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Learn classical dance for love of art:
Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala
CHENNAI, January 11: Classical dancer Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala is a daughter-in-law of the legendary play-back singer and music director late Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao. For her, learning "is a work in progress". She always pines to do something different. The urge to do something different all the time keeps her going. Her propensity to do ballets is the result of this strong inner desire to experiment. "One can learn dance for the love of the art," she says. As such, there is no compulsion for anybody to learn classical dance purely from a performance point of view. Parvathi wishes to be remembered by everybody as "a good dancer". Vyjayanthimala Bali and Padma Subramaniam are a real inspiration for her.

During an interaction organized at the Rasam Restaurant here on January 10 by Deccan Chroncile, Parvathi spoke frankly her mind on issues connected with dance and allied subjects. The discussion centered on her deep love for dance, her experience as a performing artiste and her daily meetings with students at her Gurukulavasam-style teaching school “Kalapradarshini”. Parvathi the dancer spread positive vibes around.

She looked a focused artiste.

Though belonged to the Panthanallur style, she reiterated her cosmopolitan outlook. She insisted that she was open to all styles "which are beautiful". Many dancers, who had also passed out from the same Panthanallur School (such as Alarmael Valli, Meenakshi Chittaranjan and Chokalingam Pillai) were very creative and had gone on to adopt their own interpretations to classical dance. The grace with which a dancer walked forward and moved backward on the stage would easily establish that he/she belonged to Panthanallur style, she said. "Now everything is changed for the good," she added. "Kalakshetra is famous for aramandi," she pointed out. `Abhinaya", however, was an aspect which one had to learn by one’s own experience and understanding. "It can’t be taught," she added. “I am not for awards and titles. I keep doing something always. I want to learn and watch. I have married this art,” declared Parvathi.

When quizzed on the audience turnout for dance recitals during the December season, she felt that the thin attendance was more due to the fact that the audience got distributed across different shows happening at the same time. The audience, she said, was split into two segments - those who enjoyed the solo dance and those who relished the ballet. She said she was doing solo for quite a long time. She was now keen on giving chances to her students to perform. Hence, she opted for more ballets, especially thematic ones. "I will remain the heroine of my dance ballet," she said. She did give a solo performance for Narada Gana Sabha this music season, however.

She was extremely pleased that a lot of NRI (non-resident Indian) students descend on Chennai during the music season to give performances. She had students from Australia and Japan. Talking of audience further, she said all reputed artistes - from Vyjayanthi Mala to Alarmel Valli and others - got full houses. According to her, quality would take a while to take shape. “Bharathanatyam is not dying. It’s rather going on rigorously," she felt. “Dance is also a therapy. My happiness, my passion and my life is dance. I have my own space in the world,” she said. Asserting that a good practice was a must for a classical dancer, she said art would "mould you into a good human being". For Parvathi, dance "is part of my routine." Asserting that "I can’t get out of it," she said, "I want to give my best whenever I go on stage to perform."

Life revolved around dance for her. Since she was wedded to this art form, she said, she had no time to think of anything else. As such, she had no regrets. Asserting that her focus was just on dance, she said she would go on dancing as long as she could.

She learnt classical dance from Kalaimamani Smt. Krishnakumari Narendran. She moved on to take advance lessons from outstanding gurus such as Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, Bhagavathulu Seetharama Sharma and Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar. Today, Parvathi is all rolled into one. An acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer, choreographer, teacher and organizer, she is indeed an all-rounder of sort in the field of classical dance.

Parvathi had choreographed many dance ballets. Among them was “Annamayya”. "We have done 150 shows (of Annamayya) in India and abroad," she said. Abhirami Andathi, Aimperum Kapiyam, Krsn Madhuryam and Arul Andal (Arutpa) were among her dance ballets. "Though ballets are colourful, a solo performance is more fulfilling," she said. "In solo, you can bring out greater essence," she averred.

A Bachelor of Arts from SIET, Parvathy did her schooling in Holy Angels, Chennai. Her mother always wanted her to become a dancer. Even post-marriage, her `dance dream’ continued thanks to the support from her in-laws. During the 10th anniversary of her father in-law Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao, she paid her tribute to him by performing for some of his super hit classical songs such as “Shiva Shankari, Edu Kondala Sami and others.

"Bharthanatyam is a costly hobby and art," she said. Started in mid-90s, Kalapradarshini had many students. But only a handful went on to become professional dancers, she pointed out. Inaugurated by Justice Bhaktha Vatsalam, the school was given the name “Kalapradarshini” by Nandini Ramani. There were pleasures and pains in running the school. When eminent students performed, it gave her the pleasure. "But the expenses side make it a pain," she pointed out. “I also teach the less fortunate students," she said.

Some joined dance classes more as a way to exercise. Still other kids took to dancing since their parents felt dance " a diversion from television, cell phone and other entertainments". Many also hooked on to dance as they felt it to be lot more attractive vis-à-vis music. Queried on the attitude of the youngsters to dance, she said, "most of them are not too involved." "Children have to be preached again and again by the parents to make them know the worth of this art," she felt.