Keerthana Ravi has trained under the veteran Vuzavor Guru Bharatha Shikara Guru Smt. Padamini Ramachandran, Director – Natyapriya, Bangalore for over twenty two years. She is now undergoing extensive training under Guru Smt. Rama Vaidyanathan for the last two years.
Keerthana stood First in the Senior exam for Bharathanatyam conducted by the Govt. of Karnataka in 2005. She has received an ‘A’ grade from The Delhi Doordarshan Kendra.
She has performed extensively at several festivals across India. She has recently been awarded the title ’Kanaka Bhushan’ by Padmabhushan Dr. Kanak Rele through Rachna Sansad Brahmnaad Academy, Mumbai. She has also been conferred with the title ‘Nritya Jyothi’ by Dept. of Culture, Govt. of Oddisha and the ‘Leela Mukut Narthan’ award in Ahmedabad.
Keerthana has represented India at the World Youth Congress, Scotland, 2005 as a youth cultural ambassador.
Keerthana is a part of a handpicked ensemble for Anita Ratnam’s neo-classic production ‘Padme’. She is also part of the Spicmacy series for Govt. School children. She was part of Academy award winner Carlos Sauvra’s dance and theatre production Flamenco India in Spain. She recently toured the US with the production ‘Leela’.
She has passed the Vocal and Veena instrumental junior exam conducted by the Govt. of Karnataka with a distinction. To further her dance education she has trained in Kalaripayattu and Kathak.
Keerthana graduated from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore and has completed her Post Graduation in Communication Management from MICA, Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts in Bharathantanatyam from Kalai Kaveri College of Fine Arts, Trichy and runs an Arts promotion start-up called RasaBodhi Arts Foundation and organized INDIA’S FIRST CROWD FUNDED classical dance festival EVAM in Feb 2016.
A few excerpts from Keerthana’s Interview:
What is your earliest memories of dance? How did you get into dancing?
I actually started dancing at the age of three I went for ballet classes at Alliance Francaise they had a teacher from the Russian ballet school then. That was for a short period and I don’t remember much. I’m told this story that when my cousins would come down from Andhra during summer vacation and do Kuchipudi I would stand behind them and imitate their moves. I later pestered my mother to put me into classical dance classes that’s how I started learning dance.
When you were young and learning dance, did you enjoy it? I ask because many times, children go to dance classes just because parents ask them too…what were your feelings towards dance?
Dance class was an extension of home for me I had a blast growing up there. Even though Padmini Ma’am was a bit strict initially and I was very young I remember enjoying classes. We would sit there for hours watching our seniors dance and never tire. Ma’am always thought us individually and she would customise the choreography for each of us so there was never repetition or boredom.
Does the way of teaching matter in developing a love for the art? Could you tell us a bit about your training?
Absolutely it’s the responsibility of the teacher to make the classes interesting and engaging. Padmini Ma’am’s passion for dance was infectious she made all of us fall in love with dance. We had individual classes after we finished a few basic items and learnt alot very effortlessly. It would be so interesting to see what we’ll be doing next class because she would often not remember what she taught us and ended up teaching us something totally different. She believed that we must communicate and our dance must reach every member of the audience. She egged us to use our eyes to emote and her choreography was such that it could be understood by anyone. It was exciting and thrilling to be in her classes and could never get enough of watching her dance. She truly inspired all her students.
How did the idea of crowd funding an entire festival come about? Please describe in detail…was it a very daunting prospect? Did you think what would happen if you didn’t get any funds? How did you go about finding the people for the project?
What is your view on making Bharatanatyam more accessible and ‘attractive’ in a sense? How do you think it can be taken out of its coziness? is experimentation the answer?
I don’t think the form needs any change but probably the content and presentation does. We must cater to our audiences and break down things so that anyone can understand. With shorter attention spans and digital taking over we have much to explore, learn and unlearn. We cannot be elitist and hope for a huge audience turnout the key is to simply, explain and slowly nurture an uninitiated audience. This is a process and dancers must invest in it for a period of time to see the difference.
Do you think classical arts like Bharatanatyam need to expand their themes to attract younger audience? Maybe focus on modern issues/ problems? Your opinion on this.
I don’t think we need to talk about politics or demonization to attract audiences. Every art and medium of entertainment has its own place we cannot compete with another form. We could probably make our content more interesting, have unique collaborations with other artists from different genres.A very good example of this is coke studio. You have a qawali singer with a jazz guitarist it’s high quality music at the end of the day. I believe content is king. Mythology, literature, poetry can reach youngsters too it’s how we present it that will attract more people.
Who are your favourite performers? Your inspirations?
My inspiration is my Guru late Padmini Ramachandran her passion and creativity is what made me stick to dance for over two decades. I am extremely inspired by Rama Vaidyanathan I love her approach to dance, her ideas and story telling. I have the good fortune of learning under her now. So both my Gurus are my inspiration. My favourite performers are many and I often remember performances from many years ago and still recollect how it made me feel. The Dhananjayan’s, Lakshmi Vishwanathan, Vyjayanti mala are my ultimate. Meenakshi Srinivasan, Vaibhav Arekar and Bragha Basel are few of my favourites.
What is your biggest dream?
To make a Bharathanatyam recital an option like going for a play or watching a movie. I would like people to consider watching a dance program an activity they could do over the weekend.