In the footsteps of her Guru in the Department of Dance

Update: 2018-12-25 00:00 GMT

Hyderabad-based dancer hailing from Kerala, Sneha Sasikumar is a young talented artist, an exponent of Kuchipudi dance with a performing career spanning over 10 years. She is also the Research Scholar in the Department of Dance, SN School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad. She recently presented conceptual theme “Sringaarasamanvayam” at the India International Centre New Delhi upon invite. The production had six independent pieces dealing with the six Sringara bhavas in Kuchipudi. She says, “The audience responses were so heart-warming; they all loved the performance and appreciated the new choreographies.”

Sneha like classical dance since her childhood. She says, “I started learning dance at the age of 4 under Guru Prakash and Kalamandalam Rama learning different art forms like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali at a very tender age. I was a state winner of the youth festivals held in Kerala. Later at the age of 12, I understood that Kuchipudi was my forte. And My parents and I started to enquire about Padmabhushan Guru Vempati China Sathyam and his Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai.”

She says it was not an easy task for her, “As Academy followed a Gurukula system of education where we must cook our own food, sleep on a mat etc it was initially very challenging to the 12-year-old me. And the most depressing thing was that I had to unlearn whatever I learnt until then in the name of Kuchipudi from Kerala. The hectic and heavy practise session made me week as well. We had to practice for 8-10 hours a day. Still, I struggled and continued there. My Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar and Vedanta Ramu trained me in such a way that those practise sessions were a turning point in my life and career. But, after 2010, I couldn’t go that frequently to the Academy. My Guru suggested me to continue under Guru Anupama Mohan in Kerala for the time being. Later, I went back to train under Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar till his demise in 2017.”

How did you balance studies and dance? She says, “With the help of my parents, friends and teachers I could manage really well. I got 96% in my 12th grade and graduated with 96% in Chemistry. I did my post-graduation at the University of Hyderabad in performing arts and was top scorer in the Kuchipudi stream. After clearing the UGC NET and qualifying for Assistant Professorship I am doing my PhD under Prof Aruna Bhikshu at the University with JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) from UGC.” She adds, “Kuchipudi is more graceful, fluid and it has more of natural abhinaya (lokadharmi) when compared to Bharatanatyam or Mohiniyattam. And I feel my body compliments The Kuchipudi movements more than other art forms.” Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar has always been her inspiration, she says, “I always strive to maintain the genre of Kuchipudi and the style of Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar even when trying new themes and productions.”

BY Askari Jaffer

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