She grew up watching in awe her two sisters performing Kuchipudi dance at functions and developed interest in it.
Drawn towards the energy and vibrancy in every move of the dance form, the sharp cuts and swift turns, she later went on to dig deeper into the nitty-gritty of the dance form and disseminate it to the world.
Rajya Lakshmi Seth, a native of Visakhapatnam, is a Kuchipudi exponent and research scholar, now based in Mumbai. She visited Kuchipudi village for a felicitation at the annual Kuchipudi festival.
“In 1949-50, my father who was a doctor, shifted to Bolaram, a cantonment area in Hyderabad. Watching my ‘one-leg-tapping’ dance in small school functions, he felt the need to teach me the nuances of dance. That’s how I was initiated into Kuchipudi dance,” recalls Rajya Lakshmi.
Her father’s demise shattered her and she stopped dancing between 1957 and 1962. “I wanted to be a doctor and carry forward my father’s profession but I missed medical seat by point two per cent,” she laments.
Both her sisters, Uma Rama Rao and Sumathy Kaushal are popular Kuchipudi exponents and travelled extensively for performances. Rajya Lakshmi accompanied them and since she had practised nattuvangam for a year, she would complement the shows. She then started teaching Kuchipudi in Nritya Sikhara, a dance institute set up by her sister at Hyderabad. On the sidelines, she dabbled in computers and in 1976, joined as Computer Services Assistant in ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics).
Her second innings started in 1981when she moved to Mumbai post-marriage and set up Muvva Kuchipudi Dance Training Centre where she taught the dance form to local aspirants. “While teaching, I prepared notes and this documentation helped me a great deal in my research project later. “I was fascinated by the multi-dimensional changes in Kuchipudi and was eager to do a PhD.” She collected 57 resources, including books and published works and completed her research in 2005. Recognising her potential, Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture awarded her Senior Fellowship in Kuchipudi dance to work on a subject: Sabdam-s in Kuchipudi repertoire, their evolution, genres, scope and special features in dance-drama and solo format.” ‘Sabdam’ means sound. But in dance vocabulary, it interprets as one with a lyrical text to which music and dance expression can be applied and presented in classical dance repertoire.
“Music is the life of Kuchipudi. Unfortunately, quantity-wise, we see enough of it around, but the quality is being diluted. A professional approach to standardise courses related to the dance form at academic-level is the need of the hour,” she emphasises.