By Apoorva Kanneganti
It’s difficult for me to separate what I’ve learned in dance from what I’ve learned from Suchi akka. Much of my experience with dance is the direct result of how Suchi akka has mentored me, which is why this is titled “Three Life Lessons from Dancing with Suchi akka.”
- Watch out for the Posture Police. My close family and friends know to stand up a little straighter, walk a little taller, and definitely not to slouch when I’m around. I can still remember practicing a difficult thillana where I was just trying to keep rhythm and like clockwork, Suchi akka instructed me “back straight, fingers long, clean lines.” This carried into my day-to-day, and I realized that good posture makes me not only feel physically stronger but also mentally confident. Just a few small adjustments in my body immediately bring a smile to my face and completely change how I feel when I’m nervous about a big work presentation or running out of energy during a hard workout.
- Repetition creates mastery. Whenever I found a step too complex or fast, I would break it down to the simplest step or pace where I’m able to just barely do it. Then I’d do it over and over again until I got it. Then I’d step it up to a point where I could just barely do it and repeat all over again until I finally mastered it. Raised in a culture that shies away from failure, learning how to learn and fail through Bharatanatyam has been invaluable. I have the confidence to take on something outside of my comfort zone and most importantly, to take failure in stride because it inevitably happens when you push yourself. This lesson has been extremely valuable to me especially as a woman who is learning that you don’t have to be perfect to take space in professional and personal contexts.
- Don’t waste anyone’s time. We all joke about IST – Indian Standard Time – where a large majority of those from the Indian subcontinent seem to accept being late as a cultural norm. Our household was no different growing up, and we were late to dance class a lot. Suchi akka, with patience that I now find equivalent to that of a saint, consistently emphasized the importance of timeliness as the respect and value you hold for another person. I’ve worked hard to instill this discipline in my life, and there are some who find me to be one of the most efficient people they know. However, from others, I’ve been lucky to find compassion for this work-in-progress aspect of my life.
This is the fourth (bonus) lesson that I learned from Suchi akka- how to accept or at least tolerate someone in their whole self, the good times and the mistakes.
There are many other ways in which dance has consciously and subconsciously shaped who I am, and even though I haven’t actively practiced in some time, I often find myself coming back to this formative experience. I owe all of this to my guru, mentor, and sister, Suchi akka.
Apoorva Kanneganti is one of the first students at Kala Vandanam. She began her training under Suchitra Sairam in 2003 and learned actively for over 13 years, including presenting her Arangetram in 2011. She is a management consultant by profession and an adventurer by passion. Apoorva enjoys spending time outdoors with activities like running, hiking, and scuba diving, all of which are much more accessible since her move to California. A Midwesterner at heart, she grew up in Minnesota, where she later graduated with a BSB from the University of Minnesota and received an MBA from the University of Michigan after a short stint in Chicago.