A dancer with a difference

A dancer with a difference

I draw inspiration from dance musicians and nattuvanars who do multiple things in a day, Bharatanatyam dancer and Carnatic vocalist Preethi Bharadwaj tells Sumangala Varun

ACCOMPLISHED Preethi Bharadwaj

Preethi Bharadwaj’s calendar is full, and how! Meet this young Bharatanatyam dancer, Carnatic vocalist, nattuvanar (an accompanist to a dancer who wields the cymbals to keep time), theatre actor, and contemporary dancer. Credit her ability to multitask, and she brushes it off with humility. “I draw inspiration from dance musicians and nattuvanars who do multiple things in a day!” she says.

Preethi stumbled into the world of dance when she witnessed a Bharatanatyam presentation by Guru B Bhanumathi and her disciples at the young age of seven. Enthralled, she asked her parents to admit her in Bhanumathi’s dance school, Nrityakalamandiram. “I was going through a phase where I would join and drop out of classes one after another,” says Bharadwaj, “and my mother felt that dance classes would go the same way.” Thankfully, her interest in dance bloomed into a love for the art.

Full-fledged performer

She diligently attended classes and performed with her gurus over the years. She also trained in nattuvangam. Her number of stage performances peaked as a student of Christ University, where she completed her Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA). She performed extensively with her gurus and as a part of her college dance team.

Ask what her career ambitions had been, and Bharadwaj admits that she hadn’t planned to be a dancer. She was actively involved in sports and music and felt that she would pursue either of them. Luckily, things took a different turn. After finishing her degree, Bharadwaj joined ITC Infotech with every intention of turning into a corporate bee, but discovered that it wasn’t for her, and quit in a matter of days. She joined the dance department at her alma mater as an assistant professor in the newly introduced Department of Performing Arts. “My parents thought that I was going to work at ITC when I was actually working as a dance instructor,” laughs Bharadwaj, revealing a streak of artistic rebellion. After two years as a dance instructor with Christ University, Bharadwaj decided that she wanted more performance experience and left her job. Her stint as a freelance dancer began when dancer Parshwanath Upadhye asked her to join him for a group performance for the Drishti Dance Festival. The response to their performance was largely positive, so they went ahead and formed what is today named the Punyah Dance Company, of which she is a principal dancer. Bharadwaj also began accompanying dancers at the nattuvangam. Today, she wields the cymbals for many dancers apart from accompanying her gurus when they dance. Contemporary dance became a part of her repertoire when she joined Nritarutya’s dance productions where she still works as a freelancer. Bharadwaj travels across the world giving performances as a soloist and as part of dance companies. As a child, Bharadwaj had attended classes at Hanumanthanagara Bimba (the organisation that conducts workshops in creative arts including theatre, music and painting). So, when dancer and theatre person Veena Basavarajaiah called her to act in the play, ‘Where the shadow ends’, Bharadwaj joined the team without any hesitation. Thus began her stint in acting and she went on to act in more plays and short films. Bharadwaj retains her connection with Hanumanthanagara Bimba, “I still go there to teach sometimes,” she says.

Preeti Bharadwaj
Preethi Bharadwaj

Artistic collaborations

Bharadwaj has worked with several well-known Bharatanatyam dancers from across generations. They include Padmini Ravi, Sandhya and Kiran Subramanyam, Rukmini Vijaykumar, Malavika Sarukkai, and Parvathy and Shijith Nambiar. Bharadwaj has performed as a part of Samyoga, Shijith and Parvathy’s latest production. “If you want to be a full-time dancer, you have to be involved in dance and its related disciplines full-time. Dance is a multidimensional art,” she says. This is her experience speaking, being adept in multiple art forms herself. Bharadwaj is looking forward to her new solo theatre production titled Yamuna. The one-act play is written and directed by Vedarun Rajkumar. Yamuna, slated to premiere shortly, is about a mathematician who is also a dancer.  Despite having scaled many heights, Bharadwaj’s feet are firmly planted on the ground. A trait that will certainly lead her to further heights.