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‘Classical dance can be used as a tool for social reform’

For any Indian dancer, training in classical music is of great help as classical dance in India is interwoven with classical music.
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 23:57 IST
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 23:57 IST

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Like so many little girls, Ragasudha Vinjamuri used to shake a leg, do rudimentary dance steps and groove to every music she got to listen to on radio, television and gramophone records at home. Noticing her inclination to dance, her parents enrolled her in classical dance classes. Today, that little girl has grown into a highly accomplished artiste who has the unique record of having presented Indian classical dance 30 times at the British Parliament Houses, thrice at the European Parliament in Belgium, and once at the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff. However, the London-based artist, who is also an Associate Lecturer at the University of Sunderland, modestly says: “I never thought of my dance performances in terms of such statistics or records. I was happy to learn, practise hard and then accept every opportunity to perform at every good platform in India or the UK where I have been for the past 15 years. I am immensely grateful to all those who made these performances possible.”

For any Indian dancer, training in classical music is of great help as classical dance in India is interwoven with classical music. So it was with Ragasudha. Her grandmother was a Karnatik music and veena teacher, so, initially, she began learning Karnatik music. She adds: “Anyway, in many families in south India, children, especially girls, are initiated into dance and/or music at a young age by their parents. My father also strongly believed that engaging with art forms positively influences one’s personality and makes one broad-minded. Even today, my learning journey continues as I am a lifelong learner.”

This dancer, dance teacher and choreographer, who grew up in Hyderabad, commenced formal dance training at age seven under the tutelage of Guru Dr Uma Ramarao. Ragasudha studied for seven years and acquired a diploma from Thyagaraja College for Music and Dance in Hyderabad. She continued learning under her guru’s aegis at the Lasya Priya Institute for Higher Learning. Uma Ramarao used to teach both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. “Although I have had some training in Kuchipudi as well, I am predominantly trained in Bharatanatyam. I have also attended cross-discipline workshops in Kathak to be able to compare and contrast the two streams of dance.”

Her academic studies continued alongside and she graduated from the Nizam College. “I started learning the German language alongside my education, topped my class and received a scholarship to study in Germany. That was my first foreign trip and I was so excited!” She also got interested in Tourism and Travel Management, a very niche area in India 20 years ago, completed relevant courses and taught the subject part-time at a few well-known colleges as well as at the Potti Sri Ramulu Telugu University in Hyderabad. After marriage, she relocated to Britain and continued teaching. Her job at London’s University of Sunderland is a full-time one. 

Many classical musicians and dancers take day jobs because their teachers and/or family members have advised them that a full-time career as a professional dancer or musician is hard to sustain. Was this her reason too? She replies: “My propensity has always been towards teaching. I believe that all other professions flourish because of the act of teaching, and inculcating knowledge in others.” She teaches management subjects at the University and dances over the weekends. “As dance is storytelling, we can always convey key messages using dance as a tool, besides presenting traditional repertoires. Jalaanjali is one such initiative I am proud of. We started Jalaanjali to raise awareness about water-related issues: water pollution, water conservation and management, sanitation and safe drinking water, river water resource management, etc. For the past few years, we have been marking World Water Day in March, at the British Parliament Houses. There are panel discussions as well as dance pieces on this theme. For example, in 2019, we were part of the Global Water Dance, where dancers at 120 locations throughout the world danced at the same local time. We have danced near the lake at Regent’s Park, which is home to hundreds of species. We danced on Adi Shankaracharya’s Ganga Stotram. This year, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, we presented Sapta Tandava, the seven cosmic dances of Lord Shiva.”

Ragasudha is a cultural ambassador who not only performs Indian classical dance but also showcases several Indian folk art forms.

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Published 08 June 2024, 23:57 IST

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