K Uma Rama Rao
- dancer, choreographer, research scholar, author & teacher
Compiled by Padma Chebrolu, Ohio
May 30, 2003
Dr. Uma Rama Rao - 2003
Born on July 4th, 1938 at Visakhapatnam, Uma Rama Rao has been serving the art of Indian classical dance, in particular Kuchipudi dance for the past 50 years. She hails from a background of distinguished scholars with a keen interest in literature, music and dance.
Uma Rama Rao - 1957
She has a Masters degree in Economics from Osmania University, Hyderabad. With the encouragement of her parents, Uma Rama Rao started her training in dance since the tender age of five years from great gurus like; P V Narashimha Rao, Nataraja Ramakrishna, Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastri, Guru. Pakkiri Swami Pillai and Guru C R Acharya. She obtained proficiency in theoretical and technical aspects of Kuchipudi, Bharata Natyam and ritual dance traditions.
In her early years, along with her sister Sumathy Kaushal, Uma Rama Rao performed on various occasions in several places under the personal guidance of her gurus. During the period 1953 and 1955, she passed examinations in classical music and dance conducted by the then Madras Government. Later with the blessings of her guru, Nataraja Ramakrishna, she had taken up teaching to pass on the tradition to younger generation.
Uma Rama Rao receiving Ph.D degree and gold medal from the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh - 1994
With this background, Uma Rama Rao served "Sri Thyagaraja's Government College of Music and Dance" in Hyderabad, as a senior lecturer in Dance from 1969 to 1988 and trained students in certificate, Diploma and Degree courses in Bharata Natyam. Consequently, she had taken up the responsibility of heading the Department of Dance in the capacity of associate professor in "Potti Sree Ramulu Telugu University," Hyderabad. She was instrumental in introducing the B A and M A degrees in Kuchipudi dance, thus giving a new academic status and dimension to this ancient cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh (a state in India), while keeping in view, the requirements of the present day younger generation.
Many students achieved these degrees successfully and became top notch performing artists and great teachers and settled all over the world, serving the art of Indian dance and culture in various levels in their own capacities. A few of them have gone further and achieved M.Phil and Ph.D degrees. This is a noteworthy point in the direction of Dance/Art Education, in particular, Kuchipudi dance.
Inauguration of Festival of Yakshaganas, Dec 2002 - (from left to right) Dr. C Narayana Reddy, Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna, S. Natarajan, Prof. G V Subrahmanyam (Vice Chancellor, P S Telugu University, Hyderabad), Dr. K Viswanath (film director & actor), Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma and Uma Rama Rao
Uma Rama Rao has been associated with Distance Education program in Kuchipudi dance and on-line courses in universities, cultural organizations and dance academies. This is a new concept and one of its kinds in India, being introduced and implemented by "Potti Sree Ramulu Telugu University" at Hyderabad to establish Telugu language and culture through Kuchipudi dance. To guide dance students for research and other activities, she had submitted her thesis on " Yakshaganas Prabhandhas of King Shahaji -11" (a Maharashtrian king who ruled from 1684 to 1712 and composed 20 Yakshaganas -dance dramas - in Telugu language) to Telugu university, and received her doctoral degree with a gold medal in 1994. To be useful for distance education, research and training through Internet, she had undergone few courses in computers from NIIT in Hyderabad. She proved that age is no barrier if enthusiasm is there to touch new venues..
A scene from, "Gouri Shankara Pallaki Seva Prabandham" - Thanjavur Yakshagana. Alekhya as Parvati, Vedantam Raghava as Shiva, Anupama, Srikala and Sowjanya as Sakhis.
Composer: King Shahaji,
Choreography & direction: Uma Rama Rao assisted by Alekhya
A scene from Kamsa Vadha - Melattur Bhagavatamela Natakam - Yakshagana Festival 2002. Composer: Melattur Venkata Rama Sastri (1743-1809 A.D),
Choreography & direction: S Natarajan
A scene from Kamsa Vadha - - Kuchipudi Yakshagana Festival 2002
A scene from "Prahlada Vijayam" - Kuchipudi Yakshagana Festival 2002.
Choreography: Vedantam Rattaiah Sarma
Uma choreographed a number of solo items, dance features, dance dramas and traditional Yakshaganas, based on the lyrics of great composers of yester years and contemporary writers of today, with innovative spirit, which brought her laurels. Her motto is to bring out old traditional literary gems to the limelight and give them a new outlook, without deviating from the original traditional structure with their aesthetic, philosophical and spiritual values. To mention a few traditional plays/dance dramas;
· Sri Thyagaraja's Nauka Charitra
· Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam
· King Shahaji's Sankara & Vishnu Pallaki Seva Prabandhams
· Vigneswara Kalyanam
· Narayana Theertha's Sadhvi Rukmini
· Matrubhutayya's Parijatapaharanam
· Kakuturi Padmavati's Mandakini & Siva Katyayani
· Pamcha Nadeeyam
· Swara Raga Nartanam
· Telugu Velugulu
· Medha Vikas (on computers)
This showed her multifaceted choreographic talent and her scholarly knowledge in the subject.
Uma traveled widely in India and abroad to direct the performances of her disciples and participated in several international dance festivals and seminars and conducted workshops on various aspects of Indian classical dance. She was interviewed on television and radio. In this connection, she made repeated visits to USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Gulf, Middle East and Sri Lanka.
She received awards and honors in recognition of her dedication, commitment and service towards art of dance. Worth mentioning are 'Kala Neerajanam' and the Best Teacher award from Government of Andhra Pradesh, "Sri Kala Poorna" from Potti Sree Ramulu Telugu University including many memorable felicitations from cultural organizations in India and abroad.
Budding artists of Lasya Priya Hyderabad (1985)
For the benefit of the younger generation who are eager to learn dance, she founded Lasya Priya - an academy of Indian dances in 1985 in Hyderabad and made it an international center for higher learning and research. It is a life long assignment for her. As a director of this institution, she is gives advanced training to many students who are being awarded Government of India cultural scholarships and advises junior, senior and research fellows under different schemes of central Government of India and Universities. She is in the panel of several universities and government bodies, offering her services as an examiner, paper setter for certificate, diploma, undergraduate and post - graduate courses and programs and the appointments of lecturers and readers in the Government and Universities. In all her other pursuits in the dance field, her family has been a great source of inspiration to her in all her endeavors. In addition, her disciples are following her footsteps in every aspect and carrying on the tradition, technique and knowledge to pass on to the next generation.
She contributes several articles on dance to various leading magazines, journals and news papers. Her book "Kuchipudi Bharatam" in English, (available at http://amazon.com) is on the origin, history and development of Kuchipudi dance. This book has drawn much attention and is popular among dance students, teachers and dance lovers. A textbook, "B A Kuchipudi dance" in Telugu language, co-authored with Professor P S R Appa Rao, a great scholar, was published by Telugu University, on academic achievements. Her demonstration lecturers on different facets of classical dance traditions are very popular, informative, interesting and appealing to all levels of audience. Her thirst for acquiring more knowledge is admirable and her voyage in this direction is untiring making her a torchbearer to dedicated artists. For Uma, research is a great passion and teaching dance is commitment.
Uma says, "Dance is eternal and a moving spirit." Preaching this art from in all shades is a true worship of God and in turn a great service to humanity. She is an ideal disciple of her great gurus, able guide to her disciples and an inspiration to the younger generation. Dedicated as she is to this art form, she feels responsible to do everything in her capacity to give a new dimension and shade to this ancient Indian cultural heritage with zeal and enthusiasm.
Dr. Uma Rama Rao
Founder & Director, Lasya Priya
Srivani Plot # 11, Sheetal Enclave
Road # 5, Banjara Hills
Hyderabad 500034, India
Ph: (91- 40) - 23352115 or 55789617
Padma Chebrolu is Artistic Director, Cultural Centre of India, Cincinnati, OH. She can be reached at (513) - 227 - 9612