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Duckling to the Danseuse

Duckling to the Danseuse
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Coming from a typical Tam-Bram family, Smitha Madhav recalls her interesting sojourn from a 'weakling' who was sent to learn dance as the teacher...

Coming from a typical Tam-Bram family, Smitha Madhav recalls her interesting sojourn from a 'weakling' who was sent to learn dance as the teacher would teach only if there were three students, and she was the third one! L Sailaja Kumar Dance and music were and are as important as education itself. Holding a degree in Law, and amply endowed with 'gift of gab', this youngster has already carved out a niche for herself in the world of music and dance. In a chat with Hans India, she shares her nostalgic connection with cities that bred her- Hyderabad and Chennai which impregnated her with purest art form called dance.
What were your Bala Raamayanam experiences, did it help you grow as dancer?
sumithaRamayanam was like dream. The excitement of taking off from school, being surrounded by many friends, dressing up in princess like costumes, people pampering us (though mom always balanced things out on that front and never let me become spoilt) was heady! Though I really never understood the magnitude of that project back then, in hindsight I feel that those days laid the foundation for many of the things I did later in life. Plus the recognition I got as a result of working in that film gave my dancing and singing career a significant fillip. Are you involved in any other social service/ cause-oriented projects? My family is deeply involved in charity and philanthropy. My father often quotes Swami Vivekananda "he alone lives who lives for others; the rest are as good as dead" and this has been a major influence in my brother's and my life and so whether it's a birthday or an anniversary, an educational cause or a social cause, we try to contribute our mite. In this area, a memorable milestone was my 2007 tour of USA when I toured about 30 cities in the USA and rendered around 45 recitals to raise funds for differently abled children of the Vegesna Foundation. Though an immensely challenging and hectic tour, the fact that I was able to help the less fortunate ones in a small way, made this tour memorable and satisfying
Do you run a dance school?
I do and it's called Varna Arts Foundation. Though I would not like to call myself a 'guru' since I am too young and inexperienced to call myself one, in all humility I teach my kids (students) what my gurus taught me. I make a conscious effort to groom them in both theoretical and practical aspects. I also try to be a "fun" teacher and reach out to the kids like a caring older sister rather than a stiff and forbidding mentor.
In this era of classical dance not really being regarded as 'cool', how do manage to hold friendships, obviously in your peer?
Actually, dancers and singers nowadays are not really considered "un cool". We are probably seen as being a little" exotic" but people actually admire and appreciate what we do and who we are . Plus, artists today are pretty "normal" in every which way! We manage to handle a tambura and an iPhone both with equal ease and are able to sustain our friendships and relationships with non-artists also with ease and élan
Apart from your mom, who are your mentors?
sumitha maThere are many mentors who guide me, many who do not voluntarily teach or advise me, but whose lives and thoughts serve as a great source of inspiration and guidance for me and yet many more whom I have never seen and who do not know me, but whose lives I try to emulate and seek inspiration from ( the great stalwarts of the past are in the third category) in fact, I strongly believe that there is something to learn from everyone and therefore consciously keep my mind open to inputs from multiple sources.
How functional do you think your plan B -of looking at Law as another career option--would be?
A lawyer by qualification, I chose not to pursue a legal career in order to be able to devote my 100% to dance and music. While I do not see myself embracing Law as a career in the near future, one can never tell what the future holds in store for us. I do really love the legal profession and still enjoy reading law articles and journals.
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