Exploring, respecting & reflecting to live with Kuchipudi

‘Natya Praveena’ Hanumantha Rao, whose performances have enthralled audiences in Europe & US, says learning an art form should be everyone’s responsibility.

Published: 07th August 2022 04:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th August 2022 04:17 AM   |  A+A-

​Yellamanchili Hanumantha Rao during a practice session with his students at Kuchipudi Art Academy in Visakhapatnam. (Photo | G Satyanarayana,EPS)

​Yellamanchili Hanumantha Rao during a practice session with his students at Kuchipudi Art Academy in Visakhapatnam. (Photo | G Satyanarayana,EPS)

Express News Service

VISAKHAPATNAM: Yellamanchili Hanumantha Rao’s students may call him a tough teacher for he doesn’t go easy on them if they make even minute mistakes with their hand and foot movement.“What is troubling you to perform adugulu in sync with the rhythm?” he firmly asks two of his students. After minor corrections, the boys finish the series of steps with astonishing short footwork, expressive eye action and good hand gestures, impressing their guru and every person in the room this time.

Hanumantha Rao is a teacher at Kuchipudi Art Academy, run by Vempati Chinna Satyam, in Visakhapatnam. After his debut performance in 1988, he has been performing dance ballets since 1991 with his guru. He, along with his guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and trouple, has performed in all major Indian cities, and also abroad in the US, the Netherlands, France, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The academy was first established in 1963 in the then Madras after Chinna Satyam mastered Kuchipudi. His devotion and dedication to the art form resulted in the establishment of another school in Vizag, called Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, in 1985.

Hanumantha Rao’s relatives and friends wondered if Kuchipudi would earn him enough money to survive. Despite the apprehensions regarding his career, he continued to follow his passion for the traditional dance art.“Learning an art form should be every person’s responsibility. It is wrong to expect that one may earn a living out of it,” he says.

After practising Kuchipudi for many years, he quit his job in 2009 to pursue and dedicate the rest of his life to it. “The initial six months were troubling. But I do not ever regret my decision to leave my job. The problem lies with us when we expect that what we do in life will result in materialistic pleasures,” says Hanumantha Rao.

He feels the students now are more occupied with academics and don’t give much time to learn any art. “Parents must encourage their children to learn classical music, dance or other traditional art forms that teach children the many lessons that are not taught at school.”

He has lost count of the number of students he had taught but says only 10% of them ended up learning and practising Kuchipudi for over a decade. One such student is Varshita Vallabhapurapu, who has been learning Kuchipudi since the age of 5. She has completed MBBS from Andhra Medical College and is a grade artist with Doordarshan. She assists her guru in training youngsters at the academy.

“Art is not something to be promoted or advertised. We have to live with it, explore it, respect it, and reflect on it.”The dance teacher was awarded the title of ‘Natya Visharada’ by the Academy and ‘Natya Praveena’ by the Great Indianapolis Telugu Association and Carnatic Music Association of Indianapolis, USA.


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