By Suryasree Varanasi
My name is Suryasree Varanasi. My inspiration for learning dance came from the movie Sankarabharanam, watching the dance of Ms.Manju Bharghavi. Discovering my interest, my grandfather encouraged my parents to enroll me in dance. I was enrolled into Andhranatyam at age 8 as the disciple of Sri Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna Garu(Pedda master garu). I was enrolled in his dance school because my mother always saw him teach poor kids and provide them food and shelter. This inspired her to enroll me under Pedda Master Garu after seeing his kindness and philanthropy towards kids. I am truly blessed to have such a great guru.
I still remember my first day of my dance journey. It was the day of Dussehra. Pedda master Garu taught me and a few more kids Gurubrahma Stotram, Samudra vasane devi, and a few mudras.
During my journey in Andhranatyam, I learned a lot of techniques in Abhinayam from him along with his senior disciples, Perini Kumar sir, and Kalakrishna master garu. I also learned Adhyatma Ramayanam from Saride Manikyamba garu who used to live in Master garu’s house.
My first stage performance in Andhranatyam was done in the Siddhi Vinayaka temple in Secunderabad in the presence of pedda master garu. I gave my Arangetram under guruvugaru’s guidance in 1987. I remember him giving an introduction from the stage backdrop about each item before I performed it. He explained the origin of the song and when it was performed (Alaya, Astana). During my arangetram, he also said to my parents that I should not discontinue dance and help in propagating Andhranatyam.
After taking a break from dance for my higher education, I resumed after moving to the US in 2001. I started training in Kuchipudi under Jyothirmayi Lakkaraju (disciple of Dr.Uma Ramarao) and gave a few performances for the organizations like SiliconAndhra, TANA, and a few local temples. When performing Kuchipudi, I always used to associate myself more as an Andhranatyam dancer because I grew up with it, and adding to that during my performances people used to like the expressions in my Abhinaya(Satvika Abhinaya) which was due the foundation I received from Andhranatyam.
When I met Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna garu in Hyderabad in 2009, I saw his strong zeal to continuously propagate Andhranatyam and Perini had not faded away. He said,”I have become old , I can’t write much now but my memory is still intact to teach this art to others and I would like to continue teaching ”. Those words were very touching. During our conversation, he also explained how we should bring Omkaram from the inner self when presenting in dance.I felt that I needed to do my part in propagating this art and fulfill the wishes of pedda master garu.
Whenever I met Kalakrishna master garu during his visit to California, I used to feel more inspired and that I needed to do my contributions to Andhranatyam. In the year 2020, I saw the Andhranatyam Golden Jubilee virtual event on social media where many dancers have shared their experiences with pedda master garu and also presented different items. I got inspired and I felt that I am lacking in my contributions to this art form.
Coincidentally, I saw Perini Kumar sir’s post about virtual classes . I remembered Guruvu garu’s words about propagating Perini Siva thandavam dance in the US . I enrolled my son to learn Perini from Kumar sir. He also inspired and encouraged me to start teaching Andhranatyam to kids in the US which I was always hesitant due to lack of confidence. He also asked me to teach in the name of Andhranatyam itself so that people will start recognizing this art form.
Apart from teaching , I also started looking for avenues to propagate Andhranatyam . I felt that a virtual event through the SiliconAndhra organization will be a good one as they encourage all the different types of art forms in Telugu states. And it would be a great platform to propagate Andhranatyam.
Then I was introduced to Deenababu Kondubhatla , Dean of SAMPADA(SiliconAndhra music and performing arts and Dance Academy) through my cousin ,with whom I discussed my idea about doing a tribute to Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna garu as part of the Golden jubilee celebrations . He immediately agreed.
I shared my idea with Perini Kumar sir and Kalakrishna master garu. They both encouraged me to do this event and helped me contact all the Andhranatyam artists in the USA , Canada and UK. All the artists were very happy and came forward to do this event in the US . Almost more than 30 artists came on a single platform for the first time in the US to perform Andhranatyam . We were also able to gather Perini artists from India to perform Perini. This event was done as a 2 day event on Jan 9th and Jan 10th , 2021. As part of the dance, we also had Guruvu garu’s senior disciples share their experiences . Kalakrishna master garu, Perini Ramesh sir, Raghavamma garu (who was the senior disciple of guruvu garu), Perini Kumar sir, Dr. Suvarachala garu, Dr. Sudha Kalavaguntla shared their experiences. We had invited Sri.K.V.Ramachary garu to be the chief guest who shared his experiences with pedda master garu and about Andhranatyam. His speech was a highlight for the event. SAMPADA team(Deenbabu garu, Phani Madhav and and Mimicry Janardhan) had created a beautiful Audio visual about pedda master garu that created nostalgia and brought an emotional feeling.
We have laid out our program structure in the 3 traditions of Andhranatyam. Agama, Astana and Prabhanda traditions.
All the artists have come forward with a lot of dedication to this event , by spending their time and effort and had performed with true devotion towards Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna garu , Andhranatyam and Perini.
The entire event became a great success because of the effort that was put in by all the artists, the speeches of the guests , the coordination and excellent work done by Sampada in bringing the event together. At every moment I felt the blessing by Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna garu.
I am grateful to my parents, my Guru, and learning an excellent art from a teacher who I feel is a true form of Lord Nataraja. An artist in me and my love for art was all due to blessings from them. I am also thankful to my husband and in-laws who recognized my love and passion for dance and encouraged me to pursue the same.