Every human being is indebted to his/her Guru and parents, who have held his/her hand and raised them to be what they are in their chosen field. Fullerton, CA, based Hymavathi Voleti, student of Padma Shri Late Dr. Sobha Naidu garu, is keeping the Kuchipudi art flag flying high through her dance school, Shobha Mirai School of Dance. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Kuchipudi dancer Hymavathi Voleti, who moved to the US after her marriage, states that she started her dance school, Shobha Mirai School of Dance in Hyderabad. “After completing my post-graduation, I realized my passion for teaching Kuchipudi to the upcoming generation and decided to start my own dance school, Shobha Mirai School of Dance. It was a long-awaited dream come true for me which wouldn’t have been possible without my husband’s support and encouragement,” she says.
On the naming of the school, Hymavathi says: “Shobha Mirai, was chosen in honour of my guru, who had inspired and guided me in my dance journey. Shobha means Bright, and Mirai in Japanese means Future, reflecting the essence of the school’s vision to bring brightness to the future generations through the art of dance.” The Sobha Naidu student who currently resides in the United States continues to offer both online and in-person classes. “My ultimate objective is to spread the art of Kuchipudi globally, as, I had promised my guru, through Shobha Mirai School of Dance,” she confesses.
Dance Scenario: On the Indian dance scenario in the Western world, Hymavathi states that there is different perspective on Indian classical dance, especially Kuchipudi, which was not as widely recognized. “However, I persisted and continued to practice and perform whenever I could. I began performing at some local events and community festivals, and soon, people began to take notice. They were drawn to the beauty and complexity of the dance, and were fascinated by the rich cultural history behind it. I began to receive invitations to conduct workshops and teach Kuchipudi Dance,” she says. The Kuchipudi dancer mentions that she has had the utmost pleasure of enthralling the art lovers at the Telugu Association of Southern California’s (TASC) Golden Jubilee Celebrations, as well as performing during the Kalyanotsavam on Sri Rama Navami at Siva Kameswari Temple, Costa Mesa, CA and at Radha Raman Vedic Temple, Fullerton, CA for Janmashtami.
“Of course, it hasn’t always been an easy journey. There have been times when I have felt homesick, or when I have struggled to make ends meet. Nevertheless, my husband has been instrumental in helping me achieve my dreams, and I’m grateful for that,” she admits.
Initiations Into Dance: Recalling her dance journey, Hymavathi says that she began learning dance at the age of ten, when she was in 3rd grade. “I was introduced to Kuchipudi by my grandmother at Dr. Sobha Naidu’s Srinivasa Kuchipudi Art Academy. Initially, I only pursued it as a hobby, but I owe my current success in the field to the unwavering support of my mother, Lakshmi Prasuna and my grandmother, Gowri Palakodeti, who stood behind me as pillars throughout my dancing journey and pushed me to attend classes every day. I wouldn’t be where I am today, if not for them. Gradually, I developed a strong interest in Kuchipudi, particularly after watching my guru, Sobha Naidu garu, perform on stage and in class during rehearsals,” says the founder of Sobha Mirai School of Dance.
Learning under the tutelage of Dr. Sobha Naidu garu, Hymavathi says, “It was truly a blessing.” The dancer confesses that her Guru’s dedication, love and passion for arts was extremely contagious and inspiring. “She was more than a teacher to me. She was like a guide, mother and a friend to all her students. She had a knack for bringing out the best in each of her students, and was always there to offer support and encouragement. She strongly instilled in me a sense of discipline, respect and dedication which are integral to the practice of the art form. Her presence has always created a warm and welcoming environment in the academy to all her students.”
Unique Bond With Sobha Garu: Hymavathi acknowledges, she has a very special and unique bond with her teacher, Sobha Naidu garu, and cherishes every single moment spent with her. “She would often express her fondness towards me by saying: ‘I wish I had a daughter like you’ and I am truly grateful for that. She has always cared for me like a mother, be it inside or outside the academy, providing guidance throughout every stage of my life. The memories of traveling with her for outstation programs, times spent with her during recording sessions, discussing arts and many other random things are my most prized possessions and extremely valuable to me,” says the Natya Sharada awardee.
Reliving her dance performances in the Nawabi city, Hymavathi says that she incredibly honoured to have had the opportunity to perform in Hyderabad, a city known for its rich cultural heritage, literature, and fine arts. “As a person who was born and raised in Hyderabad, performing on various stages and prestigious festivals has been a dream come true. Especially presenting my arangetram at Ravindra Bharati, a stage that has seen several legendary artists, was an incredible privilege. The feeling of being part of such a rich legacy is indescribable. Over the years, I have been grateful to perform in various parts of India and each experience has been truly rewarding. Hyderabad city holds a special place in my heart, and it is always a pleasure to showcase my talent to the rasikas of this city,” she says.
Source Of Enjoyment: The US-based artist finds performing abhinaya pieces to be a great source of enjoyment. “One of the most rewarding experiences as a dancer is when the audience connects to my storytelling. When I perform, and I can see the audience reacting to my expressions and gestures, it brings me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. It’s a beautiful feeling to know that I have been able to evoke emotions in the audience through my performance,” says the young dancer.
According to Hymavathi her Rangapravesam was a significant milestone in her dancing journey, which taught her the importance of commitment, discipline, stage presence and confidence. “The entire process of preparing for my Rangapravesam was a challenging yet rewarding experience that will stay with me for a lifetime,” she says.
Whether it was essential to pursue academics in dance for a performance, Hymavathi says that it is not necessarily required to have a degree to become a successful dancer. “In fact, many dancers have found success without any formal education, relying on their natural talent and years of dedication and practice. However, pursuing a degree can be a valuable experience. In my case, pursuing a Master’s in Dance has had a significant impact on my skills,” she says and quickly adding: “Not only did it provide me with a more thorough understanding of the technical aspects of dance, but it also gave me a deeper appreciation for the art form as a whole. Through my studies, I was able to explore different dance styles, learn about the history of dance, and gain a greater understanding of how dance can be used as a form of expression.”
An Essential Part: The Kuchipudi dancer owns up that dance has become an essential part of her existence that even a mere thought of life without it is inconceivable. “However, if not dance, I would probably have learned Carnatic music, as it is something that strongly appeals to me and acquiring music knowledge could also benefit my dancing skills. As a matter of fact, I actually regret not having learned music along with my dancing training,” she says.
At the Shobha Mirai School of Dance, currently, there are only Indian students, most of them Indians born and raised in the USA, and Hymavathi Voleti is looking forward to sharing the beauty of Kuchipudi with the world.