Ravi Narayan poses with his two partners – his wife Synthia Sumukti and daughter Prita Narayan, at the 2022 Nationals. Both partnerships dance four styles. Photo courtesy of Synthia Sumukti.
Ravi Narayan poses with his two partners – his wife Synthia Sumukti and daughter Prita Narayan, at the 2022 Nationals. Both partnerships dance four styles. Photo courtesy of Synthia Sumukti.

It takes THREE to Tango!

By Ravi Narayan and Synthia Sumukti
Contributing Author
When partners are scarce, one family makes it work!

It was wonderful to compete once again as a family at USA Dance Nationals 2022 in Pittsburgh, April 1-3, and see many of our friends and fellow competitors.  Dancing in all four styles over three days was grueling, but the enthusiasm that the Collegiate dancers brought to Nationals gave us the extra energy boost.

Our introduction to ballroom dance started when we (Synthia and Ravi) enrolled in a ballroom dance class at a local high school for social dancing soon after our second daughter was born.  Thirteen years earlier when we had our first daughter, we had put our life on hold like many other parents.  However, with our second daughter, Prita, we decided that we were no longer going to repeat that pattern.  Enrolling in a ballroom class without a babysitter meant that Prita had to accompany us to all our dance classes (with a bag full of coloring books and quiet toys).  This was the beginning of our ballroom journey as a family.

A few years later in 2011, we entered our first local competition to keep up the motivation and challenge ourselves.  By this time, we had also cofounded the Honolulu Chapter USA Dance K-12 program with Prita as one of our students.  In 2015, we decided to enter our first USA Dance Nationals competition.  Although Prita was also interested in competing, finding a competitive ballroom dance partner for her turned out to be an impossible task.  The only viable option available was for Ravi to partner her and compete at the Adult age level.  Based on existing USA Dance rules, this required us (Synthia and Ravi) to dance down at the Senior I level despite us being Senior III dancers.  This arrangement has continued with the three of us competing as separate partnerships in Adult and Senior I. 

Traveling thousands of miles from Hawaii to any USA Dance competition is always a challenge.  This became more complicated when Prita enrolled at the University of Minnesota.  Coordinating practice time 4000 miles apart during a school year was quite interesting!  Choreographies in all four styles sometimes had to be learned over a weekend.  Competition practice was often limited to the night before the competition.

Competing as a family has also been a very a rewarding experience.  It has allowed us as a family to have a common interest with our daughter through her teenage and young adult life.  Every dance competition is now a family event.  We have many more things to share and talk about together.  Synthia and Prita share tips and ideas on make-up, hair, and costumes.  For Ravi, dancing back-to-back heats with up to 20 Adult/Collegiate couples on the dance floor requires more stamina and has allowed him to discover muscles that he never knew existed.  

For Synthia and Ravi, our current challenge is having to compete at the Senior I level well below our Senior III age level.  We are hoping for a USA Dance rule change that would allow each couple to decide their own skill and age level based on each partnership.  This could potentially bring in more competitor couples by allowing interested seasoned Senior competitors to partner with Youth students or other beginner dancers who otherwise would never have the opportunity to compete. 

As for our experience in Pittsburgh, as “Day Three” came to an end, it was late night speed-packing followed by a 3 a.m. drive to the airport for our long 16-hour trip back to Honolulu.  Despite the hectic competition schedule, we had a blast at Nationals 2022 and are grateful to all the volunteers for a well-organized event.  Our family hopes to be back again in 2023!

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