Published: 10th March 2021
After running a dance institute for the last six years, this 22-year-old is on a quest to make Kuchipudi more relatable
Nihanthri Reddy Poli from Hyderabad has studied under the best gurus of Kuchipudi who have encouraged her on the path of dancing and teaching as well. This is how she straddles both these fields
What is Indian classical dance if not storytelling? And one such storyteller is Nihanthri Reddy Poli and she makes a strong case for Kuchipudi. "Youngsters feel that it's not relatable, but I think that the stories are more relevant now than ever before. Take for example the story of Ardhanarishvara, the god who is half man and half woman. Then, there is the story of Durga Devi which reminds us about women empowerment," points out the 22-year-old. And it is these themes that she expounds through dance. Yet, this is not all. Most recently, her happy feet narrated the story of Holika Dahan (killing of demon Holika is a sign of good triumphing over evil) at the Back To Roots campaign, organised at Neknampur lake.
With dancers | (Pic: Nihanthri Reddy Poli)
The disciple of dance exponents late Vempati Ravi Shankar and late Shobha Naidu, Nihanthri started her own Kuchipudi academy, Akshada, in Manikonda, Hyderabad. And she has been teaching there since 2015. Today, she teaches over 150 students, while she continues to carry forward the classes online. "I used to assist Naidu garu and it was Ravi Shankar garu who encouraged me to teach. He used to say that true propagation is teaching whatever you have learnt to the masses so that more and more people are engaged," says the youngster who started learning dance at the age of three. Performing nationally and internationally gave her confidence to carry the academy on her lone shoulders and lessons like patience she learnt on the go. "All of us have different body types and different steps suit different bodies. I also encourage body positivity by encouraging people to accept, embrace and feel good about their own bodies," informs the danseuse who is pursuing her Master's in Kuchipudi from Central University so that she can understand the theoretical aspects of the dance form more thoroughly.
Performing | (Pic: Nihanthri Reddy Poli)
Nihanthri's great gurus encouraged her to adapt according to the audience and yet, keep the tradition in mind. This is why she chooses to perform those pieces that have a certain resonance, a message. "This generation is certainly interested in Kuchipudi though I must admit that it is the ornaments, attire and make-up that catches their attention first," she shares candidly. She talks about how there is a disconnect because of the lyrics, mudras and gestures. "But perhaps reading a little synopsis ahead of the performance might help," she mulls. Well, it's always the little things that help for sure.
With Naidu garu | (Pic: Nihanthri Reddy Poli)
Who are her gurus?
- Vempati Ravi Shankar: Born to Kuchipudi legend Padma Bhushan Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam, Vempati Ravi Shankar is known to be a gifted teacher
- Shobha Naidu: Disciple of Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam, she was known to have essayed roles in dance-dramas from a very young age