Dance for Dance’s Sake

Inspiring Dance Teacher, Dr. Revathi Anandkumar

Dr. Revathi Anandkumar is the only child of Indira and Murali. Her parents moved over to Coimbatore in order to help their daughter continue with her passion, Bharatanatyam. They were extremely happy to share the Arangetram invite of their beloved daughter. The dance school and their residence are located side by side. Indira Murali doubles up as the mother and the Secretary of the dance teacher. Dr. Revathi is a Ph. D. in Marketing, and she teaches subjects for the M. I. B. (Master’s in International Business).

According to the Padmashri Awardee, Ananda Shankar Jayant, “The ancient Indian Dance form, Bharatanatyam, is at once religious and aesthetic. It is a moving offering of a devotee to the Lord. The tinkle of Ghungroo synchronizing with the lithe movements of a dancer’s feet, combining with the Mudras (Hand gestures) and the Abhinaya, to form a theme is performed as a Yagna to the Lord. The dance form is a Sadhana, spiritual means for the integration of thought, emotion & action, channelized into one path, the path towards the Supreme Lord.”

Revathi had begun her dance classes pretty early in life. She was just six years old when she joined under the very young teacher, Ananda Shankar. The Arangetram was held under the banner of Vamsee Art Theaters and Sankarananda Kalakshetra at Ravindra Bharati in Hyderabad on 4th July 1984. “It was a pleasure to learn from Akka (Ananda Shankar Jayant) and she had begun to teach dance as a teenager. Akka taught me for nearly 18 years and thanks to her, Bharatanatyam is my life. I continue to be a learner and it gives me a lot of contentment to be so. Today, Akka runs a huge institution at Hyderabad and is extremely popular. I continue to stay in touch with her,” stated a cheerful Revathi while sharing photographs connected with her performances.

Marriage to Dr. Anandkumar led Revathi to Coimbatore. She began to teach Bharatanatyam from 1998 and this teacher wishes to impart the knowledge to the ones who are keen to pursue dance for life. In fact, she has just conducted 5 Arangetram-s thus far. Revathi gave her reasons logically, “Bharatanatyam is a beautiful subject. One should pursue it with love and passion. I get to see people stopping their wards from continuing dance classes at the time of their board or entrance exams. Many of them give up dancing after their Arangetram. I want to state that Arangetram is actually making a debut and not cutting off the dance career. So, if someone wants to do an Arangetram, I ensure that they keep learning or performing or teaching thereafter. Well, one can even become a dance critic.”

Several people had wanted Revathi to establish a large dance school. However, she has not done so. Revathi is particular to give her personal touch to each one of her students. She does not want to become too commercial. Her classes during any period just have a maximum of 40 students. The Covid has forced her to teach online and she has restricted the number to just 25. There are just six students per batch and the small number has yielded good results. Her student, Harini had even won a prize of honour. Revathi is not too happy with online classes. But she is conducting them to ensure that her students stay in touch with dance.

Dr. Anandkumar had suggested that his wife, Revathi chooses her students carefully. The students and parents must be made to understand that Arangetram is not as important as continuing to dance. If people were interested in recognition, they could always take up a degree or certificate program. Someone had spoken about her financial rewards, and she had given the following reply, “Happiness is important, and money is not everything. One can earn money but cannot earn contentment. My dance teacher used to tell me that I should have two parallel things in life. Therefore, I pursue academics and dancing. I want to keep smiling and my dance is for happiness. Competition and judging are at best avoidable. I never like to rank performances for it destroys one’s passion. Dance is a complete art and I want my students to be happy while they pursue it. In any case, they are surrounded by too much of stress these days and I do not want to add to their load,” smiled the content dance teacher.

Revathi had always been a teacher. She had taught English as a child. One of her students, Prameela Dornala is successful in the U. S. A., and she is thankful to Revathi even today. “Mental and physical health joy, passion etc. are important. People end up sacrificing their passion in order to succeed professionally. They give up what they are innately good at and later regret. The best way would be to balance profession and passion. I am grateful that my teacher has transferred this understanding to me. This is when the teacher becomes a brand.”

The danseuse has performed in places like, Konark and Khajuraho. She is keen to understand poetry and then takes up the subject only after a full analysis. Revathi is right now keen to offer an Annamacharya Kriti, “I love Telugu songs. It is a musical language. The great composer-devotee, Annamacharya has given us 32,000 songs. Several singers have set it to music, and I like the work of ‘Sathiraju Venumadhav.’ He has taken numerous rare ones. I am hoping to take this Sringara Padam for senior students. ‘Kaalamulaarunu galigi niiku nide’ has been set in Vasantha ragam. In this kriti, Annamacharya playfully refers to Alamelu Manga and her advances towards Lord Venkateswara as the 6 seasons, making for interesting imagery of the Sringara between the Lord and the Goddess.”

The teacher has worked on innumerable themes. She had done the Ramayana through the songs of Thyagaiyyah. Now, she is working on a concept based on the works of Annamacharya. Revathi spends a lot of time with music and poetry. She signed off by sharing her wisdom, “Danseuses should learn poetry for understanding and interpreting poetry is essential. It will help the person understand the context of the song. It is important to learn languages in order to appreciate poetry and music. Lots of people in Tamil Nadu are learning Telugu and Sanskrit. This is helping them to appreciate the finer aspects of dance and music. Art should be food and wholesome dance schools are important. We must remember that the art is greater than the artist. Art should be for art’s sake. Enjoy art as art and only then will it give complete satisfaction.”

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of the Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, and entrepreneur. He is a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.