Senior disciples K Rithika and M Lalitha Amrutha of Kandula Kuchipudi Natyalayam and Guru Ravi Kuchipudi speaking exclusively to Natyahasini on their dance journey reveal that Rithika was initiated into dance by her mother due to her interest, while Lalitha Amrutha was personally motivated to learn dance at the age of eight years after watching several dance programmes since her childhood. “My mother was always interested in classical dance, but she couldn’t learn. As a result, she was keen that I learn dance, but my interest towards Kuchipudi continued to grow as I spent many years learning it,” Rithika says.
Lalitha Amrutha says that her parents often took her to Shilparamam Madhapur in Hyderabad when she was a baby, and observing the classical dancers perform on stage gave her a different excitement. “I grew up looking at classical performances and when I was eight years of age, I decided that I want to learn classical dance. From then, my dance career began,” she says.
Pursuing Class XII, Lalitha Amrutha reveals that among the dance forms she has seen since her childhood have mostly been Kuchipudi, and this dance form has always given her a feeling of completion. “The abhinaya that Kuchipudi is known for is what kept me more enthusiastic about this dance form. Other than Kuchipudi, I want to learn Kathak because the dance form talks a lot about grace,” she says with a smile.
Inspired To Learn: Rithika, who is pursuing B.Tech First year in Computer Science – Data Science Engineering in VNR VJIET, confesses that her love for Kuchipudi is because it is an ancient dance style that has amazing body gestures and emotions. “It has expressive eye movements and also dramatic characterisation which is very attractive and tempting to learn. If not Kuchipudi, I guess it would’ve been Bharatanatyam or Kathak because of their strong rhythmic footwork and abhinaya of the eyes and face muscles,” she says with poise.
The budding engineer says that she started training in Kuchipudi under late Smt. Indira Musunoori Garu in Musunoori Academy of Dance and Music at the age of four years. “Later in 2011, I began training under Ravi sir, who is a wonderful teacher and prominent dancer. The interest he shows towards his passion is very inspiring. I’m grateful to have found a guru like him,” says Rithika.
Both disciples of Ravi Sir say in unison that they do take classes for their juniors. “Being a senior student, I do teach the juniors sometimes. Peer-teaching helps us to interact with the juniors and can also be like a practice session,” says Rithika. Lalitha Amrutha too catches on to say that at times she does get an opportunity to teach her juniors the basic Adavus and Jathis. “I even take classes for juniors in case Ravi Sir is unable to attend,” adds Lalitha Amrutha.
Annual Presentations: Talking about their annual celebrations, Rithika says that every year, on the occasion of Vijayadashami, the students of the Academy perform a dance ballet which is about Goddess Mahakali. “The ballet lasts for about 50 minutes which is very pleasing and admirable,” she says. On the other hand, Lalitha Amrutha shares that she has participated in two major dance ballets – Mahishasursa Mardini and Dashavataralu. “I have played the roles of Mahishasursa Mardini (Goddess) once and Mahishasura (Rakshasa) in another year in the Ballet ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ and I played the role of King Balichakravarthy in Vamana Avatar in the ballet ‘Dasavataralu’,” says the Class XII Commerce student.
Both Rithika and Lalitha Amrutha have completed Certificate Course in Kuchipudi Dance, while Rithika is currently preparing for Diploma. “I have also received certificates and awards like Abhinava Nrutya Bala, Bala Kala Utsav, Natyam Award by way Foundation, Bala Kala Ratna from Children Dance Olympiad among many more,” says Rithika.
Sharing her favourite composition, the Commerce student says: “My favourite composition is ‘Bala Gopala Tarangam’ written by Narayana Theertha. I personally love this item because the portrayal of Lord Shri Krishna’s childhood with plate dance is just mesmerizing to the eyes and one can just flow with the song while dancing.”
Rithika says her favourite composition is ‘Mandodhari Shabdham’ which she learnt from her guru. “It begins with an introduction about praising King Krishna Devarayalu followed by a mythological story of how Mandodhari married Ravana. The mini ballet in the song is beautifully explained which is what I love,” she says with her expressive eyes.
Energy Driven: According to Rithika, performing as a group requires lot of team work and coordination. “It is fun and always keeps me motivated of being around my co-dancers,” she admits. Lalitha Amrutha agrees that while on stage especially when performing in a group, the energy is always filled with a mix of emotions like joy and excitement and a sense of consciousness of the surroundings. “But most importantly all of us who are performing are immersed in the song and the Nattuvangam and just pour out our hearts through our Abhinayas and Natyam,” she says.
Rithika believes that dance is an ultimate way to express and inspire people of any age or background. “It gives us the freedom to express ourselves in ways we cannot while we’re around people. It can be a step to a healthy lifestyle. It can also help us stay connected to our culture,” says the engineering student. Even Lalitha Amrutha states that learning and training as a classical dancer is not easy and one has to go through a disciplinary lifestyle. “Life becomes hectic managing both studies and dance for an artist. Performing on stage is always extremely hard. But dance has always kept me filled with joy and a sense of fulfilment,” says the Commerce student.
Disciples of Kandula Kuchipudi Natyalayam – K Rithika, M Lalitha Amrutha, JP Kanishka, T Navya Deepika, SP Sahiti, M Devi Vaishnavi, G Jasitha, Pathakota Harshini, P Pydi Vamitha, P Harshini, Baby Nihitha Sai led by their guru G Ravi Kuchipudi performed in TTD’s Nadaneerajanam programme on 23 April 2022.