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By Uma Banda

Nataraja Natyanjali Kuchipudi Dance Academy in Alpharetta, Georgia completed 10 years of service imparting dance to children in and around Atlanta. Graced with beauty, talent, zest, poise, and compassionate nature, soft-spoken, genial Founder/Director of Nataraja Natyanjali has made her Dance Academy a name to reckon with in performing arts field of Atlanta. Neelima imparts all the training in Kuchipudi dancing, and traditional folk dances if required for any specific dance performances.
Sonal Jape, a student of Nataraja Natyanjali Dance Academy, mesmerized the audience at her Kuchipudi Rangapravesam (solo dance debut) with grace, confidence, expressions and smile. The event was held on Sunday, July 29 at Duluth High School, Duluth. The auditorium was filled with 500 plus guests from the Indian-American community and many friends of Sonal Jape.

Felicitating Guru Neelima Gaddamanugu

Atlanta noted journalist  of India Tribune Ravi Ponangi graced the occasion of Sonal Jape’s Kuchipudi Ranga Pravesam. The Ranga Pravesam started with breaking the coconut and lighting the lamp by Srinath Duddilla. Sonal started her journey at a very tender age of six and has been learning Kuchipudi dance ever since. She has been learning under the guidance of Guru Smt. Neelima Gaddamanugu who has over 100 students in her academy.
In a way Rangapravesam or Arangetram is a celebration of Guru parampara or natya parampara. The Guru had this beautiful tradition of handing it over sishya/student. This is a greatest gift that a parent can give to the child.

Sonal performed on seven songs including a Marathi Abhang, Dharila Pandharicha Chor. The dance program started with the Ganpati Vandana, to mark this auspicious occasion. No dance program can be complete without mentioning the Sri Krishna Leela and Sonal danced on Govardhan Gadadhara Taranga. This dance was composed by the Smt. Neelima Gaddamanugu with also included the traditional dance on a brass plate.

Marathi Abhang, Dharila Pandharicha Chor by sant Jana Bai, was the highlight of the program. The Jaya Jaya Vaishnavi dance on Durga represented the love and compassion of the Goddess towards her devotees. The dances also included Tillana and Mangalam where dancer offer prayers to god, guru, the orchestra and the audience, thanking them for their blessings and support. Masters of Ceremony, Sonal’s elder sister Geetika and her friend Akhila Ballari, helped the audience to understand the traditional dance form, by using Abhinaya. Sonal was fearless on stage. Fearless on stage is very important. Years and days of dedication shown in the dance.

This dance graduation could not have been possible without an extra ordinary set of musicians including Vocalist Smt. Santhi Medicherla, Mrudangamist Sri Subramaniam Vishwanathan, violinist V Laxmi Narayan, flutist GS Rajan, Shree Varshenee playing the Veena and Satya Jella on Ghatam. With these maestros and their wonderful talent, Sonal’s Ranga Pravesam was a success, with everyone wishing her luck for her future endeavors.

In his concluding remarks, the chief guest of the evening, Ravi Ponangi said that he is connected to Sonal’s Ranga Pravesam in many ways. “Guru Neelima and her husband are good friends and we associate on many community projects. Tanuja and Vivek Jape being very close, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of Sonal’s child hood. Third connection he said that Vempati China Satyam and Vedatam Lakshminarayana Sastry were leading exponents of Kuchipudi Dance. along with them his father’s brother Dr. PSR Appa Rao and Banda Kanaka Lingeswara Rao who is related to Smt. Neelima Gaddamanugu worked hard to bring this dance form to prominence. Their efforts expanded this art outside Andhra that not only garnered new students in the art form but also made it widely popular both at national and international platforms. The first ever translation in Indian language, the Telugu translation of Bharata Muni’s Natya Sastra by P.S.R. Appa Rao is a classic. Natya Sastra was written in Sanskrit, they were not accessible to the majority of gurus and performers who were handicapped by the language barrier. Dr. Appa Rao’s translation made available the theoretical aspects of dance and its technique to the traditional practitioners and gurus. So, these connections have made in the best interest of this evening performance and much more special for me and to my wife Uma. It is a beautiful sight for me to witness the performance by Sonal.

A student can be very good by nature. God gives these skills. But catalysts are necessary everywhere. The students cannot blossom or talent cannot be realized until there is a good teacher is in life. Guru Neelima has fulfilled that. It is obvious that Guru Neelima nurtured her students, just not with technical knowledge, but with love and care. Because these are ones make results. Not just teaching dance mechanically but investing in students. Lot of love, lot of care. These are all ingredients help a young student to blossom into a good full pledged dancer.
Sonal is blessed having a wonderful guru, great orchestra to help her for this great memorable evening. But definitely credit goes to her parents. Tanuja and Vivek Jape are wonderful people in our community. They have recognized and encouraged Sonal. Given an opportunity. Ensured that their child realizes this passion to continue. Sonal continued her dance classes for years with interest and passion which brought her this far. very proud. Hope you will continue your dance and enjoy a full life.

Guru Neelima has been teaching kuchipudi dance for the last 15 years in Atlanta and performing at various occasions. She started the dance school so that our kids can learn that art. I am seeing these schools all around and what touches me is the dedication that all these kids put into this. Even back in India you may have to drag people there. But here people are so dedicated about the whole thing. I strongly feel the only way to bond our children to our culture, language and tradition is only learning kuchipudi dance which forges a strong bond that can last a life time.
Nataraja Natyanjali Dance Academy has been contributing to the community through various programs and events. The contributions made by Nataraja Natyanjali Dance Academy programmes towards Social cause is commendable. Their performances are not only promoting social awareness but also raising funds for worthy causes both here in America and back in India.

Neelima is a reputed dance teacher and a renowned performer, choreographer and an arts teacher. She is also a singer and musician. She is a true cultural ambassador of Indian performing Arts in Atlanta. Ravi concluded his address commending every single one involved in Academy’s dance recital. performance.
At the end Sonal, her parents Tanuja & Vivek Jape and Guru Neelima felicitated artists. Ravi Ponangi felicitated and presented a memento to Guru Neelima Gaddamanugu followed by a presentation of certificate of graduation to Sonal Jape by Neelima Gaddamanugu. Sonal’s parents Thanuja and Vivek Jape thanked the well-attended audience for their support.