December 2004




December  2004 


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Surabhi Khosla

Swapnasundari…Versatility is her virtue.

One of the best exponents of Kuchipudi, Swapnasundari’s creative genius extends far beyond the boundaries of dance as is evident from her music album and now a new book.

She is the first Indian dancer who focuses not just on presentation but also on the musical and academic aspect of the art. That is why her performances have elevated her to a cult status in the realm of classical dance.

Though one of the best contemporary exponents of Kuchipudi, Swapnasundari is equally adept at Bharatnatyam and Vilasini Natyam. But her creative genius extends far beyond the boundaries of her profession. An accomplished vocalist, her gift of making ancient poetry come alive with her music and dance is well known. Proof of that was her stunning album, Janmabhoomi Meri Pyaari.

Now the danseuse has extended her oeuvre further. Not wanting to be confined to classical dancing and singing she has found another form of creative expression - writing. Her new book The World of Koochipoodi Dance (the double ‘o’s she insists, is how the word should be spelt) is wowing art critics many of whom feel it is one of the most comprehensive encyclopaedias on this dance form.

With her new book…Tracing the roots of the classical dance.

"The book is an attempt at popularizing the art among non-dancers. I’ve tried to make it as interesting as I possibly can for the reader," says the lady.

The World of Koochipoodi Dance (Shubhi Publications Rs. 3500) explores the efforts to revive the traditional dance along with myths and legends popularly associated with it. The reader is entertained with engrossing information and little known aspects related to Kuchipudi. Conventional as well as contemporary, it is as lively as its author.

Born in Chennai, Swapnasundari was greatly influenced by her grandmother who persuaded her to learn dance. She started with Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi came into her life when she was all of nine years. Later she moved with her family to Vishakapatnam and trained under the renowned master Pasumarthi Seetharamaiah.

When her father was posted to Delhi, Swapnasundari resumed her training under her own guru Seetharamaiah who too had moved to the capital by then. "This second chance at learning under my distinguished guru was a lucky accident. In fact," she laughs, "most of the great things that have happened in my life have been just that –fortunate accidents."

Her debut too was a lucky accident. It so happened that the renowned danseuse Yamini Krishnamurthy backed out of a classical performance at the last moment. The organiser of the show, who was Swapnasundari’s neighbour, approached her and requested the then 15-year-old to salvage the potential disaster.

The debut was sensational. What followed were a series of momentous shows and soon enough she had carved a niche for herself as the torchbearer of India’s younger generation of dancers.

Today Swapnasundari has come a long way from her breathtaking debut. Her meticulous research in the temple dance traditions indigenous to Andhra has resulted in the reconstruction of a nearly defunct dance genre, Vilasini Natyam.

She is the founder-director of Koochipoodi Dance Centre in Delhi where she provides a forum for performance and dialogue for artists and scholars of all backgrounds.

Her book is her latest endeavour at diversifying and delving into other aspects related to her art. However writing the book was not as easy as the conceptualisation. "The idea had germinated a long time ago but it was a tough task finding a publisher who would understand exactly what I wanted."

And she was quite demanding for she had in mind, her own concept, production design, selection of pictures and treatment of chapters. She even wanted to go as far as appointing a photographer herself. "The exercise was worth it," says she. "I finally met a publisher who was willing to gracefully cave in to my demands and the output has been entirely worthwhile."

The book, for which Swapnasundari started researching a few years ago, comprises her close interactions with Gurus of Koochipoodi, her experience as an artiste, the academic aspects of art and almost 200 pictures. "The best part about it is that nearly 80 percent of the pictures are being seen for the first time," says she.

Whether it is writing a book or performing a dance or even singing a classical number, Swapnasundari’s enthusiasm is almost infectious. "I can’t remain static in life. Today it is a book; tomorrow it could be something else. I am always looking for newer pastures. That’s because I am restless, but I suppose that’s the flipside of creativity." And then she reflects, "I did try to stick to one profession but it just didn’t happen."

Indeed versatility is a virtue with this extraordinary achiever. It is a strength that optimises her potential leading her to glory and awards.





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