Bethanie Mickles, Esq is an African-American attorney and mental health professional residing in Lynchburg, Virginia (USA). She is a senior dancer learning Kathak, Manipuri, and contemporary dance forms at Nrityajyoti Dance Academy since 2012. She began dancing at age 5, having performed around the world for several forms of dance including flamenco, jazz, clogging, Mexican folkloric, Polynesian, Middle Eastern, and Indian Bharatanatyam. Recently, she triumphed in the North Carolina leg of the Ms Tourism competition.
ABHIJIT GANGULY sat down with Bethanie for an exclusive interview for THE TEENAGER TODAY.
You started dancing at the age of 5. What has kept you motivated to stick with dancing all these years?
Dance has always been my main creative outlet and primary fitness activity. I have studied numerous forms of dance from tap, ballet and jazz to Polynesian, Middle Eastern, Mexican folkloric and flamenco. Learning multiple dance styles has always come easily for me. Dance has also opened numerous doors for me and afforded me several opportunities for international travel and scholarship money for continued academic study.
How did you get attracted to Indian Classical dance? Throughout your training, what challenges have you faced as a westerner?
Actually, seeing a Bharatanatyam costume at India Fest Raleigh many years ago got me interested in Indian classical dance. I was attending the annual two-day festival at the NC state fairgrounds and saw a group of young women pass by wearing Bharatanatyam dance attire. I just loved the bright colours, elegant jewellery and hair decorations that comprised the costume. I immediately inquired about where I could find dance classes that used this attire. Not too far from where I was living at the time, a new Indian dance school, Natya Academy of Cary, NC, was opening and would offer Bharatanatyam and Kathak classes. I quickly signed up for classes and have been dancing ever since. That was in 2007. When I initially showed up at the Indian dance school for classes, people stared at me a great deal and thought that I was lost or at the wrong place. One person even attempted to direct me to the popular Indian cafe nearby, thinking that I must surely be in the wrong place! My Guru, Smt. Asha Bala, always made me feel welcome from the first time that I arrived at the dance school. I haven’t really faced any challenges as a westerner as far as learning the different dance techniques and steps is concerned. I do, however, often have to try and explain the dances to my family members and friends, as most are not familiar with Indin culture or Indian classical dance.
What drove you to participate in Ms. Tourism North Carolina USA 2017? What can you tell us about North Carolina tourism in general?
I decided to participate in the Ms. Tourism NC USA pageant because I felt that it perfectly incorporated several of my favourite activities — travel, charity, and community service. I have had a great time travelling around the state and beyond volunteering and promoting my dance fitness platform ‘Dance For Your Life: Creative Movement towards Better Health’. Earlier this year, I visited the West African nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as Belgium.