Upstaging Measles One Performance at a Time

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 — A brightly dressed dancer skims the stage. Complex movements recall for her countless long hours of rehearsal, the astounding level of coordination of thousands of Measles Initiative workers, and the children who will be immunized because of this performance.

Most people never associated classical Indian dance and measles advocacy, but to Tara Gadde, it was a natural fit. A sophomore at Newark Academy in New Jersey, Tara is the founder of her school’s Red Cross Club, and one of Bharatanatyam’s (classical Indian dance) newest graduates. She used her Arangetram, or dance graduation, to raise money and awareness about measles and the Measles Initiative.

Warming up

Bharatanatyam is a dance that originated in Southern India. It reconstructs the ancient technique of temple dancers whose stylized movements resembled a dancing flame through the combination of over one hundred intricate poses and dance steps, accentuated by dozens of hand, eye, and neck movements.

After six years of dedicated study, Tara was down to the last few weeks of practice before her on-stage debut. As her recital approached, her family’s preparations went into high gear and Tara practiced a grueling six hours a day. Yet, as she and her mother reviewed the extensive guest list, Tara realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to combine two of her life’s passions: dancing and measles awareness.

“The Dance of the Youth”

This was truly a group effort. Volunteers in the school’s Red Cross Club had worked on bake sales and greeting card fundraisers in the past. This time, they designed commemorative t-shirts and Tara’s aunt provided bags with Measles Initiative labels and a small statement from Tara about why the Measles Initiative was important to her.

Finally, Tara’s grandmother contributed the idea of the evening’s theme: Picasso’s painting “The Dance of the Youth.” It is a simply painted image that depicts a colorful group of people holding hands and dancing in a circle around a dove of peace.

“We decided that it fit perfectly with our idea of coming together as youth to fight for a good cause,” said Tara.

Tara not only brought attention to the Measles Initiative, but placed a cultural spotlight on India, which now has one of the highest rates of measles deaths in the world. With the help and support of her family, friends, and fellow club members, her performance has raised $3,000 and has educated at least 260 members of her community on the importance of taking on the measles challenge.

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Measles Initiative-led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization-provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns worldwide. To learn more or make a donation, visit

Reposted from Article by Rachel Kleinberg.

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