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Young performers find their audience

When Aaina Aroda was doing volunteer work at Lytton Gardens retirement community in Palo Alto while in middle school, she happened to spot a room with a stage tucked in.

That sparked the idea that she could bring her talent in classical Indian dance to seniors and other groups of people who can’t always travel to shows themselves.

So the Cupertino resident staged her first performance at the Priya Living retirement home in Santa Clara, and the response she got from the residents there was so positive she decided she had to keep it going.

With her mother Kalpana Aroda, fellow performer Ishana Narayanan and Deepti Vanvari, she formed InAtalent, a nonprofit volunteer group that aims to give other young performers the chance to display their talents at senior centers, assisted living communities and rehabilitation facilities.

The group celebrated its two-year anniversary Saturday in a special event at Cupertino Community Hall.

During these two years, it has put on about one show a month at venues such as the Chateau Cupertino retirement residence, Pacific Gardens assisted living community, Cedar Crest nursing center and the Cupertino Senior Center.

When the nonprofit began, its typical shows consisted of a small group of core volunteers staging 30-minute sets of mostly classical Indian dance. Today, organizers say the group has grown to about 100 young volunteers, including students from elementary school, middle school and high school.

The shows have also grown in length and variety. They can run as long as 90 minutes and include singing, several kinds of dances and a variety of instrumental performances.

The young performers sometimes involve their audience by teaching them some of the steps in their dances.

During Saturday’s anniversary celebration, volunteers were given awards and trophies for their service.

Among those attending were Assemblyman Ash Kalra, Saratoga Councilman Rishi Kumar, and Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul, who took to the stage to thank the volunteers.

For the young volunteer performers, the events provide an opportunity to showcase their talent to an appreciative audience.

Kalpana Aroda said it’s also a way to bring live performances to an audience that often cannot travel to see shows on their own.

Aaina Aroda, now a senior at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, has studied the classical Indian dance form of Kathak since she was 4. Since she’s already got the skills, it doesn’t take much to put on a performance, and the payoff is pretty big, she says.

“To see how their face can light up, and know that that person doesn’t feel ignored in that moment, it’s such a beautiful bond,” she said.

Tears are a common sight in the audience during the performances, Aroda added. “They make us promise to come back soon.”

Underlying some of this emotion, Aaina says the performances help address the feeling of isolation experienced by many people as they age.

There is a “lot of joy coming from kids,” she says, and the goal is to bring that joy to an older population.

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