”
Apart from Ramita’s success on the show, Nick says he was particularly touched by the outpouring of support on social media for her.
“There were so many comments that were so positive,” Nick says. “You had people all around the world saying she looks just like me or just commenting on the importance of South Asian representation on TV because it really doesn’t happen.” The solo that Ramita performed during her first audition in New York was choreographed in part by Nick.
Ramita’s passion for dance was apparent during her four years at Penn. She served as the chair of the Art Council on the Performing Arts Executive Board, the chair and artistic director of Arts House Dance Company and a Penn Arts leader. Ravi also successfully implemented two academic dance courses at Penn—"Contemporary Dance Performance and Practice" and "Gender Relations in the Romantic Ballet of the 19th Century."
Although she'll be submatriculating into Penn’s Public Health Master’s program, Ramita will first move to New York in August to pursue dancing. She plans on joining a dance company and auditioning for more opportunities.
She says, "The plan right now is to be there for a year but I’m kind of playing it by ear, seeing where it takes me, and if I want to be there longer then I will.”