Dance & Beyond

by mediology

Kiranmayee Madupu talks with You & I
A classical dancer and teacher, Kiranmayee began dancing at the age of 6, and knew right from the time she set foot onstage for her debut performance that she’d found her calling! Crediting her Guru Hemamalini Arni for what she is today, it was only apt for Kiranmayee to name her dance school after her mentor. Read on to learn more about her passion for dance and more.
How and when did you begin your journey into dance?
I was 6 when my mother enrolled me in my Guru Smt. Hemamalini Arni’s dance class. However, the real journey began only later when I had my first taste of performing. The minute I stepped on stage for my debut performance, my Arangetram, it felt as if that was the moment I had waited for all my life, and I was finally where I was meant to be!
What made you take it up as a full-time profession?
To understand my answer to this, one would have to experience the feeling I have at the end of an hour-long dance practice session! My whole body feels alive, and what others may refer to as sore muscles actually feels invigorating and liberating to me! This feeling was enough for me to say goodbye to a stable, secure job in Deloitte and a hard-earned engineering degree from CBIT.
At the end of every performance, I see that through my dancing I am able to touch some lives, make people’s emotions surface and give them good memories. This always reinforces my decision to take up dance as a full-time profession.
Was it always on the cards?
If I weren’t a dancer, I would’ve been a singer, painter, an architect or a designer. Whatever it may have been, it would’ve been closely associated with the arts. Dance became a passion and madness in my late teens, when I felt I could best express myself through my dance. My love for music, writing, poetry, painting, intricate artistry and everything that is creative comes together beautifully through the powerful medium of bharatanatyam. So I guess it was just destiny!
Tell us all about your dance academy.
I started ‘Hema Arangam – The Golden Platform’ for several reasons. I am forever indebted to my Guru for everything I am today. So when I began teaching, I felt it was apt to name my dance school after her. Also, ‘Hema Arangam’ translates to a ‘Golden Platform’. And I sincerely believe that classical arts need more effective promotion and packaging for them to be accessible to the current generation. So I wanted Hema Arangam to come up as that golden platform. We regularly organise niche cultural events, and are now gearing up for our first anniversary celebrations this month, when my students will perform for the first time.
Who do you credit for your knowledge of, and accomplishments in dance?
My Guru and my mother. These two women have shown me strength in two different capacities, and I shall always use examples from their lives as a yardstick to measure my success. My 81-year-old teacher’s snippets of wisdom and her progressive thinking have helped me in ways that I feel, in hindsight, have been miraculous. And my mother, who is very young and almost like a sister, has been my best friend and guide throughout.
Which is your most memorable performance?
It was my first international performance, as well as the first time travelling abroad! As I was about to address my audience in the auditorium at the Nehru Centre in London, I literally froze. After a few moments of going blank, I just decided to toss the original speech aside and started having an honest conversation about how it was my love for dance that brought me all the way to London against all odds. I shed all my inhibitions and just danced with my heart, and at the end of the show I received a standing ovation! It was indeed my most memorable performance!.
When you’re dancing or teaching, what is most important to you?
To be myself. My Guru always taught me that, and I sincerely believe it too. One must always be honest to oneself while dancing – or doing anything else in life, for that matter. So when I teach my students or choreograph my dance or just dance for pleasure, I always try to be myself and have fun!
What difference do you feel in today’s dancers compared to those of the old school, gurukulam style?
Nowadays, dance has become just another activity for children; they attend two classes a week and then move onto something else. In the olden days, it was a way of life. One practically lived with the Guru and students were like extended family. Even though the gurukulam system is not followed, my life is closely connected to my Guru’s. I’m very lucky to share a respectful emotional bond with her, and try to instil such values into my students as well.
You’re also training in Carnatic music. How do you manage the two?
Singing comes naturally to me. For a long time, I sang by ear and slowly discovered that I could identify ragams without any training in Carnatic music. Also, being a bharatanatyam dancer, it is essential to know music. So I took Carnatic vocal classes for a few years. I enjoy singing for my students while teaching them and my own practice classes too. But a lifetime isn’t enough to master these art forms!
Tell us about your love of art.
Painting and drawing are other loves that have engrossed me for as long as I can remember. My current favourite is acrylic, and I love discovering new techniques of painting and self-expression. When friends wanted to purchase some of my artwork, it was a big confidence booster. Someday, I’m going to discover an art form in which I can paint, sing, dance and write – all at the same time!
What are your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Although I quit a full-time job in a multinational company, I find myself busier now than ever! However, my love for art helps me find the time to pursue other hobbies, too. Apart from dance, I also do graphic designing. I find applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator great ways to present my ideas in refreshing and exciting ways.                                                                       — as told to Niharika

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