Bharatanatyam dancer Chaithanya Kusuma Priya Ari was put into dance classes by her parents, mother Smt. Geeta and father Late Sri Krishna Murthy at the age of five years, where a child doesn’t know what interest means or what a dance means. “I just joined the class like any other child without any idea of what’s happening,” she confesses, speaking to Natyahasini. The Director of Naada Mudra School of Dance & Music, says that after certain age, when she started giving performances and participating in competitions, with the encouragement of parents, friends and family appreciation she felt happy. “Appreciations gave me strength and I am happy continuing this journey till date, achieving Guinness Book of World Records too,” she says.
Chaithanya says that in 2008, she got a break in dance where she graduated with an Engineering degree and started working. “I couldn’t continue working, as I always felt something was missing within me. Then I realised, I am not myself without dance.”
Learning Odissi too: After making Hyderabad her home, Chaithanya, who initially began advance learning of Bharatanatyam under Guru Swathi Mahalakshmi Kukrety, is now learning Odissi too under Guru Swati. “It’s totally upside down for me. Initially found it very difficult, especially technicalities of Odissi like Chauka, Tribhangi and unique torso movement. But on practice, I have got used to it. Now I am able to catch it quickly. Thanks to Swathi Akka for explaining to me so patiently each and every move until I am able to do and practice on my own. Practice is the key here, because if a dancer is doing a wrong posture or a movement the body gets used to that wrong move,” she says. Whether she was giving any Odissi performance, Chaithanya says: “Not immediately, but I will definitely be doing only when my Guru says I am ready for a performance.”
Speaking about her Gurus, Chaithanya says that she began her initial training under Guru Smt. Sashikala garu in her hometown Tirupati. “From basics till completion of Masters in Bharatanatyam, I was under Guru Sri Chennamsetty Haranath garu in Tirupati. After settling down in Hyderabad, I joined Prachya Bharathi Centre for performing Arts and got vigorous training in Bharatanatyam under the guidance Guru Smt. Swathi Mahalakshmi Kukrety garu. But due to the pandemic from 2020, couldn’t continue my Bharatanatyam classes with Swathi Akka. I started learning Nattuvangam from Guru Sri RLV Hemanth Lekshman (from 2019 December), Kerala. Though Swathi Akka advised me to join Hemanth Sir for Bharatanatyam, I want to pursue this art form under her only. Currently, on my request, Swathi Akka is teaching me Odissi,” says the dancer.
Ups & Downs: About her dance journey, Chaithanya says, so far so good. “But of course, like any other field there were ups and downs in my journey as well but I have no regrets. It doesn’t matter how deep you fall, what matters is how high you bounce back. I was able to do so because of good support and guidance by my other half Ratnakar, who has always been there for every step I take.”
The dancer guides students in their certifications depending on whatever they choose. “As a matter of fact, some of my students have started preparing for examinations. But whether you have certifications or not, learning is very important. I believe that there is only starting point for knowledge, there is no end. That is why I am still a student and will always be. In each class, I learn something new. Thanks to all my Gurus for all their lessons,” she states.
Chaithanya is very lucky and blessed to have wonderful parents, husband and in-laws, who issued a no objection certificate for her to pursue a career in dance. “Art in any form must be encouraged and must be given importance. Parents must inculcate the interest of dance and music in children from a young age. How they perceive it and how they keep the interest within is up to them as they grow. But in my opinion, I think every child must try to learn an art form it teaches them the purpose of life,” says the dancer.
Wanna Perform in Chidambaram: The Bharatanatyam dancer is open to performing Solos and Ballets. “Both are challenging,” she says. Her favourite place of performance is Tirumala. “But I would love to perform in Chidambaram in the presence of Lord Shiva, my most favourite deity,” she says.
Speaking about life during the Pandemic, Chaithanya says that it was a lucky time for her. “When the Pandemic started, my baby was eight months old and I slowly started my practice and got to participate in the 50 Jatis challenge which was conceptualized, composed, choreographed and conducted by Kalaimamani Guru Sri Madurai Ramachandra Muralidharan Garu for India and Asia Book of Records along with another 135 other dancers all over the globe,” the dancer says.