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Engineer Embraces the Artist Within

Priya Shah ’16 ME (right) with Kahini, a professional dancer.
Priya Shah ’16 ME (right) with Kahini, a professional dancer.

Villanova, Pa. - It’s not every day you see a Mechanical Engineering major dancing at the Indian Oscar awards in Tampa, Florida. In April, however, Priya Shah ’16 was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to share the stage with some of the nation's best dancers as part of a celebration of Bollywood’s biggest stars. Her “dreams came true” when she learned she was one of only 18 dancers selected—from more than 5,000 applicants—to become a background dancer for the Iifa Awards production, also known as the “Indian Oscars.”

Despite a week of training in Florida before the show, during a particularly busy time in her Villanova courses, Priya admits she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “We were performing with the dance company of Shiamak Davar, a famous choreographer from Canada,” explains Priya. “He personally supervised our training.” The week proved to be both physically and mentally exhausting, with a normal day beginning at 8:00 a.m. and lasting until three in the morning, but Priya has no regrets: “I still have trouble believing that I had the opportunity to meet such great people, including the movie stars that I grew up watching, and that I was able to work with some of the best choreographers and dancers from India. This experience was one of the greatest of my entire life.”

Priya has been dancing since third grade, and enjoys a wide variety of forms, from hip-hop and contemporary dance to Bollywood and Bhangra. When asked why she chose to major in engineering, she said: “I love physics as much as I love dancing, and I knew that at a school such as Villanova, I could do both. As the captain of the fusion dance team, Nova Nassa, I get to choreograph, while my internship as the project manager for the College’s Roboboat/RobotX team puts my engineering skills to work.” Priya notes that through her experiences this year she has learned a lot about herself, “I have many goals set for myself, but I plan to take each challenge as it comes, embracing every opportunity that comes my way.”  

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.