As a child, Shruthi was so enamored by dance that she would watch her older sister perform at dance recitals and attempt to do the same at home with the alarippu – the first piece, an offering to the gods, that Bharatanatyam dancers traditionally learn. Formal training began at age 8 at Nupura, a dance school in Bangalore, under the tutelage of guru Lalitha Srinivasan. After that, there was no looking back. At age 19, years of classical dance training culminated in her Rangaprevasha, the solo dance debut that is a singular achievement for a Bharathanatyam dancer, under gurus Sandhya and Kiran Subramaniam.
Shruthi moved to the U.S. in 2000, settling down in Maryland and joined her sister’s dance school, Natyabhoomi, as artistic director, helping her teach and choreograph dances. Of dance, Shruthi says, “It is my moving meditation. It is my connection to my inner self. Dance makes me so happy.” The rewards of teaching dance are the performances that bring alive the weeks of rigorous practice. “I am the instrument, but it is the child being showcased,” Shruthi said. “It is an exhilarating feeling.”
Shruthi also took over the outreach, reaching out to state and local governments and tapping their Asian Pacific wing in an effort to promote the Indian dance form. The efforts netted Natyabhoomi a bunch of shows, literally keeping them on their toes. Alliances with groups, including the Dance Asia Alliance, have helped create fusion dance collaborations and given Natyabhoomi a chance to showcase their art form with wider audiences.
This fits into Shruthi’s crusade to take Bharatanatyam mainstream. “Indian classical dance is a structured art form, with its own grammar, its own vocabulary – much like Martha Graham’s style of dancing,” she said. “It is done being an exotic art form. It is time for it to take center stage with other dance forms as an art form and not only a cultural representation.”
Shruthi is also a member of the Indian Dance Educators Association, a clearinghouse for all dance groups in the Washington DC metro area, and has served on its board and also works with the Asia Heritage Foundation presenting Fiesta Asia annually.
Her professional experience includes work as a medical writer for Astra Zeneca, arts presentation at Strathmore, and arts communication and research for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Meridian International Center, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and The John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and has well-rounded background in research and arts programming, with the latter work particularly focused on promoting and practicing Asian arts in the D.C. area. Shruthi holds a B.S. in computer science from Bangalore University (India) and an M.A. in arts management from American University. For her capstone project at American, she conducted extensive research on building culturally equitable nonprofit organizations. She is currently working at Dance USA, a national service organization.