By Sydney Williams
Dance is a gateway to the intersection of rhythm and body, heritage and individuality, and human expression and divine connection. As we continue to explore our individual and collective cultural identities, dance is an artform that serves as a map for many in their journey to rediscover their roots. Such is the path for Urmila Vudali, a young yet seasoned Bharatnatyam dancer, who shares with us her practice and passion for her craft and a peek into her life offstage.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been dancing for 13 years now, and Bharatnatyam is a huge part of my life. As a freshman in high school, I started the Mosaic Saratoga Club to develop cultural connections through the arts at my school. To explore the many different cultures here in the Aay Area, I choreographed cross-cultural collaborations, including pieces with Flamenco, Arabic music, and rap. I am also very passionate about the environment. During my high school years I’ve worked with Santa Clara County and served on the Tech Museum Student Board to spread awareness for environmental issues.
Currently, I am a senior at Saratoga High School and I am looking forward to attending UC Berkeley to study Chemistry in the fall!
At what age did you begin dancing and was it something you picked up right away?
I started dancing when I was five. My mom had taken me to see a friend’s Arangetram (Bharatanatyam solo debut) and I loved it. Within a few weeks I was signed up for classes! I feel like Bharatanatyam was something I took to easily. Training is definitely very difficult, but I knew I was passionate about it early on.
Who were some of your favorite teachers?
My current guru Navia Natarajan is really wonderful. I feel like she is family and it is really nice to have such a close relationship with your teacher.
What is the most challenging thing to master in your style of art?
Bharatnatyam has an expressive/theater aspect where the dancer acts out scenes and conversations. This has been the most difficult to master because there is a lot of thought and planning that has to go into characters, stage placement, emotions, etc.
Do you get nervous before performing?
Every time! Usually the first two minutes of the performance I feel really nervous, but after that I get over it.
What’s your signature move on the dance floor?
What’s something you wish you were better at?
What’s your hidden talent?
Top 3 songs on repeat.
Remember When – Wallows, British Bombs – Declan Mckenna, Nice Day – Persephone’s Bees
Next place you’d like to travel to.
Something you wish more people knew about your culture.
I wish people knew more about how good South Indian food is!
Bravest thing you ever did.