Paying it Forward with Dance

January 15, 2019 | Smile Train

Lakshmi Swaminathan trained in the South Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam, in her hometown of Calcutta, India. Lakshmi was a gifted student and her talents allowed her to perform around the world. 

Smile Train dance fundraiser

In 2003, Lakshmi wanted to give children in Maryland the same opportunity that she had, so she established the Natananjali School of Dance. She said, “This dance form has been taught from teacher to student for generations and I’m glad to bring that tradition to the United States.”

The school thrived, and students have performed for multiple times for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and even at the White House in 2010.

Smile Train dance fundraiser

The highlight of each year is the annual showcase, which gives students a chance to show off the skills they learned that year to parents and community members. Lakshmi donates the funds raised for the event each year as a way to thank her community for another successful year and to pay her blessings forward. “We are all so privileged and I donate these funds to teach my students that they should help others who aren’t as lucky. Hopefully, it’s is a lesson which they will also carry forward as adults.”

This year, Lakshmi was inspired to choose Smile Train as the organization of choice because she and her husband have been supporters for years and because of a special student. She said of her inspiration, “I have a young student who has had reconstructive lip surgery. Her emotive smile is an inspiration while she dances — I want all children to smile with the same joy.”

Smile Train dance fundraiser

The event was a smashing success and students of all ages showed of their skills. As a way to raise even more funds for Smile Train, Lakshimi’s sister-in-law Vara sold framed artwork and friend Swetha sold handmade jewelry.

When all was said and done, and donations were counted, The Natananjali School of Dance raised the funds to help 11 children receive the gift of a forever smile. Lakshmi is incredibly proud of how well her students performed and the amount they were able to raise. “Breathing and eating are essential for survival and when I think of the many children born with clefts around the world for whom it is a daily struggle, it breaks my heart. This gift will be a life altering experience for these children.”


Visit the Students page of our site to learn more about how your school can help create smiles.

Photos courtesy of Siva Sottallu.