Meet Dancer Gargi Duggal

Gargi Duggal can be seen and heard from far away. She’s adorned in layered patterns with almost every color of the rainbow, and each step is punctuated with the jingling that can only come from swaying jewelry. The cause? A love of dance. 

For Gargi, dancing is as innate to her as walking. She started attending dance school in her home town of Nadiad, India at the tender age of two. Inspired by her mother’s passion for dancing, Gargi had three years of practice before she could pass the dance exam at the minimum age of five. She practices Bharatanatyam, one of the oldest classical Indian dance forms, traditionally performed by a solo female dancer.

Gargi Duggal // photos Kathy Tran
Gargi Duggal // photos Kathy Tran

Gargi’s life has not been all song and dance, though. At age 14 she experienced the first of several lifelong battles with medical issues. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right leg, and her small town in India lacked a physician who could properly diagnose the injury. Normally a debilitating accident for any athlete or performer, Gargi not only survived it, but continued dancing. 

Bharatanatyam, while certainly beautiful, with its long fluid movements and rhythmic arcs of dance, is tough on the legs. Dancing in this style involves complex footwork, usually with the female dancer being crouched or poised on the balls of her feet. Gargi knew this would be difficulty with her injury, and yet could not stop dancing. “Every now and then, my right leg used to dislocate. Every time [this happened] I would have a blackout and have to bring my leg back to its normal position,” she recalled. “It became part of my life, but I never stopped dancing.”

Sixteen years ago Gargi moved to America. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Bharatanatyam and continued performing a variety of dances, including Bollywood Freestyle and semi-classical, on top of her normal routines. She also became an IT professional, a wife, a mother of two, and a resident of Plano, all while still dancing and performing in competitions around the country.

While it seemed like her original ACL injury was a thing of the past, disaster unfortunately struck again. While on vacation she dislocated her right leg once more. This time she finally had the medical tools at her disposal necessary to diagnose what the issue was all along. An MRI determined her ACL required immediate reconstruction. During her recovery Gargi developed blood clots that hindered her healing time. 

Her injuries ultimately did not stop her from dancing. “I did not lose hope, but fought through the odds. I have not only started walking back again, but have started full-fledged dancing once again,” she said.

Gargi shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. She won Best Dancer at the Dance USA Dance Dallas competition this past April, and will be competing in the upcoming Gee Vision & Zee TV’s International Indian Icon Competition.

For Gargi, a life without performing seems impossible. “When I dance, I get lost in the world of dance and music,” she explained.

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