Published: 25th April 2020
Quaranteam Kuchipudi: Dance school students from decades ago relive dance classes over video chat during lockdown
Not only are the young dancers refreshing their own memory, but they have also organised a campaign and all its proceeds will go towards their guruji's institute back in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
The lockdown brought back many memories of childhood for Mumbai-based Alakananda Devi Duggirala as a major part of her childhood was about the Kuchipudi classes at Sri Nrutya Art Academy she would undertake under her guru Bhagavathula Venkatarama Sharma back in her hometown, Vijayawada. "Most of the batchmates from my dance class were very good friends of mine and still are. We used to practice for hours back then and wait for idlis that we would devour as snacks. We would travel in trains to perform elsewhere and decide in advance how to spend our time during the journey. All the fun we would have backstage before and after a stage performance are some of my best memories of my childhood," she recalls fondly.
It all started when Alakananda and her friends decided to surprise guruji with a video conference call to wish him on his birthday. "It just felt so good getting back together, even if it was over a call," says the 25-year-old. Post the call, they decided to get back together, virtually, and get back to their roots by practicing Kuchipudi.
Refreshing their memory
Everything else fell into place easily. They scheduled meetings over Zoom and danced together. Then they switched to recording their sets separately and putting it all in one video. And this is how Quaranteam Kuchipudi was born. There were multiple reasons why they decided to go ahead with this project. "My mother really enjoys watching classical dance performances. She used to go to these on her own as well. So this content is for all those who thoroughly enjoy watching performances and are missing out on it because of the lockdown," says Alakananda, who works as an Assistant Manager - Legal at Reliance Jio. Then there is the fact that this helps them brush up their own skills and more importantly, they have even started a campaign on Ketto to support the institute in these tough times and give back to their guru. "Which is very important as per the guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student tradition)," says the dancer who pursued her law degree from Nirma University, Ahmedabad.
Alakananda along with six other batchmates put out their first video on April 9, 2020 of Jathiswaram (a pure dance presentation). While Alakananda moved to Mumbai in 2017, the rest of the batchmates are scattered all around the world. So pulling this off and the coordination was certainly a challenge. They had to break the whole sequence up into minutes, assign it to different dancers and ensure that it syncs well in the end. But another aspect that was really challenging was editing. Since none of them were adept at editing, one of them offered to learn it and do it. Currently, they are all trying to pick up the skill so that they can share the burden. For their second video, Hindolam Thillana, they were joined by their guru and his daughter, Dr Bhagavathula Sowmya. This way, other batches also joined in and now, there are 20 of them!
Guru Bhagavathula Venkatarama Sharma | (Pic: Alakananda Devi Duggirala)
Speaking about her guru Bhagavathula Venkatarama Sharma, Alakananda informs that he hails from Kuchipudi village and comes from a family of dancers. As a child, he was strict towards Alakananda and his other students, but now, he appreciates the fact that they are trying to pursue dance again, in their own small way, and is like a parent for them. "I felt really happy to know they are pursuing the art I instilled in them. After so many years of moving away from Vijayawada and taking up challenging careers, getting back to practice is a matter of greatness this art form has. It gives one satisfaction and health. I was so proud of my students for taking this up and spending their time off from busy schedules," he says.
Their plan is to post one video every week, at least till the lockdown lifts.
For more on them, check out ketto.org/fundraiser/to-support-kuchipudi-dancers-in-india