International Cultural Exchange

International Cultural Exchange (ICE) is commonly understood as people of one country visit another country, to learn about a new culture while exhibiting their own culture.

A regular practice with schools and youth organisations across the globe, is to send a handful of students / youth from their region to another country, and allow them to live with local natives. Once the students start living in a home of totally different culture, they get to understand and learn about a new culture. Recently, I had my friends daughter from Singapore who was chosen for ICE, and was sent to Hong Kong. She had to choose a local family to stay with for a couple of days. It is very hard to speculate how much she would have learnt about the Hong Konger’s culture in those two days.

Have you ever heard of teaching dance to people of different language and country? Well, not many would have had the opportunity to listen or see such accomplishments. Here’s a true story of a Dancer from Visakhapatnam, South India.

I have been living in Hong Kong for nearly a decade now, and had always attended Indian Cultural Events / Festivals, Aarangetrams or Dance shows conducted by Indian Dancers and their Indian students. But recently, I was surprised to find a young enthusiastic and passionate Kuchipudi dancer who works for a reputed Yoga centre and teaches Bollywood and other forms of Indian dances which includes Classical dance Kuchipudi.

He is a person full of dance passion and wanted to do something more than what he was assigned to do. Therefore, he took the initiative to teach the traditional dance Kuchipudi at this Yoga centre. Intially, there were quite few students, but the love and passion for dance inculcated in them was escalating to new heights and many more started learning Kuchipudi dance. And today there are more than a hundred students. The most amazing fact is, all the students are Chinese and do not understand or speak the language – Telugu of Kuchipudi songs.

To encourage his students into further learning, he started conducting shows to perform in a traditional manner with all the costume and jewellery. This astounding, passionate dancer and choreographer is Hari Eranki, who is popularly addressed as Master Hari Om by all his students. Master Hari Om is one of the rare dance masters who are capable of doing both the traditional and modern dances at the same time. He trained and taught several dancers in Hong Kong with utter dedication and passion which can be found in the dance of all his students who dance to the best of their spirits and to be happy. His students are now performing professionally as well. His work as a dancer, choreographer and dance master speaks for his talent, love and passion for dance and his students.

Eranki Srihari Baladitya was born to Professors Late E.Nagamamba and E. S. Murthy belonging to a family of Musicians and Dancers. Under the skilled guidance of legendary Guru Sri Pasumarthi Sitaramiah, an exponent of Kuchipudi dance, Hari Om started learning Kuchipudi at a very tender age of 3 and started performing by the age of 5. His most 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 such great dance exponents. He also won a scholarship from The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training in New Delhi to study Kuchipudi for 8 years. Subsequently, he obtained a Diploma in Kuchipudi dance from the Telugu University, Hyderabad in 1995.

Hari Om had shown interest in learning Kuchipudi in various traditions like Pasumarti tradition and Vempaty tradition from the Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, Visakhapatnam under Smt. Bala Kondala Rao and Sri Hari Ram Murty for a period of 3 years. He also learnt Bharat Natyam from Sri. A. Rukmaji Rao for a couple of years from 1991 and Andhra Natyam and Perini Shiva Tandavam from Sri Nataraj Parameswaran for a couple of years from 1986 and obtained a certificate in Mridangam from the Telugu University, Hyderabad in 1999. He started teaching dance at a very young age of 14, when his mother had started a Music and Dance school called Sri Gowthami Kala Vihara.

Hari was invited in 2003, to work in a Yoga Center in Hong Kong where he became the trendsetter of Kuchipudi, Semi classical Indian dance and Bollywood styles. His popularity as a teacher had prompted all the other yoga centers to have this kind of dance classes with all forms of Indian dances being very popular in Hong Kong. Hari has carved a niche for himself amongst many dance teachers in Hong Kong by giving several performances and organizing shows apart from being the trendsetter of Indian dances in Hong Kong. The fact that he can equally teach and choreograph both classical and modern/Bollywood dance forms with equal finesse has given him a special place in his students hearts.

The Chinese students have developed a passion to learning Telugu, as it is their Master Hari Om’s mother tongue and Kuchipudi songs are in Telugu. My teaching experience with them has been very enthusiastic and vibrant, and am proud to say that within a span of few lessons, they have already started speaking few words and sentences. It’s an amazing experience, which has no words…

Another Classical dancer Master Rajendra R.Nyathi is also another popular Teacher in Hong Kong. He is an internationally acclaimed Artist of Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi and Bollywood dances as well. He holds a first class Master degree in Performing Arts and a receipient of JRF and the National Scholarshipsfor outstanding young artists by the Governmenet of India. He has served as Head of Department of Dance in some well established Universities in INdia. He has travelled extensively in Europe, UK, USA, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand Russia, China and many Asian Countries.

Master Rajendra has setup “Natya Yoga” a cultural organisation which is engaged with a desire to serve and propagate Indian Classical and other art forms to the world. He too has inspired students and audience of a diverse background and culture. His dances are soulful, expressive,full of grace, aesthetically highly appreciative.

As a seasonal festival of Harvest, known as Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, he started celebrating Sankranti since 2008, where his students perform Classical, semi-classical, and other dance forms Choreographed solely by him. He has been a marvellous trendsetter for all dancers and also sets an excellent example of International Cultural Exchange. The Hong Kong Telugu Samakhya feels proud in having Hari Eranki and Rajendra R.Nyathi, both exceptional Classical Dancers.

Natasha M. McKnight

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