Hailing from the Gadicherla family of Carnatic musicians, where grandmother, aunt, sister and cousins are all singers, who have composed and performed on the All India Radio, Sneha Gadicherla Ramchander walked the path of Dance and Nrutya Sangeetam. “Music and Dance is a way of communication to express yourself and connect to God, I chose Dance,” says the passionate Kuchipudi dancer Sneha Ramchander, in a chat with Natyahasini.
Initiated into dance at the tender age of four-and-a-half-years by her mother, under Guru Basha, Sneha didn’t know the difference between Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi and also learnt folk and western at the same time. It was only after moving to Hyderabad, armed with a Civil Engineering degree and a job, Sneha began the hunt for a Kuchipudi guru after watching some shows and videos of Padma Bhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam garu and his disciples, grasping clarity in the beauty and style of the Kuchipudi art form.
“Seeking knowledge in both classical dance forms is a gift which helped me to differentiate and understand deeply the nuances of Naatyasastra and its practical applications where I found ‘Vaachikaabhinaya’ in Kuchipudi dance style adding a beauty to this form,” says Sneha. She found Master garu’s elder daughter Smt. Kameshwari garu teaching Kuchipudi and joined her classes. “After joining, I started enjoying learning their style in detail along with theoretical aspects, which enthused me to continue in Kuchipudi, performed at many prestigious dance festivals and also finished Certification and Master’s in Performing Arts from Sri Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University under the guidance of Smt. Padma Kalyani garu,” confesses the dancer.
Many Thoughts: Excited on the first day of joining Kameshwari ma’am’s class, many thoughts crossed Sneha’s mind, whether she could balance passion and work, as all art forms need not only interest, but also dedication, respect and discipline too. The Civil Engineer adds that her Guru was very supportive watching her keenness. “After marriage and baby, I didn’t face any problem in continuing my passion and took a maternity break for two years. I regularly travelled to the Academy by public transport as our house was almost 20 kms far. I used to take my three-year-old son along for classes and practice sessions, and Kameshwari ma’am used to treat him like her grandchild, he also started learning slokas there,” she remembers with affection. In her dance journey, after her parents, the dancer credits her husband K Ramchander and son K Toshan Shouraya, who have been a great support and her husband has stepped in to take charge whenever she is busy with programmes and classes.
“Most prestigious and memorable events were Master garu’s birthday celebrations annually in Kuchipudi village (place of birth of Kuchipudi), Guinness Book of World Records, my first solo performance in Thygaraja Gana Sabha in the presence of chief guest K Rosiah garu, Bharateeyam Satya Vani garu, to name a few,” says the dancer. She acknowledges that learning Kuchipudi under a traditional Kuchipudi family teaches one many things – dedication, discipline, respect, hard work and to mingle as a family.
Parampara: Sneha reiterates that the Guru-Shishya parampara is a unique and old tradition which everyone needs to follow. “Present teachers should pass on this to younger generation. Bonding between guru and shishya is the most important thing, and one must have dedication and belief in one’s Guru” she says, quickly adding that consistency is another factor which is missing among present day students.
Founder of Sri Datta Kuchipudi Academy, Sneha says that she was never serious about teaching until friend’s children asked. “One day, one of my friend’s kids expressed their interest in learning dance, shared the opinion with my guru, and first thing she told me was “As you are passionate, disciplined and dedicated student, try to pass on my father’s traditional style so that others get an opportunity in learning, but always keep in mind that it’s a big responsibility and should be taken care off.” It was then that I started teaching and now we have nearly 90 students,” says Sneha.
The Kuchipudi dancer states that she trains students for Certifications. “I make sure kids understand the importance of both theory and practical, as most of them in present generation think that dance is all about giving performances. One should understand that theory of Naatyasastra is the base for all these dance forms. So, I prepare them accordingly syllabus wise, so that they get strong knowledge. Almost seven of my students secured distinction in the exams, and others first class,” she says with pride.
Learning Music: On realising the importance of Music in Dance, Sneha again started learning Music from Guru Dr. Deeptha Ruba Sundaram and Indira Govardhanam garu. “My masters in Kuchipudi also helped me to understand the subject of Nrutya Sangeetam deeply. Though, I have never given any performances in music, I’m happy that I’m able to sing and do Nattuvangam for my students as part of live orchestra during dance programmes,” says Sneha.
The district-level hockey player says compared to when she started dancing, presently there are many opportunities. “Love towards the art forms and artists has increased definitely, but has been commercialised. Standards need to be maintained to perform on big stages. But in one way happy that most of them are showing interest in learning traditional art forms and many organisations have come up. One should surely welcome new change and innovations, but ensure that they are followed within the limitations of the sastra, without sacrificing the fundamentals,” says the dancer.