Preethi Tatambhotla, disciple of late Guru, Padma Shri Sobha Naidu Garu, speaking to Natyahasini, reveals that she missed dancing, and returned to teaching this week and soon would start her individual practice as well. “It will take some time before I can give a full recital but I started working towards it and I’m totally excited about my second innings,” she says. In fact, Preethi danced almost throughout her pregnancy. “That is who I am. Delivering a baby is a life changing experience and motherhood is an incredible emotion that I have been basking in for the past couple of months. It is truly magical but of course it is also very exhausting,” she says.
Right now, Preethi admits that the days and nights are a blur. “Sleep deprived, feeding, putting my baby to sleep, burping, changing diapers, baby massages and bath, all of this goes on repeat mode. I have no idea how almost three months flew by with all of this. I did not feel like myself completely without dance. I missed dancing. So, I wanted to start with baby steps. What seemed very simple even when I was pregnant seemed very challenging physically to my body after delivering a baby. I realised that my body needs a lot of work and started postnatal yoga classes,” says the late Sobha Naidu garu student.
On plans to manage kid, home and dance, Preethi says that she is fortunate to have a very supportive family. “My husband, parents and in-laws have all been supportive, encouraging of my dance always. If there is one thing, I understood in the first few months after my delivery is to take help and not try to be a super woman by doing everything by yourself. I believe asking for help and being grateful for any help that you get is the way to go. If I’m resuming classes so soon it’s because of all the help around that I’m fortunate to have,” Preethi says.
All Planned: The pretty and determined lady shares that she will be planning nap and feeding sessions around the classes. “I’m exclusively feeding my baby. So, I will be expressing milk and storing it so my husband can takeover while I’m in my classes. He will be with the baby during my class timings. Also, my mom and mother-in-law will be around with me alternately for a few months until I’m confident enough to manage everything without disturbing Dhruva’s schedules,” she says. The founder of Tanmayi reveals that she plans to schedule some time that will be solely dedicated to her dance practice. “It surely is not going to be easy, but I’m confident that I’ll figure a way out,” she says with confidence.
Not many would venture to dance, when they know that they are in the family way. But Preethi was different. “Dance has always been an integral part of my life through happy, sad or difficult times. When I talk about dance, it’s not always performing. Even dancing for myself in my living room gave me great amount of happiness. When I got pregnant, I checked with my doctor on how to continue dancing, I was told that I could continue any activity that I was already doing and not start anything new in this phase. Therefore, it really was not a decision for me to dance or not to dance. I continued doing what I always did,” she says.
Preethi’s Mantra: For the Kuchipudi mentor and dancer, the mantra always was to follow her body. “I tweaked few movements that stressed my body and went ahead. This was a bit challenging but that made me realise one has to always learn to work with their physical abilities at any time. Be it a pregnancy or an injury or anything else. I danced all the way up until I went into labour. This scared my husband and my parents a bit and I assured them I wasn’t taking a risk,” she says, adding that she was lucky to have a normal pregnancy with no complications. “Hence, I could continue without any hurdles. How beautiful is it to dance with your baby in the womb? I was fortunate to experience it,” says the ever-smiling Preethi.
The determined lady says that a dancer dons multiple roles apart from dancing. “So, there was always something related to dance that I could work on even If I didn’t physically move. In the current times, I couldn’t step out of the house for a long time due to the risk of any unwanted exposure. With all the physical and hormonal changes, dance was my solace,” she says.
Preethi discloses that she did two semesters of her Masters course which she is pursuing from University of Silicon Andhra, California. “I attended few abhinaya workshops, kept practicing my talam, yoga, caught up on some good reading. I finished writing the pravesha/first level Sanskrit examination. I looked forward for my classes each day and spent a lot of time with my students, motivated them by organising studio showcase performances virtually. All this helped me stay active and fit and most importantly helped me stay sane, happy and positive throughout my pregnancy,” she says.
Initially Apprehensive: The Kuchipudi dancer says that she was very apprehensive about teaching Kuchipudi in a Middle Eastern country after she moved to Dubai. However, she gave it a shot and the rest is history. “I started with a group of 4-5 students initially. I started performing for Indian cultural events and slowly people started to know me, appreciated my artform and enjoyed it. This was not the style of Kuchipudi that they were familiar with. So, it was new and everyone greatly appreciated what I did,” she says. Eventually in a matter of two years, Preethi was teaching in four different places to almost 40 students. “All of us want to stay connected to our roots. The love for culture and our artforms is so much more when we live outside India. It gives me great satisfaction and joy each time when a parent comes to me and tells me how happy they are that their kid is getting to dance an Indian classical form in U.A.E. They have great faith in me and that always motivates me to do better,” she says.
Preethi says that the levels of exposure when it comes to understanding the technicality of the dance are very different in Dubai. “I take the responsibility to introduce a piece, narrate about it much more in detail before presenting it, so everyone follows it. When we take our beautiful artform to a different land, any appreciation that you receive brings a lot of pride. I remember performing once in Abu Dhabi to a very diverse crowd who fell in love with Kuchipudi and showered me with a lot of compliments. I must say It was a very satisfying and motivating,” says the dancer. Preethi was also honoured and awarded by the government of Telangana in association with federation of NRI cultural associations for her contribution towards promoting Kuchipudi in U.A.E.