Sishya: Bharatnatyam Dancer Stuthi Iyer {Spotlight}

Meet Stuthi, a Bharatnatyam dancer and a senior at Thomas Jefferson High school for Science and Technology.

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  1. How old are you and what do you do? (grade/school/college)

I am 18 years old and a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Ecstatic to share that I just committed to attending the University of Pittsburgh as a part of its Guaranteed Admissions Program in Medicine!

2. When did you start dancing and who are your gurus? 

I started dancing when I was five years old under the tutelage of Smt. Shanthi Ashok and have been with her ever since:)


3. How do you prep for a dance performance? 

Preparation for a dance performance entails a bit of watching my guru and our videos with close attention, but mostly burning the choreography into my muscle memory whether performing it as a group or individually as many times as possible. Another thing that helps me grow and finesse a piece is watching other dancers live or on YouTube showcasing a similar piece. 

4. Currently, what’s your favorite dance item and/or music piece you listen to?

My favorite music piece has and may always be Alai Payuthey, but I have never had the chance to dance to it. That is my next item to pursue!


5. How would you describe an amazing dancer and do you have any inspiring role models? 

In my opinion, an amazing dancer is someone who doesn’t think of themselves as such (I know that sounds cliché). One must be confident taking the stage, but not overconfident and forget the nuances of the piece that may not come naturally. Trying different styles, from folk to modern, makes one grow further. He/she must also be willing to learn from other teachers who clearly have more experiences and thus, wisdom, but also other dancers, who may posess a singular skillset from that of oneself. So my role models are really all around me: my mother who inspired me to dance, my guru, other teachers like Sri Parimal Phatke and Sri. N. Srinkanth, my fellow Nrityanjali Company members, and the dancers I watch online!

6. How has dancing helped you in other areas? School, friendships and other?

Dancing has taught me incredible qualities…what it means to have twelve ‘sisters’ in my dance company other than my own, the value of teamwork in charity efforts (raising $45,000 through fundraisers for global literacy organizations), and has inculcated in me a sense of discipline built on humility and perseverance. My learning has been valuable in dealing with friendships, at school, and in bettering the lives of others—all because I am passionate about dance. It is the truest escape from my long academic journey.


7. In your eyes, what’s your biggest achievement or moment of satisfaction (in dance)? 

My biggest achievement in dance was my Arangetram. Many dancers would say the same. Without the qualities I mentioned above, countless hours of practice, not to forget a bit of encouraging humor from my guru, a good diet, and all of the furnishings that go along with costuming, this would have been impossible. Performing with my friend Kavya was perfect for our abhinaya and it lightened the pressure a bit. I can say that the entire experience would be worth doing again to learn even just a little bit more. Live music is truly electrifying. When I performed my Draupadi Vastraharan solo half a year later, I was proud to hear from another dance teacher who also attended my arangetram that it was clear I had made it better!

8. It’s the year 2024 – where do you see yourself in the dance field? 

While I think I will be busy with my first year of medical school in 2024 to take another step in the dance direction, I don’t plan on stopping. I hope to be part of a dance club/team in college, at least performing a couple times a year, and attending workshops when I have a chance even just for exercise purposes. Nothing can compare to the excitement dance brings to me:)

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Author: tandavam