Visakhapatnam - City of Dance Destiny
- B Venkat
e-mail: bhavanvitha@gmail.com

April 4, 2012

Visakhapatnam is referred to as a ‘City of Destiny.’ Hills, sea and beaches, sizable middle class segment, education industry, growing film industry, simple and easy-going life style, enthusiastic celebration of culture and festivities (Shivaratri, Diwali, Sankranthi), make the city an ideal choice to be the city of dance destiny too.
 
Visakha has got its basics right; these include wonderful venues to host dance programs viz., Port Kalavani Auditorium, Vempati Kalakshetra, Kalabharathi; reputed dance and music gurus; University with dance department, sizable student community, and a dancers’ association.
 
In recent time, increase in air connectivity proved to be the right stimulant for dance too. Helped by the above factors and certain local phenomenon, we are witnessing heightened dance activity in the city for the past few years. 
 
The beginning
After I visited Chennai during 2004 for an event about which I got information from Narthaki.com, I introduced Narthaki.com for dance related information to my dancer friends. Making use of information available on the Narthaki website, the local community soon launched dance celebrations on World Dance Day. I further realized that there were not many cities hosting dance celebration on this eve. The city got a major fillip when it organized this event and a beginning was made.

The program made use of colorful banners all around the city, brought various dance schools together and called for press coverage. This step helped in creating awareness in general public and sponsors. Initially, the programs were limited to Kuchipudi performances organized by dance schools and they used them to showcase the talents of their disciples. Soon it extended to other dance styles and formats and then to hosting National/NRI/Foreigners by way of National and International festivals.
 
Dance festivals
Recent developments include a dance festival in 2011 in the name of Kuchipudi Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam titled ‘Vempati Sharad Nruthyotsav.’ Organizers desire to make this an annual feature. Sangeet Natak Akademi hosted a national youth dance festival at Kalabharathi. The city is now preparing itself for the 5th Vysakhi Nrithyotasav. VMDA, NMDA, agencies like ICCR, AU are the key contributors.
 
Gaining reputation
Dancers from all over the country regularly participate in the dance festivals. NRI dancers too have recognized the potential in Visakhapatnam and have added the city to their dance performance destination. Visakha has its ‘December – January’ dance season in place. The season coincides perfectly with the dance festivals in Orissa and Hyderabad. During this time, seminars and workshops too were organized with participation of renowned dancers Sobha Naidu, Vyjayanthi Kashi, Bala Kondala Rao, critics and writers VAK Ranga Rao, Shyamhari Chakra, Sunil Kothari, Madhavi Puranam. 

Young Kuchipudi talent
Many a young and promising dancer visited the city and true to their reputation made impression in the minds of rasikas. Young Kuchipudi dancers that performed include Hanish (2010), Lalitha Sindhuri, Siddhendra, Pranamya and from the city, Aditya (2011).  These young dancers bring freshness in their approach and a deep commitment. 
 
Creating a stir
In December 2011, Visakha literally created a stir in the dance circles by way of a “Gandhian style peaceful protest” and a one day fasting. On behalf of the dancers and artistes, Vikram (who organizes dance festivals under the banner of NMDA) made a representation to the District Collector that Kuchipudi should be added in the academic curriculum of schools. The general feeling is that this move would help in reaching the grass root levels - a “key thrust area” as per World Dance Council.
 
And finally about scope for improvement
Whether the trend would continue into the future…. answer to this question is dependent on many factors, primarily sustainability. If there is too big a thrust, the over-enthusiasm would make the job difficult to maintain the momentum that is created. 
 
Key concerns like lack of local talent (Kuchipudi or otherwise) and inadequate infrastructure are the two issues that need to be addressed in order to truly call Visakha the ‘City of Dance Destiny’ in the national and international classical dance circuit. We also keep hearing that the Andhra University that offers MA in Dance, in spite of the encouragement from the cash strapped institution, gets a very lukewarm response to the course.
 
Information to dancers
Classical dances have good response from Visakhapatnam audience. However, as is true for any place, dancers are advised to obtain adequate and complete information about the facilities etc available, preferably from their local contacts and sources.

To conclude, nothing but quality and commitment matter in the long run. Hopeful that Visakha has both.

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