Express News Service
TIRUPATI: Dance is the unifier for this couple in Tirupati. It forms their life’s rhythm, the soul’s language that communicates with the surroundings in their spiritual journey, spreading the goodness of the art form. When the journey turns spiritual, materialistic desires take a back seat. So is the case with Neelam Dhana Sree and Srinivasa Rao, who have been taking classical dance forms to the youngsters, passing on the knowledge they have acquired over the years.
Their studio, Bharata Kalakshetram at Annarao Circle here, is open to all since 2004, where they teach Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi to youth, irrespective of the students’ financial status. Neelam and Srinivasa believe in passing on their knowledge and have taken under their wings dozens of students, many of whom are from below-poverty line families.
Inspired by noted artist Rukmini Devi Arundal, the founder of Kalakshetra in Chennai, and her devotion to fine arts, the couple are currently teaching 70 students the two dance forms. Four of their students have performed “arangetram” (graduation ceremony where the guru presents his or her pupil to the public).
Born into a middle-class family, Neelam (40) is now pursuing her PhD in Thallapaka Annamacharya Sankeerthanas from Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu. Her husband has also completed MA in Fine Arts. The couple decided to embark on the journey to spread the knowledge of classical dance together and got married after years of friendship.
Long-time dance partners at stage shows, Srinivasa and Neelam started learning Bharatanatyam in their childhood under guru MV Narasimhachary. Neelam, after completing her graduation from Mahila University, and Srinivasa, who was studying in Chennai, got in touch with each other again to learn the advanced techniques of the art form, which united them in marriage.
They have performed in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the US. Srinivasa had worked as a dance teacher at Anjali Dance Company in Texas.During the peak Covid-19 days, the couple started online classes and trained students from the UK, the US, Sri Lanka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
“Dance has always been my first love. I grew up in a family that gave much importance to culture. Many people have contributed and helped in keeping the classical arts alive. We decided to do our bit and started teaching students Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi at Bharata Kalakshetram, which draws inspiration from Kalakshetra,” Neelam said.
While students Monika, Medha Sree, Srinithi and Sree Medha performed their “arangetram,” five of their students have secured scholarships from the Ministry of Culture for a fellowship program.
“We want the youngsters to know the rich Indian culture and heritage, and ensure the continuity of classical arts for years to come,” Neelam added. In the past few months, they have performed at municipal schools in Tirupati and showcased stories from the Panchatantra through their art.