Meet Ananya Tadikonda, a kuchipudi dancer and also from Maryland. She and her brother both practice Kuchipudi.
1, How old are you and what do you do? (grade/school/college)
I am 18 years old, and a 12th grader at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Next year, I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar, and studying Public Health.
2. When did you start dancing and who are your gurus?
I started dancing in 2006 when I was 4 years old. My guru is Smt. Priyanka Vempati, the wife of Late Kalaratna Guru Vempati Ravishankar. My previous gurus include Kalaratna Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar and Guru Smt. Lakshmi Babu.
3. How do you prep for a dance performance?
I prepare for a dance performance for 3-4 weeks before the performance. Generally, I work with my guru to select a piece that is relevant to the occasion, and then contextualize the performance by reading the meaning online and learning it from my guru. Then, after learning the piece I rehearse it several times, obtaining corrections from my teacher and implementing the corrections, while visualizing the presentation of the piece in the venue I am performing at. In preparing more materially, I prepare my jewellery, costume, and makeup a few nights before the program and pack it all into a suitcase. This way, I will not worry about putting together any items right before the program. On the day of the performance, I balance my meals to ensure that I’m not too hungry or full at the time of the performance. I dress up and try my best to arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before my performance so that I can have some breathing and prayer time before getting on stage.
4. What’s your favorite dance item or music piece you listen to when you want to connect to dance?
My favorite item by far is the SancharaDhadhara Ashtapadi, choreographed by the great guru Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. The range of emotion and mood in the item allows me to express myself and hone my Abhinaya skills. But the nritta that accompanies this Abhinaya also allows me to balance both crucial aspects of Kuchipudi. The character portrayal is my favorite feature of Kuchipudi, and I love that this item requires the dancer to demonstrate full mastery of that to the extent that the audience can understand as well. I appreciate the choreography, context, story, and the melodious music that sets the scene for this item.
5. How would you describe an amazing dancer and do you have any inspiring role models?
I would describe an amazing dancer as one who exhibits the balance between physical finesse and good Abhinaya skills in their dance. However, I believe this can only be achieved through extensive sadhana and dedication to the art form. This is why my role models in dance are my guru Smt. Priyanka Vempati and Late Kalaratna Guru Vempati Ravishankar. They both embody the definition of “nirantara sadhana” and encourage all of their students to embody the same. Excellence in dance can be achieved only through extensive sadhana and both of these role models for me have spread this message through their teaching. Rather than being concerned with the material aspects that come with the art form, both of them constantly exhibit a commitment to preserving the art form in its traditional state and ensuring that students pick up on the good samaritan value system that should be taught by any guru to their students.
6. How has dancing helped you in other areas? School, friendships and other?
Dancing has helped me develop interpersonal skills and connect with other people. Particularly, in my pursuit of leadership and service in my community, dance has given me the confidence to stand on stage and speak in front of hundreds of people, and to connect with people of vastly different backgrounds than my own. I’ve made many of my best friends through dance class as well. Dance has been a way for me to connect with my family and my roots, and I’m so grateful that my parents saw dance as a vehicle to embed myself in the rich culture I am part of from a young age.
7. In your eyes, what’s your biggest achievement or moment of satisfaction (in dance)?
The most important achievement for me is the moment when my guru says “good”. Even if it is the slightest good, or a pat on the back, the feeling when the guru is proud of your growth is unmatched. They invest so much in our personal growth and development, and for them to feel that this investment has come to fruition is all that is important. Having this feeling motivates me to continue pushing myself and performing at a level that my guru is proud of, because it is when my guru is happy that I feel that I am not only performing well, but also reaching my full potential. I get a similar feeling, not quite as fulfilling but still really great, when my mom tells me she enjoyed my performance. She is quite the critic herself coming from a family of dancers, and is my behind the scenes cheerleader, along with my dad of course.
8. It’s the year 2024 – where do you see yourself in the dance field?
I see myself continuing to spread the art form in the community I am part of at that time. Furthermore, I hope to network with other dancers from a broad range of fields to learn from the greater dance community and use that to help me grow. I hope to continue performing on occasions in community venues, and putting together complete margams for presentation in the traditional format. I also want to work with my brother to preserve Kuchipudi as an art, and present performances as a unique brother-sister pair.