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Woodbury resident to make debut in Indian-style dance

After eight years of dance, Woodbury resident Apoorva Kanneganti will perform her debut solo, or arangetram, in bharatanatyam, a style of classical Indian dance.2 / 2

Woodbury resident Apoorva Kanneganti said she didn't connect to the stories of her Indian heritage and culture until age 10, when she was introduced to a form of classical Indian dance.

Kanneganti, a 2010 Minnesota Math and Science Academy graduate, made the connections through the bharatanatyam dance.

"Dance is a different way to connect to those stories," she said.

After dancing for eight years, Kanneganti will perform her arangetram, or debut, on June 4 at the St. Paul Student Center.

Kanneganti has spent years preparing for her arangetram.

The performance will be a two-and-a-half hour solo on stage.

"It's definitely very nerve wracking," she said. "You don't know what's going to happen up on stage. You wonder if you can even do it."

Connecting to culture

Kanneganti began bharatanatyam at the suggestion of her parents.

"I like dancing and I wanted to get involved with something," she said.

After a couple classes, Kanneganti said she knew bharatanatyam was something she enjoyed.

"It's a great way to stay in touch with your culture and a good way to exercise," she said.

Bharatanatyam is a classical style of dance that has roots in the temples, Kanneganti's dance instructor Suchi Sairam said.

"This style of dance is embedded in the culture," she said.

Sairam said bharatanatyam has two aspects to it: natya, the dramatic art of storytelling, and nhritta, which are pure technical dance movements.

"There's the rhythmical, technical side and then there's the theatrical storytelling side," Sairam said. "Bharatanatyam is a unique blend of mind and body and spirituality."

Kanneganti said she was drawn to bharatanatyam because of how unique it was.

"It's very unique compared to any other type of dance," she said. "It combines many different things.

"It's exciting to see how that all fits together since you're moving everything from your fingers to your eyes."

Kanneganti said the most difficult part of bharatanatyam, when she was first learning, was understanding the art and the feelings behind the movements.

Kanneganti said it was Sairam who really helped her connect to the movement and the feelings behind them.

"We would learn how to connect the feelings and emotions to daily life," she said. "These are feelings that you can relate to, so it helps you feel the stories better."

Making her debut

Kanneganti said the arangetram wasn't always the plan when she started bharatanatyam.

"I wouldn't have even pictured doing this a year ago," she said. "It just kind of clicked one day."

Sairam said preparing for the performance requires a lot of dedication by both instructor and dancer.

On average, Kanneganti practices three to four times per week with Sairam for a total of at least 10 hours, but that doesn't include time on her own.

"You immerse yourself in the dance when preparing for your debut," Sairam said. "In your debut you're the focus of the dance, so you're going above and beyond anything you've ever done.

"The dance is a big test of mental and physical stamina but its also a test of her skill and a test of my skill -- it's a test of your mental energy."

Even though Kanneganti's bharatanatyam arangetram will be physically demanding, she said she is most concerned about how mentally draining it will be since all eyes will be on her and she will be on stage alone.

Since the arangetram is so demanding, and requires so much preparation, Sairam said it becomes a family affair.

"It's almost like a mini wedding," she said.

Kanneganti said she does not know where she wants to go with bharatanatyam after the arangetram.

"I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here," she said.

Sairam said Kanneganti's arangetram is just the beginning for her.

"For some people this debut is viewed as a graduation, but in fact it's the beginning," she said. "You can begin to understand the scope of the art -- it's the launching point."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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