Kuchipudi derives its name after its village of birth in Andhra Pradesh, India. Kuchipudi evolved from yakshagana, a drama tradition practiced by male dancers who played both male and female roles to enact stories. As the patronage changed through each generation, this art form grew and went through a lot of changes.
In the early part of the 20th century, Sri Vendantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry revolutionized Kuchipudi by introducing solos to the drama tradition. He also encouraged women into the art form. His disciple, Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam continued his work and brought world-wide recognition to this art form.
The foundations of Kuchipudi can be mapped to the Natya Shastra, a treatise on dance, music, and drama. This art form is characterized by its scintillating rhythm, quicksilver movements, geometric precision, eloquent and sensitive expressions, and beauty in its technique of presentation.
More than that, Kuchipudi is a lifestyle to live, a discipline to follow that makes one a better person.
Sri Sai Dance Academy
Sri Sai Dance Academy is an institution dedicated to learning, understanding and fostering interest in the classical art form of Kuchipudi. It was founded by Smt. J. Sarada, a patient and dedicated teacher with over two decades of teaching experience. Sarada focuses on developing technical perfection, theoretical understanding and, most importantly, passion for the art form.
The dynamic class environment allows for both individual attention and learning in groups. Additionally, the class’s informal mentorship system encourages students to hone their own skills and learn from each other, as well as forge strong relationships. Sri Sai Dance Academy also offers classes on specialized topics such as talam, nattuvangam, and development of abhinaya that are open to students of other classical Indian dance forms.
Sarada’s students have performed not only in the Richmond area, but also in India with Kuchipudi Kalakshetra’s troupe. They have also toured across major cities in the United States as part of Sri Hari Rama Murthy’s dance drama Mohini Bhasmasura. Two students have taught basics of Kuchipudi and choreographed theater courses at the College of William and Mary. Students have organized and participated in performances to raise funds for charitable causes such as the Borgen Project, Big Help, and the Children’s Hospital.
To develop the experience of the school’s students, Sarada has brought together musicians in the local area to form an orchestra that provides musical support for some of the school’s major performances, such as rangapravesams.
Founder and Director
Sarada Jammi always knew she wanted to be a dancer. She performed for the first time as an eight-year-old. Today, over thirty years later, Sarada has fulfilled her dream. Through dance, she has inspired many others follow theirs through her work as a performer, choreographer, community organizer and mentor.
Sarada was introduced to dance by Smt. Shantha Balagopalan in Dhanbad, India in 1976. In 1985, she moved to Madras, where she received training under Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam at the Kuchipudi Art Academy in the true gurukulam style, living in his home. In 1987 she moved to Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, Visakhapatnam, a branch of the Academy. After moving to Singapore, she returned to Kalakshetra yearly throughout the nineties for advanced training. In 2000, she spent a whole year honing proficiency in express ions, choreography, and theory at Kuchipudi Kalakshetra under Hari Rama Murthy and N. N. V. Satyabhanu, and worked towards translating the theory from Telugu, the vernacular, to English.
Sarada has taught in Richmond since 2002, letting students experience the Gurukulam learning style during summer sessions, which involves the students staying at the teacher’s house all day and learning while fostering a family-like community between the older and younger students, as well as allowing the students to be immersed in the dance. She taught students taking year-round classes 2 – 5 times weekly. During this time, she also reached out to the academic community, through events such lecture demonstrations at the University of Richmond and a one hour demonstration at the Richmond Montessori for first graders and kindergartners. Additionally, she worked with various local Indian cultural associations such as the Greater Richmond Telugu Association, Greater Richmond Tamil Sangam, Greater Richmond Bengali Association, Hindu Center of Virginia, and the Cultural Center of India. During the nineties, Sarada taught at the Nrithyalaya Aesthetics Society and worked for the Singaporean Ministry of Education, teaching at the Si Ling, North View, and Yishun primary schools.
Her students, whose ages range from five over forty, have performed widely, touring in India with students from Kuchipudi Kalakshetra as well as performing around Virginia and Maryland for various cultural events as well as for fundraising events such as the Virginia Dance Festival, which raises money for the Children’s Hospital. Several have performed their rangapravesam, professional debut, under her. Sarada has also collaborated with other local artists to provide live musical support for dance performances. Sarada choreographs dance items exploring various philosphical themes through Kuchipudi. Her choreographies vary in difficulty, featuring rhythmic interplay and evocative imagery.
Sarada has performed widely in Singapore, India and the United States. Today, Sarada teaches Kuchipudi classes and classes on specialized topics such as talam, abhinaya, developing choreography and nattuvangam for interested dancers of all styles. She also conducts nattuvangam for dance performances with an orchestra of talented local musicians.
As the chairperson of Sri Sai Narayana Organization, she organizes intimate concerts to encourage young students of Indian classical arts and to invite experienced musicians to share their art with the Richmond community.
Simply put, Sarada lives to share her passion for the arts.
Ameya began learning Kuchipudi at the Kuchipudi Kalakshetra in 2000. Since then, she has been under the tutelage of her mother, J. Sarada, as well as Sri Hari Rama Murthy and Smt. N. N. V. Satyabhanu. Ameya has performed in India and throughout the United States as part of Sri Hari Rama Murthy’s troupe, including in the role of Sage Narada in his dance drama Mohini Bhasmasura. She has presented solo performances in the U.S. as well.
Ameya has trained numerous students as part of Sri Sai Dance Academy, as well as a teaching assistant for the South and South East Asian performing arts courses under Professor Francis Tanglao-Aguas at the College of William & Mary. Ameya uses a meticulous and analytical approach to hone the technical skills of dance students. In addition to her work at Sri Sai Dance Academy, she also coordinates performances for the Indian Classical Arts Performance Series at Sri Sai Narayana Organization. Ameya is currently pursuing her Masters in Kuchipudi at the University of Silicon Andhra.