Pranalisree Rajarajan performed at Bellaire International Student Association’s 2023 Cultural Festival. She was center for the song Attention by NewJeans.
Pranalisree Rajarajan performed at Bellaire International Student Association’s 2023 Cultural Festival. She was center for the song “Attention” by NewJeans.
Emily He

In-person and Instagram: Junior discovers passion, posts dance videos

White top on, she’s the “swan” of the night. Center-stage, she’s got everyone’s attention. She can’t see the crowd, but the crowd certainly can see her.

Junior Pranalisree Rajarajan has been a dancer since sixth grade, but that night, performing at Bellaire International Student Association’s (BISA) 2023 Cultural Festival, she finally felt like a real performer.

She entered the world of dance at Lanier Middle School. She had to pick between PE and dance for an athletic credit. With all of her friends choosing dance, the answer was obvious. She was dancing pom and jazz in no time.

Rajarajan twirled her way through sixth grade drill team in sparkly tank tops and black leggings. The next step of her choreography was Lanier’s Dance Company. There, she discovered lyrical and contemporary dance. She especially enjoyed the creative themes her teacher explored, notably during the 2020 Crowd Pleasers Dance competition.

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“We [danced] with blindfolds on and one person walked around with a candle,” Rajarajan said. “It was like the light was coming into our life, and we took off our blindfolds at the end. I thought it was cool. I don’t know how [our dance teacher] thought of that idea, especially for middle schoolers. Like, what?”

Contemporary wasn’t the only new form of dance she sampled. She got her first taste of hip-hop in seventh grade.

Rajarajan went to Los Angeles with the Dance Company right after winter break. They flew in on Wednesday. Thursday was spent on the Incredicoaster at Disneyland. Friday was time for hip-hop and theater jazz classes.

Pranalisree Rajarajan (second from right) discovered hip-hop on a trip to LA with her dance team. Her friend Sofia Giuliani (rightmost) went with her. (Sofia Giuliani)

“I’ve never done hip-hop before,” Rajarajan said. “So I didn’t know how to move my body in the ways that they were doing. I was like, ‘How do you move like that?’ But, it was fun. That experience made me want to dance hip-hop later on.”

Two months later, in March 2020, the pandemic shut down everything. Her team wasn’t going to nationals. Practicing with her friends every day turned into following workout videos and learning dance combos through Microsoft Teams.

The world may have shut down, but her passion for dance never did.

“When I was at home alone, I was just [dancing] by myself,” Rajarajan said. “And I kind of looked stupid while doing it. [But] I learned everything. I danced every single day I was being taught something.”

Later that year in August, she began listening to K-pop and watching the dance practices of her favorite groups. The choreographies looked like a lot of fun. She could totally do this, right?

The first K-pop choreography she ever learned was BTS’s “DNA” dance. She finished learning the intro in just 10 minutes. The rest would be easy, right?

“I got to the chorus, and then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what the heck?’” Rajarajan said. “It took me like an hour to learn a 20-second piece of choreo. It was rough.”

Since then, she’s learned over 100 choreographies. After she sent a video of her dancing “Fake Love” to two of her friends, they pushed her to post her dancing on social media.

“I had nothing to lose,” Rajarajan said. “I was like, ‘What’s the worst that [could] happen?’”

From there, dance became more than just something she was good at.

Pranalisree Rajarajan became an officer of K-pop Club. She helps teach members choreography. (Emily He)

“The first time I ever posted a dance video was [a] turning point,” she said. “Contrary to my expectations, my friends were supportive and left positive comments behind. After getting their approval, I felt way more comfortable, and I started dancing and posting more.”

Her dancing began to improve because she put in the time. She watched videos of herself dancing to fix what was wrong; she became motivated to post her best work. Even with Rajarajan’s busy high school homework schedule, she still posts videos on her Instagram.

“I’m not taking dance as seriously as [in] middle school,” she said. “[So posting] holds me accountable to keep learning dances. I’m like, ‘Okay, I haven’t posted in a while. Let me learn a dance so I can post it.’”

Rajarajan doesn’t just record videos in her apartment though. She’s also danced at festivals and studio performances.

Over the past summer, she got together with a group of friends to perform “Sacrifice” by Enhypen at K-pop Night at TheOneDanceStudio. They had to modify the seven-person choreography to a six-person dance, with only two weeks to learn the choreography.

Junior Sofia Giuliani, a Modern eMotion dancer, was a part of the group.

“I learned a lot from watching [Pranalisree],” Giuliani said. “There were a lot of times when we were cleaning the dance where she was showing us how to do a movement and I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I see how I should be doing it now.’”

Similarly, Rajarajan performed with a group of friends, including sophomore Claire Lee, at Roberts International Festival.

“She knew how to lead the group,” Lee said.

Now, Rajarajan helps teach choreography to K-pop Club’s members for their performance at the next BISA cultural performance.

“When people are dancing, I want [them] to just forget what they’re thinking about and just enjoy it,” Rajarajan said. “I wish everyone would hone in on the moment and vibe with the music and the dance.”

Pranalisree Rajarajan spent four months practicing before auditioning for the center spot of K-pop Club’s performance at the Bellaire International Student Association’s 2023 Cultural Festival. (Emily He)

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  • E

    Emma XiaoFeb 3, 2024 at 11:16 am

    Go Pranali!

  • W

    Weston BennerFeb 2, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    What an amazing story!

  • J

    Joy XJan 31, 2024 at 9:11 pm

    great story and pranalis passion for dancing is super inspiring