The art of graceful human movement, precision, and emotion develop as a natural expression of unity and action. Many see dance only as a form of art, but there’s much more than just mere movement. It is also a way of expressing your thought through your body, a way to get feelings out. “Art makes your heart wealthy. You are content and more expressive. There’s a saying that I believe in: ‘The things that you leave after you’ve passed away is DNA and art,’” says Yurie Anai.
Yurie grew up in Japan, where as a child her mother took her to a ballet studio in her home town of Gifu; she has been training in ballet for the past 22 years now. “When I was fifteen years old; besides ballet training, I began my journey to contemporary dance. After such intensive ballet training, I felt the need to grow and learn a different form of dance. Ballet has rules, but contemporary dance gave me the platform to express myself.”
These days, she has been preparing herself for the Rhythm and Soul dance shows organized by Sushila Dance Academy, and while doing so, reflects on what it means to grow up in the dance world, and how that shapes her creativity process. “When I was ten years old, dancing on stage, I can still recall what I felt that day; I felt that this is where I belong. And, from that day on, I have constantly pushed myself to be a better dancer. Movement is the purest channel to give my emotions space to come out. I am able to express intimacy more genuinely in my art; my relationship to the music, the space, the floor, the people, time, and the choreography. This relationship means everything to the art you are putting out,” she explains.
Yurie feels strongly that contemporary dance has been her place, a home, adding, “Ballet has been my comfort zone. I have been doing it since the age of four, but doing only the same form of dance every other day is not going to help me come out. I always wanted to explore more, and dance also comes in diverse forms. One of the reasons I chose contemporary is also because I see a future in it. You want to be moved by art, and not just be impressed by it. Art is being bold and honest.”
A graduate from the world-famous Martha Graham’s School of Dance, she shares her journey to taking her dance seriously and moving ahead as a professional. “When I graduated from college in Japan, most students preferred to get a nine-to-five job, work in big companies, and make hefty earnings, but I chose to go to America. I was 22 then, and that’s when I joined Martha’s Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York. There, I learned a diverse form of contemporary dance. It was very different from what I learned in Japan. The Martha Graham technique is more like freestyle, they have various forms, and it gave me more space to express my individuality. Martha Graham is like the mother of contemporary dance; she created contemporary and modern dance form in the early 1930s.” Slowly learning and practicing every day helped her gain confidence and also helped polish her ballet technique, learn to be more expressive, and create her own dance form and composition. “After I graduated from the Martha Graham School, I started to work as a freelancer, as a ballet teacher, and doing choreography.”
Time is a funny thing and takes you to places you’ve never expected. “I never knew I’d come to Nepal someday. One of my classmates who took classes with me in New York had come to Nepal and met Yulia. My friend recommended to her about me and she contacted me, and well, here I am.” She sheds further light on what she’s doing here with the Sushila Dance Academy and how it feels to be here, “I am working with the company dancers, and we have a show called Rhythm and Soul, which will happen in May 2019. For this year, we are working on contemporary and ballet and fusion dance with Bhavya Ma’am. So, for ballet, we are doing a masquerade. It is women-only and very powerful and empowering. We have also a ballet with men that is called Trepak, which is a Russian dance, but still very ballet-like and acrobatic. We are working on a contemporary dance, as well, which the students also choreographed. When we create a dance, I always ask my students what they visualize and hope for Nepal’s future. They talked and debated a lot about it and created a piece. My input was to fix the glitches and put everything together. I think it’s a very unique style.”
When asked about her stay in Nepal, she laughs and shares that it is a different experience. “Nepal is different, but I also made sure to adapt to the scenario. New York is a busy place, people rarely have time and are very engaged in their work. Since it is a big city, there is also a lot of competition. Nepal is a beautiful city and people are more relaxed. You can feel the togetherness of the people; they share strong bonds with each other.”
Her work with the dancers here has brought her in touch with amazing young people who are curious and open to learning. “I believe that Nepal also has many potential dancers. My dancers are very committed and passionate about what they do, and looking at them makes me feel that they require more international teachers. There is so much to learn, and only being taught by an in-house teacher is like being limited in art. There are a lot of techniques, and I firmly believe that Nepal has so much potential to produce good dancers. Nepal has a unique culture, traditional dance, music, and costumes, which I feel need recognition on the international stage.”
Being in the dancing industry for so long, Yurie now wants to travel the world with her dance. As we walk in the garden, her eyes gleam, as she says, “I love dancing. I never looked for any other work. Who knows, I could have been working in a big firm and earning more money, but I have been passionate about dance. It has been the best thing I have done, and will continue to do it.”
“I am a very focused person, whatever I focus in, I put all my energy in it and can never get diverted,” says Bhavyaa. Starting her journey in the classical art from the tender age of four, she has performed at the national level in India, winning awards and accolades from a very early stage of her career. Bhavyaa is a MBA holder in Finance and HR and has Masters in Bharatnatyam. A dancer, performer, teacher, and choreographer who has been in the classical dance form for more than decade and still going strong. “I never wanted to quit academics,” she says. “I always wanted an academic background, and the art field is something you never know if it’s your cup of tea or not.”
She remembers feeling envious when her elder sister started dance classes. She was told she was too young, but she was very adamant, and felt, “Why is she going and not me? I was so angry my parents asked the teacher if I could join the class, too. The teacher agreed to enroll me on the condition that I should be a quick learner. And so the journey started.”
“I made sure to participate in all the competitions that were happening in my hometown. The art institute in India had district state and national competitions and I started to participate in all of them. Gradually, from third place, I began to receive first place.”
As there’s a saying that, after you taste success, you become addicted to it, and it was the same for Bhavyaa. After getting the taste of winning, her addiction to be the best of the best increased. “When you start winning national competitions, you feel you are good at something, and this made me work harder for my success.” She says that all her achievements are because of her family. “When you’re a child, your parents make the effort to take you the classes, and any form of classical art is quite expensive—the costumes, the jewelry—and I feel blessed to have a family that supported me in this journey from a young age.”
With time she was selected as an empanelled artist for ICCR (Indian Counsel of Cultural Relations,) where they choose artists from different fields throughout India. Then, she was recruited by ICCR to Nepal and was here from 2012 for two-and-a-half years before coming again in 2016. “The reason I chose to come back is because when I was working in Nepal, I had many students who were interested in Bharatnatyam, so I started diploma courses for the first time in Bharatnatyam in Nepal.” Bharatnatyam is a form of illustrative tales with religious themes and spiritual thought performed by a dancer with impressive gestures—definitely an eye-pleaser for the audience.
Being a degree holder in two different fields and yet able to still win the heart of people in Bharatnatyam, I am sure it must’ve been quite a journey for her. “Honestly, I wasn’t a very bright student in school,” she laughs, “but I was above average.” She believes that all the crazy routines helped build her passion. “Working in a creative field is different from a nine-to-five job with files and folders, sitting in front of computers the whole day. You know you’re living your life. What I do is not work for me, this is what I chose to do, and I enjoy every minute spent on it.”
Bhavyaa is currently working for her show, Rhythm and Soul, happening in May 2019. “I have been a part of this show previously, but this time is special, because I am with Sushila Arts Academy. Currently, we have a few performances, and it is not pure classical Bharatnatyam, but semi-classical, and a fusion with contemporary dance. We have a variety of performances to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. They will get a taste of everything.”
Practicing Bharatnatyam makes her release stress and calm her body. “We do not need to go to the temple to worship God, we do that every day. Dancing is worship for us. Even the starting Bhumi Pranam, what we are doing is taking permission of Mother Goddess Earth, and it is also the first thing a child learns while learning classical dance. Any classical art form takes time.” Bhavyaa believes students are not only learning a classical art form, but discipline and mythological stories, and connecting to different Vedas and puranas, which in this fast paced world, even many parents don’t know. “If I have to show an episode of Mahabharata, I need to know the characters of the story, so that I will be able to express it through my dance. It is far beyond the mere counting of dance steps. We are learning about the characters to whom we offer our prayers every day, we are seeking a divine feeling, and that is what we find when we are dancing.”
Art has been an important part of Yulia Koirala’s life since she was young. As Founder Principal and Director of Sushila Dance Academy, she feels that a combination of art and her exposure to music plus business experience helped her to move forward when she decided to open the academy here. Since then, they have made their name by staging international standard dance shows and performances in Nepal.
However, Rhythm and Soul 2019 series is different than the Broadway shows they have done previously. It is a once-a-year event that showcases two dance forms, while also experimenting with the fusion side. They always try to bring international artists to participate, and the results have been extremely successful, with many appreciative fans glad for a taste of something different. The first Rhythm and Soul series was launched in 2014, a flamenco by Maradee de Guzman and Subima Shrestha (Kathak) fusion. It’s an event that looks set to keep moving and expanding.
Upcoming "Rhythm and Soul Series 2019" by Sushila Arts Academy / Sushila Dance Theatre Company will hold afternoon and evening shows on May 23, 24, and 25, 2019, plus an additional show at 1 pm on May 25 that is a fundraiser for Cancer Care Nepal.
For more information and tickets please contact: Sushila Arts Academy at 01-4015643 or Cancer Care Nepal at 01-5536133
Powered by: Turkish Airlines
Supported by: Toyota
Co-supported by: Dabur
With the support of: The Russian Centre of Science and Culture
Co-powered by: Nabil Bank Ltd.
CSR Sponsor for Cancer Care Foundation Fund Raising Show: Asian Paints