Last year, around late April, I found myself sitting in front of the City Hall building, in New York City. On my right was the Brooklyn bridge, and on my left, the big Wall Street Bull. I was waiting for a friend to pick me up, and in the interim, I had a few minutes to myself.

Sitting on that park bench that sat opposite the heritage building’s façade, I remember thinking to myself, “My dance has brought me here”. It was one of those moments, forever etched in memory, because it left behind an indelible impression of great gratitude for all the highs and lows that had come to pass, culminating in that exact very moment.

That’s dance. It takes you places, and teaches you valuable lessons, in seemingly inconsequential moments.

A little bit about myself, before I embark on the rest of the article. My journey in Kuchipudi started when I was seven. My schooling was mostly out of Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam (my father was an officer in the Indian Navy and we did see a lot of the two port cities) before we shifted to Hyderabad permanently, later. I was extremely fortunate to learn under very good teachers wherever I went. In Hyderabad, I trained under Guru Smt. Vijayavalli Priya and completed my diploma in Kuchipudi from the Telugu University. And all through the close-to-three-decade journey thus far, Kuchipudi, the vibrant classical dance style from Andhra Pradesh, has been my companion. And my refuge.

No dancer would ever say that the going has been easy. As a thumb-rule, it never is. But over the years I’ve realized a couple of things. Wisdom, if I may be audacious enough to use that lofty word; that has been collected through painful conflicts over the past two and a half decades. These perspectives, I’d like to share here. I wouldn’t say they are specific to Kuchipudi but you, the esteemed reader, are free to interpret and apply them as you like

  1. Keep working on your technique. My father who was also a Quality and Safety management consultant, often used to quote a renowned management guru, whether it was E Deming or J Juran, I forget. “You’ve a theory. But keep checking if it’s still relevant”, he’d say. You’ve an idea about dance, it WILL change/evolve with time, so keep examining that thought process while remaining loyal to the classical construct. The best that you will be in the future > The best that you’re in the present! When constantly practiced, Whether it is pure movement, or the histrionic aspect of it, or a combination of both, keep practicing it in both body and mind. After a certain point, it is all about introducing freshness without departing from the grammar of the style.
  2. Never disrespect your body.  Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not in the right shape, because the right shape is a very relative perspective. When one dances on stage, it is all about the energy one exudes. That’s part one. Part two is that if dancing well is what you want to do, you’ll automatically watch what you put into your system. If your fuel’s right, your engine works so much better. My advice – include more raw vegetables, and fruits along with your dose of practice. Your body grows lighter, ergo, you soar higher.
  3. Be happy. Happy to be alive! Happy to have unhindered breath! Happy to have a functioning body, and a mind to drive it all! And to top it all, dancing! That is wonderful! (Wild applause!) Period.
  4. Confidants. Friends, family, partner, children… involve your loved ones. It could be all of them, or any one of the above. But have someone to talk to, because sometimes, despite your most vehement declaration of happiness, you do need a shoulder to lean on.
  5. Devotion. It helps to come from a place of love. To love your Gods and Goddesses, your Asuras and your Devas, to absolutely love the stories you’re depicting on stage, that is no mere ‘high’. It is a more sustainable emotion, and it extends to the rest of the spheres in your life, leading to happiness, leading to doing the right things to enhance that state, leading to treating yourself right, leading to dancing better, leading to loving it all!

A beautiful cycle, if you ask me.

The author is a Kuchipudi performer and choreographer, based out of Bengaluru. She is Artistic Director for CITSABHA (pronounced CHI-TH-SA-BHA) Centre for Kuchipudi and Allied Arts, where she teaches children and young adults the various nuances of Kuchipudi.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wonder Women World.


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