Kuchipudi dancer Koka Vijayalakshmi, who has two decades of dancing experience, speaking to Natyahasini, says that as the world experiences change daily, so does Kuchipudi art form. “Lot of changes are happening in Kuchipudi dance too, in terms of technique and presentations. To enthral the Rasikas, our artistes are using colourful costumes, lighting techniques and stage props,” she says. The dancer says that she uses projector presentations along with dance. “I take care not to disturb the theme and dance choreography,” says the versatile dancer.
Vijayalakshmi reminisces that in her childhood, students used to practice for hours together while singing on their own. “Dance programmes were also done with live music and with the Guru on the Nattuvangam. Now, situations have changed. Live orchestra and Guru’s presence has been replaced by digital recordings,” she says. The Kuchipudi practitioner stayed at her guru’s home and learnt dance. “Our gurus were very generous. I am happy that even today, we can see dedicated students pursuing dance education simultaneously with their academics. But they are not serious like us to take it up as a profession,” she says with anguish. Quickly adding that she also doesn’t advise them due to economic uncertainty in this field. “But few of them continue dancing along with their jobs and career. I am happy for that,” she says.
Remembering her learning days under Guru K.V. Subrahmanyam Garu, Vijayalakshmi credits her guru of her standing in today’s world. “Guru Garu taught with lot of concern, and his patience was awesome. Even today, he is always available to share knowledge, discuss and clarify about dance with his students. We had a great Guru – Shishya bond. His analysis of every aspect during my dance training helped me to become a successful choreographer,” the winner of two Nandi award says.
50 students in Chirala: A full-time professional dancer since 2001, with a dancing school set up in mana Hyderabad in 2008, Koka Vijayalakshmi established a branch of the dance school in Chirala, her hometown, three years ago. “I have 50 students in Chirala and few of them are ready to appear for Certificate exam this year,” she says. Vijayalakshmi states that before the pandemic she travelled every week to Chirala to take classes and doesn’t believe in appointing assistants to teach in her absence. “I am missing my students who are unable to attend online classes in Chirala and in Hyderabad. I hope this situation passes soon,” she says.
The Hyderabad-based dancer established Sri KRKM Memorial Academy of Fine Arts in the memory of her father, Late Sri Koka Radha Krishna Murthy garu as he was an art lover and very fond of classical dance. “My father encouraged and supported me to learn dance. Now, it is an established academy and is working in many activities like producing dance ballets, book publishing, conducting seminars and workshops on dance, music and literature,” says the artist. In 2014, Vijayalakshmi founded Bharata Rangasthali Academy of Fine Arts along with some of her co-artistes in Hyderabad. “They are all from other disciplines of dance. We wish to promote Indian culture and dances in Telangana. We performed a dance ballet on ‘Stalwarts of Telangana’ titled ‘Telangana Bharathi’. We have published a book – ‘Bhogini Dandakam’ and are working on a periodic theme ballet ‘Sarvagna Singabhupala’. Also, conducting dance competitions annually to encourage students and upcoming artists,” she says.
Enlightening on her two Nandi awards, the dancer clarifies that these were TV Nandi awards given to programmes telecast on TV. “I recorded videos of five of my dance ballets and released to the public and two of them were telecast on TV, which fetched me honours. Firstly, I got Golden Nandi for Best Documentary Telefilm for my dance ballet Telugu Prasasti (a story based on the 3000 years antiquity of Telugu Language). The second Nandi award was for costume designing for my dance ballet Raiturayala Swarnacharitam,” she says.