Neha Ratnapuri is a student of Kuchipudi and a dancer at Kalamandapam, Fairfax, VA. She learns from Guru Mrinalini Sadananda and guru Kavitha Cheedalla.
1, How old are you and what do you do? (grade/school/college)
I am 18 years old and a senior at Georgetown Day School, DC
2. When did you start dancing and who are your gurus?
I started dancing when I was 8 years old. My gurus are MS and KC, Keerthana akka, Divya akka, Bhagavathula Mastergaru Srinivas Mastergaru – all in Kuchipudi
3. How do you prep for a dance performance?
First I listen to the song a lot, instead of usual music, I listen to the song I am going to perform for a week before the date, and I run through the dance 2-3 times after school.
4. What’s your favorite dance item or music piece you listen to when you want to connect to dance?
I tend to like Thillanas a lot! My favorite dance item really depends on what I am learning at that time. I like the Tharangam that am doing for my NS and I really love Natesha Kouthvam.
5. How would you describe an amazing dancer and do you have any inspiring role models?
There are a lot of components that make a dancer fantastic. Obviously getting the basic body formations down (sitting in good armandi, posture, and having your elbows) up are essential to being good, but I think a few things that distinguish a good dancer from an exceptional one are facial expressions and stage presence. Being able to connect with the song in a deeper way allows a dancer to achieve that.
6. How has dancing helped you in other areas? School, friendships and other?
Kuchipudi is one of my only connections to Indian culture and Hinduism, so having dance has allowed to create connections with a lot of people I wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise, including my own extended family. Additionally, the preparation and mindset that goes into learning and performing a dance has helped me in school for studying! I am able to transform into Lakshmi, Satyabhama, Krishna, and so on for the length of a dance, and it’s a great outlet for me. I gain a lot of energy after a long day from dance. D
7. In your eyes, what’s your biggest achievement or moment of satisfaction (in dance)?
Prepping for my NS – memory and stamina and expressions and there are moments when I get my expressions down correctly is a moment when I feel accomplished!
8. It’s the year 2024 – where do you see yourself in the dance field?
I definitely feel that going into college, I want to be a part of a dance team and be a student of Indian classical dance. So, wherever I am then, I hope to be enrolled in a dance school. I really like teaching, so I hope to be able to teach.