Bharatanatyam dancer Maithri Rao, who originally hails from Bengaluru, and has made Hyderabad her home after marriage, has been lighting up the stage across the Nawabi City and mesmerised the Hyderabadis when she appeared alongside Kuchipudi dancer Amy Kumar and Bharatanatyam dancer Nenita Praveen in Bharatanatyam dancer Kiranmayee Madupu’s Tarakita advertisement. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Maithri Rao says: “Hyderabad is very welcoming and also, the art community is very welcoming and collaborates with a lot of artists.”
Maithri as the name suggests friendly is really a friendly person. She says that when she moved to the city, it was tough times. “When I moved in, pandemic had struck and it made it harder. But the brighter side was making inroads with the art and the community,” she says. She shares that during the pandemic she held online classes and had over 40 students and even today some of them prefer online classes as it saves time. “For students in Bengaluru, I still hold online classes – a Google Classroom and visit them every two months for physical classes. The online classes are for senior dancers and not for beginners as they have to watch and learn,” she clarifies.
An engineer, who worked with Nokia for two years in the Garden City, quit her job to follow her passion. “I was not getting any time to practice, while working. With support from my family, I quit my tech job and established my institute ‘Shivansh School of Dance’ in 2017 in Bangalore,” the Bharatanatyam dancer says. Maithri’s Shivansh became a brand in two years and a regular income followed.
Life Lessons: The dancer, with two-decades of experience, confesses that the joys of dancing have taught her a lot more than her academics. “Life lessons were more in dance,” she acknowledges. Recalling an incident etched in memory, Maithri says: “I had a tough time when I was in Class XII. I had multiple fractures and was laid up in bed for three to four months. Doctors had then told me that I could not dance. But looking at my recovery, the doctors gave me a go ahead and with passing of time, today I am a dancer and teacher.”
Maithri, who hails from Dharmasthala in Karnataka, and speaks Tulu, says that music flows in the family. “Since childhood, at home, everybody is into singing Carnatic music. But after I participated in a community event in Tumkur, my mother Sobha and Kasturi aunty pushed me into learning a classical dance, Bharatanatyam, at the age of eight under the guidance of Guru Rohini Ananth at Swaralaya School of Performing Arts, Vyalikaval, Bangalore,” she says. The Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher says that after her father, who had a transferable job moved to Mysore, she then began training under Guru Badari Divya Bhushan and Guru Dr. Anjana Bhushan of Bhushans’ Academy of Performing Arts and Visual Presentation, Mysore.
The dancer, who made her Arangetram debut on 31 October 2010, has completed her state-level Bharatanatyam Junior, Senior and Vidwat Grade examination. Apart from her skills in Bharatanatyam, Maithri also holds a Diploma in Movement Arts from Attakkalari, Bangalore, and skilled herself in many dance forms such as Contemporary, Kalaripayattu and Chhau. “During my study in Attakkalari, I trained in Bharatanatyam under Guru Minal Prabhu,” she says.
Won Laurels: Maithri, who has been honoured with the National Nrithya Mani award by the Utkal Yuva Samskruthik Sangh, was declared winner in the Jaya TV programme – Tha Ka Di Mi Tha. Also, she has participated in ‘India has got talent’, a reality show in Colours Channel. The dancer feels it is time to draw the young audience to cultural programmes. With this in mind, under the banner of Shivansh School of Dance, she has started telling stories in a different way. “We recently did a narration of Homam – complete with Vedas, rituals, music, within the vocabulary of Bharatanatyam,” says the dancer. She shares, her production Nari, on women empowerment, where a girl dreams of being a pilot was very clear even to a six-year-old.
The founder of Shivansh has hand-picked senior classical dancers with an experience of five years to narrate four stories in a different way titled ‘Streets Of India’. “The dancers from the city include Tanushri Pembarthi, R Sanjana, Maneesh M, Megha Vijayan, Sivaganga, Gopika P, Akshara, Smitha Ramanna, and Sonia Sony,” she says. The programme was slated for the first week of July, but got postponed, and rasikas must keep a watch on the announcement of the new date to watch the exciting presentation and witness her young students perform.
Maithri, who models for friends, like the Tarikita shoot, is a winner of several international awards for her first dance film – My First Chair. “I did this in 2021 and it is how a person is very much attached to their first chair, all in Bharatanatyam vocabulary. This film won me lot of recognition at international fora and six awards too,” she states.