The US-based Samhita Dhatri Jonnalagadda is here in the City of Hyderabad for a Bharatanatyam performance on 10 March 2023 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Auditorium, Basheerbagh, King Koti on the invitation of Abhinetri Arts Academy founder and Bharatanatyam dancer Pramod Reddy. Does the surname Jonnalagadda ring a bell? If yes, it’s correct, she is the niece of Anuradha Jonnalagadda, acclaimed dancer and Professor, Kuchipudi Dance Department, University of Hyderabad. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, the 17-year-old Samhita Dhatri Jonnalagadda says that she is performing in Hyderabad on the request of her paternal grandparents and extended family members, who will be present in the audience to see her solo performance. “On 3 September 2022, I performed my arangetram in the US under the able guidance of my guru Sujatha Akurati, who runs the Angika Dance Academy in Minnesota. I started learning Bharatanatyam under Guru Sujata, since the age of six years,” she says.
Born to Sri Lakshmi and Vamsi, Samhita was enrolled into Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music as her parents were keen that their child imbibe Indian culture and values. Quizzed on why Bharatanatyam and not Kuchipudi, Samhita states: “In the place where we stay, there are Bharatanatyam teachers, who run schools, while it is difficult to find a Kuchipudi teacher.”
Samhita says: “I have been learning Carnatic music since the age of five years from Lakshmi Subramaiam of Raga Surabhi and have taken part in various cultural programmes and festivals.” The young dancer shares that her Bharatanatyam guru from the US is here in town to lend her support. “I came to the city on Tuesday 7 March for the performance and would be flying back on Sunday. This is a short visit, but I would like to make it a memorable one with my performance,” says the confident youngster.
Her Guru, who is there along with her at the interview speaks highly of her student. “Samhita is very passionate and sincere about her dance as it has played a pivotal role in her life and has taught her discipline and values by connecting to her culture. With years of disciplined training, she has learned the intricacies of this fine art and has made a multitude of performances at various events in the US and won awards at various competitions,” says Guru Sujatha.
A 12th grader at Eden Prairie High School, Minnesota, Samhita sharing her programme details, says: “I will be performing a complete Bharatanatyam Margam, beginning with Pushpanjali and Ganesh Slokam, followed by Alarippu, Saraswathi Kauthuvam, Varnam, the structured component of Bharatanatyam performance is based on Sri Krishna Kamalanadho, taken from Narada Purana. The others would be Shambho Mahadeva, Sri Chakra Raja Simhasaneshwari, Oothukadu Venkata Kavi keertana on Anjaneya, which is Saptaratna, where I will be presenting an episode, Chudamani Darshanam from Sundara Kanda, with curtains after Tillana and Mangalam.”
On her Guru, Sujatha Akurati, Samhita says that her Guru has received training in Thanjavur style from Smt. Lalithamba and Guru Sri Satyanarayana. “Later, she underwent training from Sri Siva Chandra Kumara Sundaram in the Kalakshetra style and is currently pursuing nattuvangam training under him. My guru has 35 years of teaching experience and founded the Angika Dance Academy in 2009,” she says. The youngster adds that the evening’s music orchestra includes Guru K Siva Chandra on Nattuvangam, Vidushi Swetha Prasad on vocals, Vidwan Renuka Prasad on Mridangam, Vidwan Sridhar Chary on Percussions, Vidwan Chander Rao on Violin, and Vidwan VBS Murali on flute. “I thank all the support extended to me for the programme to be a success and look forward to performing before the distinguished guests, Telangana Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Chairperson and renowned Kuchipudi dancer, Deepika Reddy and acclaimed musician and composer DVS Sastry,” she says.
The teenager, who dreams to study medicine, since the past two years has been volunteering at the Minnesota hospitals every week. On bridging her passion and profession, Samhita explains: “As dance helps me to easily understand emotions, it will help me to understand patients and diagnose them.” Among her other interests, Samhita holds second-degree Black Belt in Karate, a US National level figure skater, who has competed three times with her brother Vedanth and twice as a solo dance figure skater. Before taking leave, Samhita says that she makes clay figurines, which are used to raise funds for blind & tribal schools in Hyderabad and in the future teach dance to others.
Bharatanatyam performance : https://www.youtube.com/live/BIk-8MZmJVg?feature=share