Yamini Reddy speaks about her love for Kuchipudi and how the art form is adapting to stay relevant in the digital age
"We are craving physical shows and live events. The true essence of a live dance show or event cannot be merely captured on a Zoom session," Yamini shares
When it comes to the classical dance form of Kuchipudi, dancer Yamini Reddy's name is one of the first that come to mind. Born to Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardees Dr Raja and Radha Reddy, she is dance royalty in the city. To dance and be on the stage has been her dream since she was a child, and today she stands tall in the classical dance scene. We catch up with her for a quick chat about how the art form has been thriving during the lockdown and after. Excerpts:
Were you always passionate about Kuchipudi?
I remember even as a three-year-old, I would accompany my parents for their stage shows. I wanted to get on the stage and perform just like them and my father would always tell me that my turn would come. So, yes, dance has been my greatest love.
Where did you get your training from?
From my parents. Here is an interesting detail though, I was always given generic training. In fact, I was positioned at the back during the classes. My rangapravesam also happened only after I turned 20 because my father wanted me to wait until I was sure about making dance my career.
What kind of music do you like?
I believe that I am a child of two worlds — the past and the present. The way I was brought up is different when compared to my parents or the other dancers. When I am doing Kuchipudi, it is purely the old classical tunes or traditional dance numbers. Having said that, I enjoy partying and grooving to rock music.
The pandemic changed our realities. Live shows have gone digital and we accepted this as our new normal. What are your views about this?
I don’t think I would call this normal yet, we can only assess it after one year. Honestly, we are craving to get back to what we had before this pandemic began. I also feel that digital shows cannot capture the true essence of a dance performance — the experience changes.
But, digital is going to stay and it's certainly not going away. In some ways, it made our lives easier, bridged the boundaries, and learning truly exploded online. We reached places we weren’t aware of. I gave my first virtual concert during this phase and also attended an online event as a chief guest. While digital is here to stay, it won’t be our new normal, it will coexist with the physical space.
What were the changes that your dance school Natya Tarangini had to make during the lockdown?
We had to go fully digital when the first lockdown happened. It was a fairly new experience — picking the gadgets and figuring out how to conduct online classes. If it weren’t for the internet, we all would have shut shop, but it allowed us to continue our lives. Even today, the school is running Zoom sessions. Though we adapted to these changes, we are still hoping to come back to the physical space.
Is there something about the Hyderabad classical dance scene you would like to change?
We need more activity and exposure to these dance shows in the city. Only when that happens, will the audience start encouraging the art. A few months ago, I started a Kuchipudi newsletter, which focuses on the dance form, and other topics such as the gurus, copyrights in dance, and how cinema and dance influence each other. This is my humble attempt at making an effort to increase awareness about the art.
Yamini Reddy will perform at Parampara — a music and dance festival conducted by Natya Tarangini. This two-week event co-presented by the UN can also be streamed online.