When Yamini Reddy set out to do an MBA in finance, the youngster was well aware of how it could be applied to her passion for dance. Considering that she was born into an illustrious family of dancers — her parents are Kuchipudi legends Raja and Radha Reddy who along with aunt Kaushalya Reddy have been running Natya Tarangini Kuchipudi dance centre in Delhi for over four decades — Yamini had mapped out her career path while in college. “My heart belonged only to dance so I would take the legacy forward, but my business degree was meant to support the art and artistes,” she elaborates.
A year after moving to Hyderabad owing to her marriage to businessman Srinivas in 2006, Yamini set up a branch of Natya Tarangini at Jubilee Hills in the city. She also initiated a ‘Support-an-artist’ programme with an award and a cash prize given every year to artistes in need of financial support. For the last three years, the award and cash have been announced on International Day of Dance. This year, the Annabattula sisters, Lakshmi Mangatayaru and Sai Leela are recipients for their contribution to Kuchipudi’s traditional theatre arts of the Devadasi system.
As a young dancer-choreographer and guru, Yamini believes in contemporising traditional arts; such contextual teaching helps in holding the attention span of young students. Hailing from Delhi, she understands if some of her students cannot comprehend Telugu sahityam (literature), so she explains the terms in English. Her students often get to hear stories, know about a flower or cake or discuss the behaviour of an animal while learning mudras. In one session, she asked the students how would a half-baked cake taste. The reactions of the students were turned into expressions or ‘abhinaya’. This way they could experience and enjoy the moves and and the grace of mudras too. “When it is put in perspective, students are able to grasp more,” she says.
She also explores different subjects for her dance presentations. “I imagine how I would connect to the dance if I were sitting in the audience.” For the ‘Bhagavadajjukam’ ballet, she chose to present a small narrative to explain the story, before the actual presentation. Presented in shadow play, the narrative was a visual delight that instantly struck a chord. “Some of the audience who didn’t know the story enjoyed it because of this shadow presentation,”she recalls.
Last year, she worked with her father Raja Reddy on his new production ‘Surya’ and gave it a scientific approach. “The presentation about the origin of Surya got me curious. I wanted to bring a modern approach, as we are aware of the Big Bang theory of the universe.” The final choreography blended science and puranas so that it depicted Surya as well as the planetary system too. Choreographies that highlight modern elements and are made relatable attract more youngsters to the arts, she observes. “Apart from innovationswe also need to document and preserve the tradition.
Dance and her seven-year-old son keep her busy but she also likes to read, eat a pizza or simply party. Before leaving, she wonders if the government can provide jobs to artistes. “When they can do for cricketers, why not for artistes? Even a small amount can secure the future of artistes.”
This column features Gen Next entrepreneurs who take their family legacy forward