Sneha Sasikumar was born to dance and change the lives of others through dance. Her achievements bear testament to her perseverance and her desire to help others. Just one of them is her recently-secured distinction of being the first Kuchipudi performer to be invited by the Indian Embassy in Vietnam to perform at the Hanoi Vietnam Dance College. Talking about the experience, which she considers to be one of the highlights of her career, Sneha says, “It was a surprise to see how deeply Vietnamese people were interested in this Indian dance form. Many of them even tried dancing on the brass plate as it is traditionally done in Kuchipudi. I was very happy that some of them approached me to inquire about how they could learn the dance form.”
Sneha started learning dance at the tender age of four. Since then, she’s spent almost her entire life exploring dance forms including Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. Talking about her lifelong passion for Kuchipudi, which began with a chance meeting, Sneha says, “I met Kuchipudi Guru Padmabhushan Vempati Chinna Sathyam in 2004 when I was just seven years old. And somehow, I decided then that I wanted to pursue Kuchipudi. Later, I secured a high score in twelfth grade, and my family and teachers told me not to give up my studies. So I completed a B.Sc in Chemistry while continuing to learn Kuchipudi. Having heard a lot about the University of Hyderabad’s Arts faculty, I joined the institute for a master’s programme and completed it in the year 2015.”
After completing her degree, Sneha decided to share with others her love for dance through her “Healing and growing through Kuchipudi” programme. “This programme is aimed at providing basic Kuchipudi training to differently-abled children to help them in furthering their emotional, cognitive and social integration. Children with autism are generally recommended a lot of physical exercise, and intervention in the form of dance also gives them emotional relief. I have seen dance produce a marked change in children with regard to their attentiveness, memory, problem-solving abilities, and creativity,” she says.
At present, Sneha is pursuing a PhD program under the guidance of Prof. Aruna Bhikshu at the University of Hyderabad, and her work focuses on the impact of Kuchipudi therapy on patients suffering from anxiety and depression. “My mission is to develop ways and means to bring Kuchipudi dance to the whole world,” she says, adding that she stays abreast of the latest research in movement and dance therapy through webinars conducted by the American Dance Therapy Association.