(March 29, 2022) When she lost her father at the age of 15 in an accident, the one motivation that kept her going was his wish that she become a great dancer. Living this dream, 31-year-old, Indian classical dancer and choreographer, Aparna Satheesan won several awards and honours. The Thiruvananthapuram native, who is settled in the US for the past 10 years, Aparna is an expert in seven Indian classical dance forms: Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Ottam Thullal, and Kerala Nadanam. “My mother loved dancing, but couldn’t pursue her passion. So, she wanted me to train in classical dance forms,” shares Aparna in an interview with Global Indian.
The dancer, who recently received the prestigious Abhinandan Saroja National Award 2021 by the National Institute of Indian Classical Dance, believes that her career, spanning 25 years, has been blissful. “I consider myself blessed to have learnt from several eminent dancers, including Regatta Girija Chandran, Padma Bhushan Dhananjayans, Vyjayanthi Kashi, Nelliyodu Vasudevan Namboothiri, RS Lekshmi, and Chithra Mohan,” says the Indian danseuse. A recipient of the Natya Shiromani National Award by India festival USA (2022) and Abhinandan Saroja Award (2021), she was also awarded the Kuchipudi Dance Fellowship by Global IndianRaga Organisation in 2018.
Starting her journey at the tender age of three, the dancer shares that the more she understood Indian classical dance forms, the more she wanted to learn. Growing up, her elder sister in Kerala, and family were her biggest support. “My father, especially, was always encouraging and supportive. I can hardly express how happy he would get watching me perform on the stage. Unfortunately, I lost him very early,” Aparna shares.
Having won several awards right from a young age, the brilliant dancer also worked as a video jockey at leading television channels during her school and college years. “I had a busy childhood, apart from the school and regular dance classes, I also hosted several shows for AsiaNet, Soorya TV, Kairali, and AsiaNet Plus. I briefly also worked as a RJ, and a dubbing artist for Malayalam movies,” shares the Indian danseuse.
Moving to the States
In 2011, after finishing her under graduation, Aparna moved to the United States of America to pursue masters in software engineering, at the Ball State University, Indiana. However, at the University, people did not know much about Indian classical dance. “They thought that Bollywood dance was Indian classical,” she shares. To showcase Indian culture, Aparna decided to take part in university events. And from there started her journey of pursuing dance professionally.
“While I was at the university, I got several opportunities to perform, and won many awards. Although, I had a degree, I was sure that I could not leave the stage ever. So, I started choreographing my performances with a mixture of various dance forms, which was highly applauded. Later, I collaborated with many artists. My first dance production Krishna was premiered at the Sangam event, organised by Eli Lilly Corporation, Indianapolis. I played the main role of Krishna, which got great appreciation from the artist community,” says the Indian danseuse. Some of the high points of her career include performing at the Global Rhythms event which was directed by Oscar award winner AR Rahman in 2016, choreographing and performing in the much-appreciated Aarohanam Musical Dance video, and performing at the Bharatanatyam Kuchipudi fundraising event, Nirvikalpa.
With an idea of giving back to society, Aparna started a non-profit organisation Samyoga Foundation India, in 2015, in memory of her late father. “The foundation was inaugurated by Princess of Travancore, her highness Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi. We conducted several fundraising events for the welfare of society under the project Transforming Life through Dance in India and abroad since 2015. However, we weren’t able to organise any event in the past two years due to pandemic,” says the dancer.
The show goes on…
Living happily with her husband, Hari, and a one-year-old son, in Indianapolis, Aparna is gearing up for her performance – Amma – which is very close to her heart. “I am a new mother, so I understand that the journey is not all cheerful. A new mother also struggles to cope up with a new phase in her life. There is a lot of mood swings, loneliness, anger and irritability that she deals with. While we always show the happy side of motherhood, we often skip these aspects. However, I wanted to highlight them too. The 45-minute-long dance production will premiere in Atlanta in summer. I am quite excited about that,” shares the dancer, who enjoys travelling and reading during whatever little she gets between dance practice and playing with her son.