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Lokvani Talks To Jeyanthi Ghatraju

Ranjani Saigal

(Click here to buy tickets for Navarasa Nayika)

Jeyanthi was initiated into Bharatanatyam by Guru Madurai Gopinath and she continued her training at the Shivanjali temple of Fine Arts, Coimbatore, India under Guru Suryakala and Guru Vimala Chandrashekar. After completing her graduate studies, Jeyanthi started teaching Bharatanatyam at the Natyanjali in Ottawa, Canada along with Dr Vasanthi Srinivasan and completed three arangetrams. Since 1999, Jeyanthi and her students perform regularly at the Life Care center of Billerica, MA, Hillsborough County nursing home in Hillsborough, NH, along with many others in the area. Her charity work extends to organizations from far and wide, including UNICEF, India Development and Relief Fund, Ekal Vidhyalaya, Vision Aid, and SAHELI. Jeyanthi is affiliated to the Alagappa performing Arts Academy and offers Certificate, Diploma and Degree program in performing arts and six students have graduated so far. Her outreach projects include special projects on Indian dance and Bharatanatyam for the Shore Country day School in Beverly, MA, Deerfield Community Church, Deerfield, NH, the Westford Museum in Westford, MA and the Thomas Crane Library in Quincy, MA to name a few. Jeyanthi has choreographed several dance productions over the years for Natyanjali and worked on collaborative projects with the New England dance teachers, such as Ode to Mother as a fund raiser for the Sri Lakshmi temple in Ashland, MA, and staging Madurai R Muralidaran's Krishna in 2009 and Silapathigaram in July 2010 and the upcoming Navarasa Nayika for MITHAS.

You are a software engineer by training. What motivated you to start a dance school?

My motivation to start a dance school was the passion for dance and a purpose to serve. I started Natyanjali in Tewksbury, MA in 1999 with three students and a mission to perform for charity and the underprivileged, My first performance was a fund raiser production for IDRF (India Development and Relief Fund) on July 10, 1999. Lalitha Parameswaran, Jaya Prasad and Aarathi Sambasivan, alumni from Natyanjali Ottawa, joined me in the performance at the Kresge auditorium at MIT. Since then, we perform regularly at senior centers and nursing homes (bringing bliss and joy to the residents, taking dance to them as they are unable get to it), in addition to fund raiser productions for charity organizations.

You have organized several fund raising dance recitals for Visionaid, Ekal Vidyalaya, Saheli and you are having one come up on Nov 13. Why do you think this is important to do?

We all have a passion and want to do something good to people. For me, dance and service are integral part of my life. In combining those two, I'm spending my time so effectively that this becomes my time off from work and other mundane activities. The effect is relief from the stress of work and life.  I work five days a week as a software engineer and come Saturday morning until Sunday, I'm teaching and or performing.
Could you tell us a little about Navarasa Nayika?

Navarasa nayika is a unique production in that it has brought our New England area dance teachers from the various Indian classical forms (such as Bharatanatyan, Kuchipudi and Odissi) in collaboration for the first time and through their dance highlight the nine basic emotions.  The music is based on an instrumental release by an eminent flutist, Sri V.K.Raman on Navarasa which has blended beautifully to our theme. All items have been choreographed anew by the teachers themselves for this production. We are thirteen dancers who are coming together in bringing this production on Saturday, Nov.13th at the MIT Kresge auditorium.
We welcome all to the event. (Click here to buy tickets for Navarasa Nayika)

What is like to work with dance teachers from different dance schools? 

I'm amazed at the synergy among the dancers, trained in different styles of dance, used to doing things in their own way, yet seeing the common thread and willing to work for a common goal. Many of them have a full time job during the day and/or have young children at home to take care. With the constant and untiring support from their spouses, family and friends, they allot the time to choreograph, practice and perform together. Since I started to work with the dance teachers in 2006, it has been a wonderful learning experience for me.

Could you tell us about your approach to teaching dance?

My approach is to teach anyone with interest, commitment and dedication to the art form. It is important that they attend classes regularly, practice what has been taught in class and come to class prepared to learn the next. I recommend to my students to have an allotted schedule for dance practice and maintain a calendar on what one is practicing in a week and for how long. I don't believe in learning with fear or by force as it is not sustainable.

You have a very talented son who is a brilliant Tabla player . What  advice would have for the the kinds of support moms should provide for their children to ensure musical excellence?

Advice - not sure, but, I think being involved in what the children do, whether we understand or not is key and works for me. Hindustani music is quite new to me, so is bassoon or tenor saxophone. Children do well when we listen to them and what they have to say, it is not always about them being the best! It should not stop with driving them to classes and paying for the same either.

You are the President of KHMC. Could you tell use about KHMC?

KHMC stands for Karnatic Hindustani Music Circle and was a brain child of Dr Suresh Mathur, a well-respected and Senior musicologist from Manchester, NH. We already had a wonderful article on him a few issues back. KHMC was formed 3 years ago formalizing the misison Dr Mathur envisioned to bring the 2 major styles of Indian music together and foster understanding of the styles of music and collaboration among the musicians. He has been helped by Smt Durga Krishnan, Smt. Preethi Chakraborthy and many expert musicians from our area. We conduct 5-6 concerts every 6-8 weeks in a year, typically as house concerts where there is no charge to attend the concerts and is open to public. None of the artists get paid any remuneration normally. It has been a successful forum for professional musicians, post arangetram students and visiting artists, Artists are encouraged to have an educational aspect or lecture demonstrations in the format, We have our last concert for this year coming up on Dec, 4th at Smt Durga Krishnan's house which is dedicated to the memory of an eminent musician, Vidhushi Smt. Vidya Shankar.1) 

You do so much .Any tips on time management?

Keeping track of how I spend my time and having a plan on how I want to spend my time and a to-do list for the day/week helps me. 

Any other message for our readers?
With several programs and fund raisers happening in town, it is sometimes overwhelming to keep up. I commend the service Lokvani does to the New England community in providing a portal to keep us informed of happenings. I wish you and Lokvani many years of service to the community.

Thank you

Thanks very much for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

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1.Good Luck! November 12, 2010Rama Sriram 

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