Proud inheritor of a legacy
Nonika Singh

Not too long ago she was trying to live down the comparisons with her illustrious parents Raja and Radha Reddy. Today a dancer in her own right, Kuchipudi exponent Yamini Reddy is looking for signs of a dancer in her month-and-a- half old son. The talented dancer who is currently on a temporary sabbatical from performing on stage, shares the joy of being a mother, of creation and above all being the daughter of her parents.

Without a doubt, she woke up to the sounds of music and dance and knew from an early age that she was going to be a dancer. Only her parents insisted she must complete her education, an MBA, for who knew better than them the insecurities of being an artiste."

And being a performer and a family person, she feels, is even more difficult. She recalls those days when her parents had to strike a tenuous balance between raising her and her sister Bhavana and their dance commitments world over. Today as the wife of a businessman based in Hyderabad, where she runs a branch of Natya Tarangini Raja Radha Reddy Institute of Kuchipudi Dance, she says, "It would be far easy if one were single and just focused on oneís dance. But at the same time, having a family makes you less selfish and more giving."

Her own unusual, but what she considers a normal family, comprising of two mothers Radha and Kaushalya for instance has made her more understanding of human nature and how not to be judgmental. She recalls, "Others might have been perplexed by the fact that my father has two wives but for me the five of us has always been a family." No wonder her most memorable performance is one where all of them danced together. Yet another concert that is imprinted on her mindscape is when she performed with her father for the first time. She goes down memory lane, "There he was doing what he is renowned for, his Shiv taandav. I had to follow suit and expectedly I was a bundle of nerves." But not only did she come out flush with praise from that performance, over the years, she has learnt to cope with being the daughter of celebrity parents.

Says she, "Whatever the world may think we never got any special attention and were treated at par along with other students." However, that did not prevent her from imbibing the very best of her parents. From father dearest, who gave her enough freedom to create her own space, she learnt the basic rules of creativity and from mother the soft graceful movements. On Kuchipudi, the dance form she fell in love with right from the word go, she observes, "Itís a perfect blend of lasya and saumya, of energy and beauty, of postures and expression."

Fit to dance

Waiting to get rid of her post-pregnancy weight, Yamini Reddy firmly believes dancers have to be fit. In the later months of her pregnancy Yamini may not have performed on stage but caught up with reading and researching. The academic part of dance, she says, is as important for unless one knows where it is coming from one can never do justice to oneís muse.

Classical Indian forms she feels leave enough room for innovation even though its grammar canít be changed. She reasons, "Dance is like any other language. Just as you can form as many sentences as you want to, similarly any number of new compositions can be created within its given paradigm." Of course, she has moved beyond to create collaborations like ĎHarmonyí along with modern dancer Leah Curtis of New York. Did she feel the urge to do so to come out of her parentís shadow? She smiles, "Nothing of the sort. I did this because being young my thought process is different from theirs." In fact, at no point has she felt bogged down by the weight of legacy.

All of 30, performing since she was three, she does, however, consider herself a young ambassador of tradition. She muses, "We all need role models for inspiration and if others are motivated by me I would only be too happy." Her role models like Ustad Zakir Hussain and Yamini Krishnamurthy make her marvel how they donít let their performance go down even by a notch. Trying to live up to the fulsome praise of stalwarts such as legendary sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, dance for Yamini is constant exploration.