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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Teacher not only teaches but also learns from students: Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Reddy

Born to Kuchipudi exponents, Dr Raja and Radha Reddy, she admits that even as a young dancer, right from the time she debuted, there was always an expectation to measure up to their (parents’) standards. “But people never realized that my parents are who they are from years of experience, performance, hard work, and dedication. And my sister and I were youngsters, before we could achieve that, we were already being compared with them. So, that was a little tough in the beginning. It has been many years now – I think I have established myself and such things don’t bother me anymore,” Yamini Reddy, a three-time National award-winning Kuchipudi dancer tells IANS.

The dancer, who debuted on stage at the age of three, recently presented her ‘An Evening of Storytelling’ at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai.

Looking forward to presenting Kuchipudi to a younger, discerning audience, she decided to bring forth several unique aspects of the dance form in order to bring out the storytelling aspect. Considering Kuchipudi is a combination of the theatre form and temple dances, it boasts length and breadth to present various ideas, and storytelling comes very naturally to it.

“Considering it has episodes, vachika abhinayam, dialogues, characterization, natyam – all things that lend themselves so easily to storytelling, and I thought of presenting an evening of storytelling where I can use all the unique features of Kuchipudi dance to tell beautiful stories which are old – like ethics and puranas from Bhagavatam, but are very much relevant to our lives today.”

For someone who has collaborated with Leah Curtis (‘Harmony’) and dancers Gopika Varma, Krithika Subramaniam, and actress Suhasini in ‘Antaram’, they (collaborations) are a great learning experience as they open many possibilities to learn.  “It is a lot of fun, learning, and adds to my experience, definitely making me a  better artist.”

Talk to her about reactions from purists and she asserts that the same depends on how it is presented. Stressing that she does not like to tamper with the art form and collaborates only when she feels for it, Reddy adds, “I would never do one just for the sake of it! As for purists, I do not think it matters much if you do the presentation well if your collaboration is well-thought-out and all the nuances have been taken into consideration, and if it presents the correct sensitivities.”

Even as several classical artists stress the need for improvisation in the guru-shishya parampara, the dancer feels in contemporary times, the methods of teaching have changed. Also, it is no longer a case when the student would live with the teacher and learn constantly from her/him.

“Already, teachers teach about two-three times a week and students take classes after school or as an extra-curricular activity. So, keeping in view lifestyle changes, we definitely have to adjust accordingly in our teaching methodology. Having said that, it is a beautiful age-old form of teaching… if one does get the opportunity to learn like that, it makes little sense to miss it.”

Natya Tarangini was set up by her parents in 1976 in New Delhi to teach Kuchipudi dance but since then it has grown to encompass all activities related to the promotion of art and music. When the young dancer decided to move to Hyderabad in 2007, she set up her own branch there with the same name and has been teaching youngsters Kuchipudi for the past 16 years.

“It is a new dimension that opened up for me and I got to learn a lot. As a teacher, you not only teach but also learn from your students.”

Though completely focused on taking her art as far as she can, in the future, Reddy would like to participate a lot more in the policy-making side of the arts. “I would like to contribute to having a thriving system in place for art. That is something I would like to do for my community going forward.”

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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