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Natya Tarangini International, based in Los Angeles, celebrated its second anniversary with a 10-day dance camp, culminating in a performance July 3 at the Sunnyvale Community Theater.

Students came from New Delhi and all over the US. It was a trifecta of firsts: the first time the Kuchipudi dance students performed live together, the first time the school had performed in the US, and also the first time Director Bhavana Reddy, based in Los Angeles, met her online students in person.

Bhavana Reddy, Director of Natya Tarangini International, in Fremont, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Consul General of India at San Francisco Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad spoke at the performance. He complimented Raja and Bhavana Reddy on their efforts in promoting the great tradition of Kuchipudi. Also honored were N. Damodar Reddy, a supporter of the art,s and Shiv Khemka, Chairperson of Natya Tarangini in New Delhi.

Putting together a show is really hard in America, said Bhavana Reddy. “I really miss my mother, she does most of this, both of them,” referring to Padma Bhushan Radha Reddy and danseuse Kaushalya Reddy, of Natya Tarangini Institute of Kuchipudi in New Delhi, who were both unable to attend due to visa issues.

On hand, however, was Raja Reddy, ready and able to provide his daughter with some guidance and support and to also bless the students on their dance journey.

Senior student Gauri Taneja performing Krishna Shabdam at Natya Tarangini International’s 2nd Anniversary Celebration performance at the Sunnyvale Theater. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

At 80 years old, Padma Bhushan Raja Reddy still dances, last performing on stage in March of this year. With his expressive eyes and hands, and his deep understanding of Kuchipudi, Raja Reddy is the epitome of a dancer. His experienced voice was heard during rehearsals July 2, from correcting the students form, “no one is going back,” to instructing them on how to dress, “tie your chunis properly.”

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Bhavana, sitting close to her father, also corrected her students’ movements. “Let your arms be close to your ears,” she said. “Keep your hips in the center.”

Natya Tarangini International, an offshoot of the main school, was founded in March of 2020, by Bhavana Reddy, right as the Covid pandemic hit. When her tours were canceled, she and her father focused on creating content and new material. Instagram live sessions were a way to educate her audience about what was involved in being a Kuchipudi dancer. The end result was a large amount of interest which developed into an online school.

Students of Natya Tarangini International take a bow after their student performance at the Sunnyvale Theater. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

From the Middle East, Europe and Singapore, students signed up to learn Kuchipudi virtually. Most of the online students had zero to little previous dance training like Kelsey Fahy of San Diego.

Students Aanya Lakka (age 8), Shrika Tallapragada (age 7) and Swecha Pitta (age 11) at rehearsals for Natya Tarangini International’s student show. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Fahy first became familiar with Indian dance through desi friends while in grad school when she was introduced to Bollywood dance classes. When the pandemic occurred. Fahy discovered an intro to Kuchipidi class that sparked her interest. When she found out classes were online class she became excited and signed up right away. “This is my first time learning solo dance in a trained setting.”

As Fahy and other students dressed backstage, Bhavana Reddy gave them some simple instructions. This is about “having fun and enjoying the time with friends,” she said, “this is not about being amazing.”

Shrika Tallapragada, age 7, dances on stage at Natya Tarangini International’s 2nd Anniversary Celebration performance. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Aanya Lakka, age 8, from Texas, has been learning dance for 1 year online and felt excited to be dancing on stage, performing a slokam. “I think the hardest part is some steps,” she says.

The online students who could not fly out for the 10 day dance camp and recital submitted pre-recorded videos shown during the performance. The videos were comprised of short dance short pieces, explanations of Kuchipudi fundamentals and introductions to the items being performed.

Bhavana came on stage to demonstrate the Krishna Shabdam solo, performed by senior student Gauri Taneja. A senior student from New Delhi, Taneja and has been learning dance from Raja Radha Reddy and Kaushalya Reddy for the past 17 years. “Most recently I’ve been learning from Bhavana didi since the pandemic,” she said.

Taneja learned the piece online, although she grew up watching Bhavana Reddy perform it.  Seeing Bhavana perform it in person was  so helpful in “perfecting it and adding those little tweaks. It’s so nice to do it in person and she’s so amazing.”

The students had been waiting two years to perform, said Bhavana Reddy. “Everyone was so touched and happy really.”

Raja Reddy said, “Now the students have become our family.”

To learn more about Natya Tarangini and online classes visit https://www.bhavanareddy.com/danceclass

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...