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Bharathanatyam is an inclusive art: Soundarya Santhanakrishnan
Soundarya Santhanakrishnan lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband and children. Soundarya, born in an art loving family, started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of 4. She had her training under Smt. Saroja Rani of Sankara Natyalaya, one of the foremost Bharatanatyam teachers in Chennai. Soundarya gave her first stage performance at the age of 7. She had her arangetram (debut performance) at the age of 13, under the tutelage of Smt. Jayashree Nair of Upasana Academy of Indian Classical Dance, Mumbai. Soundarya continued her advance course in Bharatanatyam under Mrs. Madhavi Chandrasekar of Shri Madhavi Bharatanatyalaya, Trichy, from 2000. Apart from being an established Bharatanatyam danseuse, she is also an accomplished Carnatic vocalist and veena playe. She had her training under Smt. Saroja Hariharan of Saraswathi Gana Nilayam, Mumbai. Excerpts of an e-mail interaction with her:

What does dance mean to you as a person and professional?
As a person dance is one of the best forms for physical exercise which relieves stress and brings a lot of relaxation to mind and body.

As a professional, it is a performing art with emphasis on bhava (expressions), rasa (sentiments), tala (rhythm) and kriya (action).

You have been through different gurus during your learning phase. Is it an advantage or a drag to train under different people?
It was an advantage to me as I had learnt different stages of Bharathanatyam ... the basic course in Thanjavur style, the regular course until arengateram in Pandanallur style, and the advance course in Dr. Padma Subramaniyam style. I have learnt different styles in Bharathanatyam throughout my career.

How different is the learning from these teachers?
Though learning different styles of Bharathanatyam ... each style has its own significance, grace, charm and beauty. This has helped me, and is also proving an advantage for my choreography.

What does it take to be a professional classical dancer?
A good training, continuous efforts, full involvement, versatility of styles and a strong technical background.

What constraints a performing artiste face in the modern day?
According to me, the culture of the ancient art is not maintained right from the rhythmic beat ... the songs are all now in fusion styles because of which the audience is not aware of what is being narrated and hence the art looks like commercialized. The tradition needs to be brought back.

What do you think is the primary attribute of a dancer?
Dancer should be creative, communicative, interactive and motivate. A dancer should be patient and, in all, be smart as well.

What is the ideal "margam" (route) for an aspiring professional artiste?
A full-time attention, focus and hard work in the field. Never think that you know everything. You should always be happy to learn everything new everyday. A more than extra ordinary time of efforts.

Dance is a costly exercise if you want to be a professional dancer. How can one balance this financial issue with professional aspiration?
Dancing is a career-oriented profession and should not be linked with the earning capacity of a profession. It should be only treated as an art.

Does it really pay to be a professional dancer?
As said earlier, I would consider this more to be an art not to be compared with monetary benefits. The art of dancing is not achieved by everyone but those who have the talent should develop it more as a culture.

Can this be an inclusive art form? What should be done to make it so?
It is a form of an inclusive art. This art has everything in it but this has to be continued.

What has dance given you and what has it robed you of?
Dance has given me a full satisfaction in my life, and I have enjoyed it fully.

Graduating to become a teacher - what does it take to be a good teacher?
This art form is not generally transformed from parents to kids. These are taught from teacher to students, and it goes on. It has to be kept going on to the next generations. A good teacher needs patience and motivation to bring up more talents.

What is your ultimate desire in the dance journey?
The main desire is to spread these art forms across the globe and bring up many more talents for which I have starred an institution in the name of “SS Academy of Indian classical Dance and Music”.

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