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Meet Yatra Dance Troupe in Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anoosha Kumar, Maya Ramachandran, Rohini Ramaswami, Varun Iyer, Sahana Kuthyar, Veena Ganapathy, Gaurika Bhat, Ishwarya Venkat and Poorna Rajeevan.

Yatra Dance Troupe, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Yatra began officially in late 2017, but our story begins several years prior. Our current troupe is comprised of former members of Georgia Tech Pulse, a classical Indian dance team founded in 2010. It was our shared love of dance that brought us together as a team in college but it is the close friendship that has kept us dancing and hanging out together even after our time at Georgia Tech.

Even in school, we would talk wishfully about one day forming our own professional dance company. Of course, at the time, we had no idea where we would be in five years, what we would be doing or exactly how dance would fit into the diverse array of professional and personal pursuits represented within our teammates.

2017 was truly an exciting time for the team personally since many of us made the return to the Atlanta area. We started floating the idea of working on a dance project together and late in the year, a great opportunity presented itself. We decided to enter a submission into an online competition hosted by IndianRaga, an organization geared towards promoting Indian classical arts. To our surprise, we won the contest, and our video entry went viral!

Dancing and choreographing together again was a wonderfully nostalgic experience that whisked us right back to our collegiate days, and we quickly decided we could not stop with just the one project. It suddenly became very clear that we had an opportunity to turn our seemingly far off wish of pursuing dance professionally into a reality. Thus, Yātra Dance Troupe (YDT) was born.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No ‘yātra’, meaning ‘journey’ in Sanskrit, is entirely smooth. All of our teammates are either full-time working professionals or graduate students. While most of our members are based in Atlanta, we do have a few teammates located in other cities.

We find ourselves with many innovative ideas but lack the time and resources to execute them simultaneously. Currently, we have 12 members in the dance troupe and all YDT performances are planned, funded and performed internally by each of these members. To produce and execute quality content in a timely and consistent manner, we are challenged by our contrasting schedules, proximity to one another and lack of external funding.

With that being said, the wonderful aspect about our troupe is that we are all close friends with a strong rapport. We have been creating pieces and dancing with one another for so many years that we understand how to work efficiently with one another. We believe our shared passion and camaraderie will allow us to continue on despite limited time and distance.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Yatra Dance Troupe is an Atlanta based dance company that primarily specializes in Bharatanatyam, a south Indian classical dance style. We are currently comprised of 12 members that have trained in classical dance for over 15 years. Our goal is to make classical Indian arts accessible to a modern audience without compromising its core technique and values.

Bharatanatyam is one of eight classical Indian dance styles, all of which are rooted in the Natya Sastra, an ancient Hindu/Sanskrit text on the performing arts. It is known for its signature aramandi or half-sitting, posture, intricate footwork and storytelling through mudras or hand gestures and abhinaya or expression. Despite adhering to an established set of parameters, classical Indian dance has stayed alive for thousands of years because it has evolved with the times without straying from its foundation. We hope to continue this innovation while staying true to tradition.

In our own experience, Bharatanatyam is often written off for being “slow” or “difficult to understand.” We realize this has nothing to do with the limitations of the dance form itself; it is simply a reflection of our ever changing culture, and as artists, it is our responsibility to respond by creating work that is relatable to our audience. This is how art persists and passes the test of time. For Yātra, innovation means pushing ourselves to think creatively and explore concepts that have relevance in today’s society. We firmly believe this is possible without having to compromise the core of the style.

We emphasize the preservation of tradition because we have seen it slowly erode in recent years, particularly in the context of a booming online dance community. While this has been a great opportunity to showcase classical dance, it has also created some misinformation/misconceptions around the art form. Amateur artists claim expertise and classical fusion claims traditionally; for those new to the style, they are not able to decipher the difference. Ultimately, this leads to an inconsistency in the understanding of classical dance. We are proud to produce innovative content that captures today’s audience without compromising the traditional tenets of classical Indian dance.

What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes?
As a newly developing organization, we would like to utilize this year to expand our reach by creating and releasing content. We are seeking to establish our presence and commitment to the classical arts.

While our past experiences in dance have been geared towards annual, large-scale stage productions, our current work is centered on producing digital content. We are hoping to leverage the accessibility of social media platforms to reach a larger audience and discover opportunities to collaborate with other existing artists. Without the confines of a stage performance, we are able to create through the lens of another medium – exercising the creative freedom to explore unique themes and environments.

In time, our hope is to garner an established presence and following within the artistic community.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Emily Wang, Varun Iyer

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