Meet Rithika, a Bharatnatyam dancer and a senior at Chantilly High school in Fairfax, VA. She is the daughter of Shanthi Ashok, bharatnatyam teacher at Nrityanjali.
- How old are you and what do you do? (grade/school/college)
I’m 17 years old, a senior at Chantilly High School, and plan on attending William and Mary University next year!
2. When did you start dancing and who are your gurus?
I had a different situation than most of my dance peers, as my guru was none other than my own mother, Shanthi Ashok. I remember watching her teach others and following along in the corner of the room, thus beginning my dance journey at the age of three. Over the last few years, I have also had the privilege to learn under the tutelage of renowned gurus such as Sri N. Srikanth. In terms of western dance, which I have pursued since the age of 5, Raynor Van Der Merwe has helped me to take my passion to new heights.
3. How do you prep for a dance performance?
Practice, practice, practice! Also listening to the music and really understanding the meaning and complexity prior to performing definitely adds a layer of maturity to a performance.
4. Currently, what’s your favorite dance item and/or music piece you listen to?
Bhavayami is one of my all time favorites, having performed it as a varnam at my arangetram! Storytelling through dance is my favorite way of utilizing my artistic capabilities, and the piece really lends itself to depicting the diverse emotions of the variety of characters in the Ramayana.
5. How would you describe an amazing dancer and do you have any inspiring role models?
To me, an amazing dancer is someone who can move your soul through their performance, as well as make their movements seem effortless. If a dancer is truly enjoying themself on stage, it immediately translates into the audience’s emotions as well. As cheesy as it may sound, my mother has always been my role model in dance. Watching her patience, passion, and power while yielding grace in her abhinayam pushes me to continue striving to mirror her artistic capabilities on stage!
6. How has dancing helped you in other areas? School, friendships and other?
Dance has shaped me to be the individual I am today. The discipline, responsibility, patience and understanding I have gained, is something I will treasure with me in the future.
7. In your eyes, what’s your biggest achievement or moment of satisfaction (in dance)?
Dancing alongside my mother as well as Sri N. Srikanth, both very different experiences but equally rewarding, are definitely the biggest achievements in my dance career.
8. It’s the year 2024 – where do you see yourself in the dance field?
Dance will always be a part of me, and I couldn’t ever imagine parting with it. I’m pursuing a Dance minor in college, as well as hopefully joining many dance teams to further my knowledge in the art form. In 2024, I hope to be continuing learning as well as teaching, and slowly following in my mother’s footsteps as I prepare to one day take over Nrityanjali Dance Company. In addition, I hope to one day fulfill my dream of performing in Chennai during the Maargazhi Masam
Like the showcase? Want to see the other fabulous dancers and teachers of NoVA? Click here