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Pritika Krishnakumar, a Bharatanrityam Dancer Based in Bangalore, Tells Us About Pursuing This Traditional Craft

Pritika Krishnakumar is a Bharatanrityam dancer based in Bangalore. Currently training under the acclaimed Radha Kalpa dance company, this graceful dancer knew Bharatanatyam was her passion at the age of 4. 

On usual days, she is training and honing her craft. She says, “there’s a lot that goes into making a dance performance look effortlessly beautiful. Hours of training and learning. I enjoy the process and hope that people can see through all the hard work.” Know more this flawlessly talented girl journey as we chat with her. 

Meet our dancer, Pritika! PC: Udta Tejas

  • Hello Pritika! At Roots and Leisure we value strong cultural connections. So, when we heard about your mastery in a traditional artform, we were very excited to chat with you! Thank you for being here. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi! My name is Pritika Krishnakumar. I’m a 27-year-old, Bharatanatyam dancer based in Bangalore. I was born and raised in Mumbai and I started training in this classical art when I was just 7. I began under the tutelage of Guru Dr Jayashree Rajagopalan (Vijji Akka), who is one of the foremost disciples of Guru Dr. Padma Subramanyam (Padma Akka). I have also trained in Odissi for 2 years under Guru Jhelum Paranjpe (Smitalay). Now, for the past 2 years, I have been dancing as a part of ‘Raadhakalpa’ training under Guru Rukmini Vijayakumar. 

 

  • Introduce us to your dance form – Bharatanrityam.

The Karana movements were the base of most classical dance forms. They were discovered in the temples of Tamil Nadu. Padma Akka was instrumental in reviving the Karana system/movements when she realised that sculptures in the temples were depicting movements that were frozen in time. She incorporated these movements to Bharatnatyam and revived various graceful steps that have a certain budding flow and named this form, ‘Bharatanrityam’. This is my form of traditional dance. 

Pritika with her parents at Guruvayur temple

Pritika with one of her mentors, Vijji Akka.

  • What inspired you to pursue Bharatanatyam?

My mother was always a dance lover. Even though she is untrained, she would take part in dances at her school and watch a lot of performances. She was the one who instilled in me, my appreciation and love for this beautiful craft. I can remember as far back as when I was 2, watching classical dance performances and being engrossed in her passionate running commentary during them. 

I was also extremely enamoured by the outfits and shiny jewellery. I would come home and imitate the dancers, how they spoke, their expressions, attempt some of the steps. I used to sit my grandparents down, play some music and perform for them, making up my own steps. 

I started enjoying these experiences so much that when I was 4, I adamantly declared that I wanted to become a Bharatanrityam dancer. Once I started classes, there was no looking back. I would choose my weekend dance classes over attending almost all my school friend’s birthday parties. There was nothing that made me feel so happy and free. 

After having completed a bachelors in Developmental psychopathology and a post-grad course in counselling, I took the plunge into this full-time. My parents have always been a strong support system for me. They were the ones who encouraged my exposure to all the artforms and more practical subjects, whether it was music, art, sports or dance.

Flexibility is also key!

  • Give us a peek into your routine!

I never did anything specific until I joined Raadhakalpa. Rukmini Akka was the one who taught me to be more conscious of my body and more disciplined. She introduced us to the importance of strength and flexibility training through Pilates and yoga. It helped protect our body from injuries as well as make our bodies more available as dancers – to be able to move more efficiently and effortlessly. So now, besides just practising the dance pieces, I spend time working on strength and flexibility. 

younger version of me.

  • You’ve done a number of shows and performances. Tell us about your first one!

My first public performance was in 6th grade. I had the opportunity to be a part of Vijji Akka’s dance production ‘Shakuntala’ which was presented for the golden jubilee of Padma Akka’s dance school in Chennai. I remember being so excited because I had the opportunity to perform in front of the goddess herself, Padma Subramanyam. I played 2 roles – a little deer and shankuntala’ s son, Bharata. My mother made the entire deer costume by herself. 

Playing a negative role is still a worthy challenge

A love that was only grown.

  • Which was your favourite performance so far?

Each of them has been very enriching experiences for me, whether it was in a group or as a solo act. I have multiple favourites for various reasons, but one memorable one was when I was in 7th grade and we presented the Ramayana at a temple. I remember being very upset at my teacher for giving me the role of the evil and old ‘manthara’ who instigates Queen Kaikeyi against Rama. I remember coming back home and throwing a tantrum, having my mother find me amusing made it even worse. But, she convinced me that it was just a role, a really good role, how well I play it is what truly makes me a better dancer/actor. 

Pritika and Rukmini Akka – Her more recent teacher at Radha Kalpa Company.

  • Where do you take inspiration from?

Growing up in Mumbai, I never felt lacking of inspiration. I loved to watch great dancers like Alarmel Valli, Kelucharan Mohapatra, Jhelum Paranjpe and Madhavi Mudgal. Every December I also used to watch at least one performance by Padma Akka during the December dance season in Chennai. Both, Padma Akka and Vijji Akka are such graceful dancers. I always aspire to be able to move as beautifully as they do. Recent additions to my list also include Rukmini Akka, Paarshwanath Upadhyaye, Bijayani Sathpathy and Sunanda Nair. Each of them are so stunning to watch in their respective dance styles.

makeup also plays an important role – to highlight facial expressions during the dances.

Attending Practices

  • What do you hope people take away from your performances?

I want people to enjoy the performance as much as I enjoy performing it. I want them to feel/ appreciate/understand the emotions that come through the performance. There is just so much which goes into each performance.Bharatanrityam or any classical dance for that matter is not just about completing an arangetram. Like in any other field, dance is also an ongoing learning process. To reach a level of dexterity and professionalism, it takes a lot more than an arangetram or a few shows on stage. It requires us to spend rigorous time training and practising our craft just as much as one would do for any other profession. It’s a lot of hard work and discipline and not all glitz and glam. So I truly wish for people to see how much this means to us as well. 

A moment from Rukmini Akka’s beautiful ‘Shankarabharanam’ that I had the honour of presenting at Shilparamam.

  • Tell us about your latest work!

My current focus is on my solo performances rather than creating work. I’m also very excited about my upcoming show on the 21st of September in Bangalore for ‘THE PLATFORM’- a festival of dance at Shoonya. It’s a wonderful festival that has been curated Masoom Parmar.

We wish her the best for her future performances! 

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