Kuchipudi dancer and Guru Ajay Chakravarty’s student, Phalya Gudipudi, performed her Rangapravesham at the Ravindra Bharati, in Hyderabad, in August 2021. Speaking to Natyahasini, Phalya says that initially her Rangapravesham was scheduled for 5 April 2020 and was postponed due to the sudden COVID lockdown. “So, we certainly had some worries as we rescheduled and planned for it. We took all safety precautions like sanitizing the hall, providing hand sanitizers and masks and limited the number of guests as it was indoors. We also live-streamed it on YouTube and provided a live link for people who were unable to attend,” says the youngster. She also shares that on the occasion of the 73rd Republic Day celebrations, she was among the dancers who performed during the Maha Harathi in the City.
Recalling her dance journey, the Class XI student of Glendale Academy, says that she began learning dance when she was around four years old. “I’ve seen videos of me as a little kid jumping around the house when the radio was on. Apparently, my parents then decided it would be good for me to join a dance class and took me to classes that were close to where we used to live,” she says. The dancer discloses that initially she learnt dance under two gurus for very short periods of time. “I don’t really remember much from that time as it all happened when I was younger than six. The actual learning that I really remember started only with Ajay sir in 2012. Ajay sir taught in a very structured way and was very close to all his students. It has always been an enriching experience and in the process, we have learned the discipline and patience that are needed for a dancer,” she says.
Dance Items: Quizzed on the dance items of her Rangapravesham, Phalya says that she presented eight dance items – Sri Ganapathi Thalam, Vaggeyakara Sri Rama Padam, Rajataadri Pai Harudu Tandavam, Padam – Indendu Vachitivira, Maheshwari Mahakali – Devi Stuthi, Smara Sundaraanguni – Javali, Marakatha Manimaya Chela – Tarangam and Hindolam Thillana. “Sri Rama Padam is a medley of Rama Keerthanas, that Ajay Sir had choreographed for the first time for my Rangapravesham. Rajataadri Pai Harudu is composed by Ajay sir’s guru, Sri Uma Maheshwara Patrudu sir and choreographed by Ajay sir. Maheshwari Mahakali was appreciated most by the audience as it involved switching characters quickly and took a lot of energy and the Mahishasura Mardini storyline is well known,” the teenager says. Also, Phalya shares that in her Rangapravesham, songs from all four Telugu Vaggeyakaras were performed.
On managing dance practice and studies during COVID, Phalya states that at that time schools started online classes, so that freed up a lot of time that would have been wasted in commuting to and from school. “Dance classes also became online, using Skype and all my Rangapravesham practice was online, except for the rehearsals with Nattuvangam and orchestra. And in IB, dance is considered part of our requirements in CAS (Creativity, Activity, and Service) which is mandatory to gain the diploma at the end of 12th grade,” says the youngster.
Continue Dance: The teenager confirms that she certainly wants to continue dancing. “Dance is equally important to me as Academics. Dancing puts me at ease, especially after a stressful day. Dance, for me, is a way to relax and express myself. Performing at different places always gives me a chance to meet new people and form connections. So, I shall certainly continue dancing and if everything goes well, I would like to set up a dance academy in the future. Currently, I am focussing on improving my repertoire,” she says.
Phalya reveals that when she was younger, she did not have much interest in dance and continued learning only at her mother’s insistence and felt stressed. “Now, however, aside from just thinking about my mom’s wishes, I genuinely like dancing so I don’t feel stressed by it anymore and appreciate it. Now, I feel fortunate to have the support of my parents in continuing dance,” says the Class XI student.
The youngster states that the first dance movie that she watched was ‘Mayuri’, the biopic of Sudha Chandran when she was around 10. “I felt inspired by seeing her commitment and love for dance,” she says and adds: “I would like to learn painting. Throwing my emotions onto a canvas seems like a good way to express myself through colours and beauty.”
Performed In Kerala: Phalya, who has completed the Kuchipudi Certificate course from Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University in 2021, recently performed at the Balasaraswathi Dance Festival in Trivandrum, Kerala. “That was the first time I performed out of the Telugu states and it was received very well by the audience, so it felt good,” says the youth. She says that she performed Maheshwari Mahakali, which is an item that she really enjoys. “Emoting the roles of the Goddess and the Asura is something that is challenging yet exhilarating. It is an energetic performance and needs me to switch roles quickly between the good and evil,” says the teenager.
The Glendale School student’s father, Raghvendra Rao Gudipudi, is an IT professional and her mom worked as a college lecturer and gave up her job to focus on Phalya. “As an only child, my parents and I have always been close,” she says. On whether in her extended family anyone is into any Art form, Phalya states that from her dad’s side, they have a few relatives who used to dance and she has a cousin who is into hip-hop and takes classes as well. “My dad’s cousin (disciple of Bhagavathula Sethuram) also used to perform with Padma Shri Late Dr. Sobha Naidu garu before giving it up. From my mom’s side, I have an aunt who was into Carnatic music (vocals). One of my dad’s classmates now runs a Bharatnatyam dance school,” says the youngster.