Beyond the Dance Class
We are excited to share updates about our Shakti dancers. Building on the success of training and performing at Shakti, Viji’s disciples continue to be inspired to articulate the significance of their experience at Shakti. The training has affected the lives of our dancers in powerful and meaningful ways and important work has been created. Shakti dancers today continue to provide key assistance with ongoing class instruction while several are professional dancers with their own dance companies.
Sai Patil performed her arangetram in 1998. During her undergraduate career at Stanford University, Sai founded Noopur, Stanford’s Bharata Natyam Association in 2003. This association provides Bharata Natyam practice and performance opportunities for Stanford students and faculty, and still exists today. For promoting cultural awareness about Bharata Natyam, Sai won the Undergraduate Asian American Award at Stanford. She did a solo debut in 2001 entitled Pratijna and co-choreographed a group production in 2005 entitled Bhaav Chaturang. Sai has also performed and toured the US, Canada and India in several Shakti productions such as Shyama, Prince to Buddha, Bhagavad Gita, and The Nutcracker. Sai lived in Chicago, IL from 2006 through 2013, where she continued performing and teaching dance. She started the first Bharata Natyam classes at Shivalya Temple in downtown Chicago. She also performed regularly at the Hindu Temple of Lemont. Upon returning to Los Angeles in 2013, Sai continued to dance and perform with Shakti in productions such as Sevanjali: A tribute to the goddess. In 2017, she co-choreographed Women Behind the Bow, a dance drama portraying the complexity of the Ramayana’s female characters. She also toured in the recent re-staging of Meera in 2019, as Meera’s conniving sister-in-law, Uda Bai. Sai now lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband, Shailen, and 3 children Keya (8), Aakash (7), and Kishori (3). She teaches in the Torrance branch of the Shakti School and works as an independent strategy consultant specializing in Retail and Consumer Products. She is proud to be a lifelong dancer and dance lover.
Vanita Todkar is a student of esteemed Guru Viji Prakash and is one of her senior disciples. She performed her Arangetram in 2005 and since has toured with the Shakti Dance Company across the U.S and Canada as part of numerous productions. Her passion for Indian art and culture has led her to work with several artists such as Mythili Prakash, Ajith Bhaskarn Das, Bragha Bassel and Bollywood dancer and choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan. Alongside performing, Todkar has been teaching at the Shakti School of Bharata Natyam since 2005. Todkar is also a core dancer and director of social media and marketing of Prakriti Dance. She holds a B.S. in Health Science and has dedicated her professional career in social services, serving, supporting and enriching individuals with developmental disabilities. She continues to study and grow as a dancer and hopes to pursue dance throughout her life.
Anu wants to live in a world filled with learning Bharata Natyam all day, attending concerts, reading, drinking black coffee and watching her sons roll their eyes! She thrives when she is assisting Viji aunty with her classes in the valley. She has toured the US, India and Canada with Shakti Dance Company. Anu considers herself an eternal student -there is so much to discover and deepen understanding of this art form. For more than a decade she was Director of Development and Marketing for UCLA’s Center for Intercultural Performance and Foundation for World Arts developing projects in global performing arts through artist residencies, city wide arts festivals and touring on local, national and international levels (UCLA Performing Arts Residencies, World Festival of Sacred Music-LA, Aratani World Series, Water is Rising and Gamelan Cudamani tours. She has worked in TV, Radio & print journalism. She is currently curator of Summer performing arts programs at Descanso Gardens and Performing Arts consultant. She co-authored a book with her mother where she did the eye rollin!
Kiran Bhalla is a student of Viji Prakash and has been assisting her in teaching at the Shakti School of Bharata Natyam for over a decade. She appreciates that bharata natyam brings together athletic ability, technical complexity, artistic grace, cultural storytelling, mellifluous music, brilliant color, and deep emotion. Kiran enjoys the community, creativity, and love of classical art at Shakti, and she especially loves the interactions between students, teachers, and parents. Having attended the first Shakti dance camp and done her arangetram as a teenager under the tutelage of Viji Prakash, teaching at Shakti as an adult has made Kiran appreciate the multi-faceted complexity of the bharata natyam art form and the way it challenges the human body to learn and master technical and artistic nuances. Kiran has a B.A. and M.A. in International Relations.
Jahnavi Kalyan has been a student at Shakti for over 11 years under the guidance of Viji and Mythili Prakash, and has performed extensively with the Shakti Dance Company as well. She completed her arangetram in 2016, and performed in many touring productions and dance dramas, including: Devadasi: The Eternal Dancer at LACMA’s Bing Theatre (2014), Dance India! Four Visions at the Aratani Theatre (2017), Women Behind the Bow at the James Armstrong Theatre (2017), and MARA: The Mastermind (2013, 2016, 2018) at the Ford Amphitheater and Esplanade Theatre in Singapore. As a senior dancer, Jahnavi also had the privilege to assist and teach many classes at Shakti, which greatly shaped and contributed to her own training as well. Jahnavi currently attends Drexel University in Philadelphia, pursuing an Honors BS Economics and Public Health degree. Dance continues to be an integral part of her life, from being the captain of an all-girls fusion competitive dance team at school, to practicing her favorite Shakti pieces (and adavus!) in her cramped city apartment. Jahnavi intends to further pursue learning and growing as a Bharatanatyam dancer alongside all her future endeavors, and always looks forward to returning home to continue dancing with Shakti.
Jessica Sitaramya has been learning dance under Viji Prakash since 2013. Along with performing her arangetram, she has taken part in various Shakti productions and dance camps. She has had the wonderful privilege of performing in India, where she learned facets of the dance under esteemed artists. Practicing Bharatanatyam gives Jessica the power and energy to detach from the external and connect with her Divine, her gurus, and herself. She enjoys the intricacies of the art-form and continues to explore its boundless nature through new avenues. As a captain of her collegiate dance team, Jessica applies the centuries-old dance style towards global issues and works to convey current events through a creative lens. She strives to discover innovative ways to bridge the gap between health and the arts, and use her passion for dance to make a long-lasting, positive impact. Her academic pursuits include a B.S. in Public Health from The University of Texas at Austin.
Bharata Natyam is one of Uma Kadekodi‘s greatest treasures as she feels a profound connection with the art. Uma began her journey in Bharata Natyam 30 years ago under Guru Viji Prakash and presented her arangatram in 1996. Since that time she has performed extensively across the US and Canada with the Shakti School including tours such as Shyama and Bhagavad Gita. Uma has given several performances here in LA including Young Emerging Dancers and has done solo and group performances in India. Uma’s love for dance continues to grow as she strives to delve deeper into dance and explore the world of choreography. Under the guidance of Viji and Mythili Prakash she created choreography for Shakti’s Shyama in 2018 and assisted in choreography for Shakti’s Meera production in 2019. Uma is married with two children, Shyam (7) and Suri (4), and works as a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Southern California. Uma’s sacred connection with her Guru and the art keep her dancing as life continues into different chapters.