International Cultural Exchange (ICE) is generally understood when people from one country visit another, to learn about a new culture while showcasing their own.
It is a regular practice with schools and youth organizations around the world, to send a handful of students/young people from their area to another country, and let them live with the locals. Once students start living in a house with a completely different culture, they understand and get to know a new culture. Recently, I had a friend’s daughter from Singapore who was selected for ICE, and she was sent to Hong Kong. She had to choose a local family to stay with for a few days. It is very difficult to guess how much she knows about Hong Kong culture these two days.
Have you ever heard of teaching dance to people from different languages and countries? Well, not many had the opportunity to hear or see such achievements. Here is a true story of a dancer from Visakhapatnam, South India.
I’ve been living in Hong Kong for almost a decade and have always attended Indian cultural events/festivals, Aarangetrams or dance performances by Indian dancers and their Indian students. But recently, I was surprised to find an enthusiastic and passionate young Kuchipudi dancer working in a reputed yoga center and learning Bollywood and other forms of Indian dances which includes Kuchipudi classical dance.
He is a person full of passion for dancing and wanted to do something more than he was assigned. So, he took the initiative to teach Kuchipudi traditional dance in this yoga centre. Initially, there were very few students, but the love and passion for dance inculcated in them was rising to new heights and many of them started learning Kuchipudi dance. Today there are more than a hundred students. The surprising fact is that all the students are Chinese and they don’t understand or speak the language – Telugu for Kuchipudi’s songs.
To encourage his students to learn further, he started conducting performance shows in a traditional manner with all costumes and jewellery. This amazing and passionate dancer and choreographer is Hari Eranke, whom all his students speak of as Mr. Hari Om. Master Hari Om is one of the rare dance masters who is able to perform both traditional and modern dances at the same time. He has trained and taught many dancers in Hong Kong with a dedication and passion that can be found in the dancing of all his students dancing their best and being happy. His students now perform professionally as well. His work as a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher speaks of his talent, love and passion for dance and his students.
Eranki Srihari Baladitya was born to late masters E.Nagamamba and S.S. Murthy belonging to a family of musicians and dancers. Under the skillful guidance of Guru Sri Basumarthi Sitaramiya, an exponent of Kuchipudi dance, Hari Om started learning Kuchipudi at the age of 3 and started performing at the age of 5. His prestigious achievements include his participation in the 1994 and 1995 International Kuchipudi Dance Festivals in Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively, along with the likes of Swapna Sundari, Meenakshi Seshadri and other great dance pioneers. He also won a scholarship from the Cultural Resource and Training Center in New Delhi to study Kuchipudi for 8 years. After that, he did Diploma in Kuchipudi Dance from Telugu University, Hyderabad in 1995.
Hari Om showed interest in learning Kuchipudi in various traditions like Pasumarti tradition and Vempaty tradition from Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, Visakhapatnam under SMT. Bala Kondala Rao and Sri Hari Ram Murty for 3 years. As you know Bharat Natyam from Sri. Rukmaji Rao for a few years from 1991 and Andhra Natyam and Perini Shiva Tandavam from Sri Nataraj Parameswaran for a few years from 1986 and got a degree in Mridangam from Telugu University, Hyderabad in 1999. He started teaching dance at the age of 14, when his mother had started a school For music and dance it is called Sri Gowthami Kala Vihara.
In 2003 Hari was invited to work at a yoga center in Hong Kong where he became a pioneer in Kuchipudi, semi-classical Indian dance and Bollywood styles. His popularity as a teacher prompted all other yoga centers to conduct this type of dance class with all forms of Indian dances which are very popular in Hong Kong. Hari has carved a niche for himself among the many dance teachers in Hong Kong by staging and staging various performances apart from being the pioneer of Indian dances in Hong Kong. The fact that he can both teach and choreograph both classical and modern dance/Bollywood forms with equal prowess has given him a special place in the hearts of his students.
Chinese students have developed a passion for learning Telugu, as it is the mother tongue of their master Hari Om and Kuchipudi songs in Telugu. My teaching experience with them was very enthusiastic and lively, and I am proud to say that they actually started speaking some words and sentences within a few lessons. It is an amazing experience that has no words…
Another classical dancer Master Rajendra Nyathi is also another famous teacher in Hong Kong. He is a world famous artiste of Bharatnattam, Kuchipudi and Bollywood dances as well. He is a holder of a first-class MA in Performing Arts and a recipient of the JRF Scholarship and National Scholarships for Eminent Young Artists by the Government of India. He has served as Head of Dance Department in some of the well-established universities in India. He has traveled extensively in Europe, UK, USA, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China and many Asian countries.
Master Rajendra established Natya Yoga as a cultural organization with a desire to serve and spread classical Indian and other art forms to the world. He has also inspired students and audiences from diverse backgrounds and culture. His dances are full of passion, expressive, full of grace, highly aesthetically pleasing.
As a seasonal harvest festival, known as Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Sankranti has been celebrated since 2008, with classical, semi-classical and other dance forms choreographed by him alone by his students. He was a great pioneer for all the dancers and also an excellent example of international cultural exchange. The Hong Kong Telugu Samakhya Team is proud to have Hari Irani and Rajendra R Nyathi, both exceptional classical dancers.