Ravi Ghaddala, popularly known as Ravi Kuchipudi is totally wedded to his art. Recalling his journey in life, including as a dancer, Ravi has come a long way. From the days of studying in Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Chilkur to running the Kandula Kuchipudi Natyalayam in Pragati Nagar, Secunderabad, Ravi Kuchipudi shares his journey with Natyahasini, on the eve of the celebrations of the Tenth Anniversary of his dance school.
Just like any youngster of his age Ravi danced to popular songs in his childhood in front of his friends and classmates. Noticing his love for dance at the Shishu Mandir, his school teacher, Sulochana Garlapatti, introduced him to classical dance – that is how he was introduced to rhythm and beats. From there he moved to the city, when he joined the AV School at Domalguda and came in contact with Guru Sri Rudravaram Sudhakar Garu and his wife Ratnasree Garu. “I learnt dance under them for a period of four years and they treated me with a lot of affection and as an extended family member,” he says.
It was during this time that apart from following academics, Ravi decided to follow dance studies too and has been teaching dance since 2009. He initially enrolled for the Kalapraveshika and Kalaparichayam courses in Kuchipudi simultaneously at PS Telugu University in 2004. “Earlier, these were the basic courses for introduction to the art form, completing these in two years, I enrolled in Certificate courses in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. And followed it up with Diploma in YakshaGanalu and Kuchipudi dance. It was in these courses at university that I came in touch with Guru Sri Vedantam Radhe Shyam Garu and that changed the whole perspective towards my life,” he says.
The seed to learn the dance style under Vedantam Radhe Shyam Garu germinated. “I approached Guru Radhe Shyam Garu to learn dance under him and he said that instead of moving to the Kuchipudi village to learn dance style, he suggested that I learn dance under Guru Sri Vedantam Satya Narasimha Shastri Garu, and began my learning under him in 2012 and since then there has been no looking back,” the dancer states. In the same breath, he adds that he has learnt a lot from attending workshops conducted by Kuchipudi doyens, including late Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam garu.
A ’B’ Graded Doordarshan Hyderabad, Telangana, Ravi Kuchipudi has been honoured with many awards and titles. In January 2023, the Hindu Seva Samithi, Hyderabad, honoured Ravi Kuchipudi with the ‘Natya Visharada’ Award. Without any hesitation, the artist states that he has been teaching dance since so many years, from his academy there has been no Rangapravesham till date, but 20 students have appeared for the diploma and certificate Kuchipudi courses and attained distinctions.
The Kuchipudi dancer has performed with his students in many temples and during many religious festivals and at Shilparamam on numerous occasions. Every year, he participates in the all male dance Gandhara festival in the city. He has also performed in the Naadneerajanam conducted by the TTD and was also part of the special ballet on the World Heritage site Ramappa Temple choreographed by dancer Vijayalakshmi Koka.
Ravi thanks the parents of his students, who have stood by him through thick and thin, since the establishment of the academy. “The parents of the students came forward and paid for my medical treatment when I was down with COVID in December 2020. To have people like that is really a blessing in my life,” he recalls. Also, he thanks co-dancers Vijayalakshmi Koka, Sarada Garu and Haleem Khan, who always give him a chance to perform alongside them. “Recently, another well-known dancer approached me if I would be a part of their ballets to don a male character,” he says smilingly.
The Kuchipudi dancer mentions the name of a lawyer friend Gudi Sindhu, who personally and along with her family has been a rock support. When questioned about the strength of the Academy, he says, “Just like any other field, girls outnumber boys. Boys are little sensitive and not many keep up learning dance. Nowadays, dance is being taken up as a hobby and once children join Class IX, many of them quit dance on the pretext of devoting time to academics,” he says, but points out that learning dance will help in the academics as one has to remember quite a few things while dancing like the face, foot and facial movements among many other things. At the annual day, 150 students will be performing – 120 from Pragati Nagar branch and another 30 from Chanda Nagar branch.
Before signing off, Ravi Kuchipudi requests that organisers must come forward to host ballets like the Navadurga, Devi Vaibhavam, and Annapurnadevi Vaibhavam.