We, at A Journalist Reveals, were fortunate to find a Kuchipudi dancer Vidya S V and immediately requested an interview. She had quite a few things to share with us. Here are some excerpts:
When did the classical bug bite you?
Thanks to my mother’s interest in the traditional art forms and my father’s encouragement, I started my training from a very young age. I was enrolled in Bharatanatyam classes at the age of 6 and continued to pursue the classical dance from then on. And today I practice and perform Kuchipudi (a classical art form from Andhra Pradesh) dance. But, this early training in classical dance became the foundation.
During my school and college days, dance was more a hobby that I loved to pursue during weekends. Performing and learning was a norm, more like a part of growing up experience. However, it is my Gurus like Leelavathi, Mrs. Vyjayanthi Kashi and Guru Pasumarthy Rathaiah Sharma, who identified the dancer in me and sculpted me to actually see myself as a performer. Once, I started exploring various avenues through dance, I wanted to further explore and study it professionally.
Moreover, as you continue to perform and showcase your talent on various stages, the interest grows and you want to continue doing it. Especially, when you listen to the comments and feedback from the members of the audience on how connected they were with the performance, it feels wonderful.
Dance has not just given me an opportunity to travel and learn from different cultures, it has also made me a better human being.
Is your family into classical dance? If no, how did your parents allow you take up this art as a profession?
There are no classical dancers in my family, though my mother is a professionally trained Carnatic singer and my elder sister is a contemporary dancer. No one is into traditional dance.
My parents gave me the freedom to pursue what I love. Performing professionally meant living out of a suitcase and traveling most often. My parents were supportive of my passion and never laid down any restrictions. It was the same for my sister when she chose to take up contemporary dance professionally. I think that is very important for any profession. A supportive family takes you a long way.
Where did you do the course?
My initial training in Bharatanatyam was under the tutelage of Guru Leelavathi. My first performance was a temple show at the age of 7. After learning with her for 2 years, I moved to Kuchipudi and studied for 15 years in Shambhavi School of Dance, founded by internationally acclaimed Guru Mrs. Vyjayanthi Kashi.
As a part of this school, I was fortunate to perform during many national and international shows across the country. After completing my arangetram, I took a break from performing for over 2 years and concentrated to build a career in branding. Recently, I have been traveling to learn Kuchipudi from the legendary Guru Sri Pasumarthy Rathaiah Sharma, who is an exponent in Kuchipudi and Yakshaganam. Currently, I am looking forward to presenting a good comeback solo show.
Describe your journey from the time you joined the course to the time you completed it?
It has not been an easy journey. It is a very courageous choice to take up traditional dance forms as a profession, even during this time and age. One must understand that it is very difficult to financially support yourself as a dancer in India. The cultural sector is highly disorganized and nepotism is very prevalent. Although we have the social media and new forms of tools like Youtube that have assisted in marketing the talent, the opportunities are not getting bigger nor the organizations willing to pay the artist more.
Most artists do not want to take the risk of an uncertain future and very often end up having 2 jobs to support their passion. Unless you have a strong network of people supporting you as an artist, it is very difficult to survive.
Initially, when I started performing, I was too young and naive to understand the business aspect of the arts. Dance was more an enjoyable hobby. But once you start to make it a career, survival mode kicks in and you want also to make money along with dancing. This will become highly competitive over a period of time. You might also lose the passion, with which you began. So, I chose to take up 2 jobs to continue dance as a passion.
Currently, I work 9-6 as a branding executive on weekdays at an MNC. But, weekends are dedicated to practice, choreography and simultaneously experiment on many newer concepts.
Have you established any institute? If yes, tell us about it.
Yes, I have recently set up my own school. Natyasaaram – the essence of life’s journey through dance. I teach weekend classes for children aged 6-17 years here.
What do you see 10 years hence?
10 years is a very long time, things could change drastically. I would still want to continue performing and would like to do it 10 years from now. I also love teaching, so I might continue to grow my dance school. I have also tried my hand at singing and amateur theatre. I would like to better my singing and acting skills.
What do you do other than classical dance?
I like to listen to western music and Bollywood songs. E D Sheeran and A R Rahman are my favorite artists. I also like to read and take solo trips to different countries.