Natyalaya 40th Anniversary Alumni Reunion: A Student Perspective – Hema Ramaswamy

Natyalaya 40th Anniversary Alumni Reunion: A Student Perspective – Hema Ramaswamy

I’m Hema Ramaswamy, a dance mom and now a dance student at Natyalaya. Vinitha, Director of Natyalaya’s accomplishments and talents are well known to our community. The lesser known fact is that she has been an inspiration in my family across three generations – my mother, me, and my daughter.

Our connection with her goes back to my childhood in Madurai, India, where my mother first introduced me to Vinitha as a graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM). She told me that I should draw inspiration from Vinitha and be as bold, independent and accomplished as her. She certainly inspired my mother. Vinitha’s friendly, approachable demeanor left a lasting impression on me at a young age.

Fast forward to now, as I reflect back on my time at Natyalaya, which is over a decade, and wonder, what is it about Natyalaya that makes students, parents and teachers have a deep sense of connection with it. I must say, it is the welcoming environment, the warmth and friendliness that Vinitha has cultivated where everyone feels they are part of one big family. Vinitha’s commitment to each student’s dance journey, no matter at what level, is remarkable. I’ve seen Vinitha consistently going above and beyond meeting every student where they are and being there every step of the way. I’ve loved how parents, teachers and students come together for numerous Natyalaya events, from Arangetrams to productions to make them huge successes. That sense of community still exists at Natyalaya today. Vinitha’s leadership style has inspired me, the second generation, and I have carried those qualities on to the corporate world!

Vinitha trained my daughter Sruthi for her Salangai Poojai and Arangetram. Like with every other student of hers, Vinitha invested numerous hours resulting in Sruthi giving commendable performances. Vinitha’s teaching style and kindness in the way she corrects got her to go that extra mile. Sruthi participated in many productions and enjoyed every part of the camaraderie with her fellow dancers during those times. She embraced leadership opportunities, co-led productions, taught classes, and co-founded a successful dance makeup business, all under the mentorship of Vinitha. And it’s the third generation that Vinitha has inspired.

This wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the pivotal roles played by other Natyalaya teachers in our dance journey. Special recognition to Gayathri Iyer, whose tutelage, along with her patient and gentle guidance, has inspired Sruthi to give some of her best performances to date. Sruthi polished her craft and mastered the nuances of storytelling under Gayathri. This legacy is continuing, with Gayathri becoming my guru and training me in my 50s. I presented a complete Margam recently!

Another influential teacher is Kanaka Sathasivan, who exposed Sruthi to the various facets of stage production, including lighting, stage management, costumes, and direction.

As Natyalaya celebrates its 40th anniversary, I express heartfelt gratitude and extend my wishes for many more years of fostering a vibrant dance community in the greater Austin area and nurturing the leaders of the next generation.