Vempati Ravi Shankar: The Founder

Kalaratna Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar was the fifth and youngest child of the great Kuchipudi Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and Swarajyalakshmi Vempati. Being the youngest  he enjoyed utmost care and affection from his sister’s Kameshwari, Katyayani, Bala Tripura Sundari who were of great support later in his life. He started learning dance without intimating his father and later he received his training under the maestro himself from a very early age period. Many National and International festivals witnessed his talent.

Some of his accolades include the state award “Kala Ratna” from Andhra Pradesh by Chief Minister Nara Chandra Babu Naidu, “Natyakala Surya” award in Chennai, the “Siddhendra Puraskar” from Kerala, and the “Best male dancer” award in the Natyakala Conference from Krishna Gana Sabha – Chennai, etc…

Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar had performed, as a soloist, for the famous Khajuraho Festival, Konark Festival, the dance festivals conducted by Sangeet Natak Akademi, ICCR-New Delhi and Chidambaram Natyanjali. On an International scale, he was part of the prestigious Avignon Festival, Euro Festival in France and Netherlands, and he has performed many times in the Kennedy Centre, Washington D.C. Vempati Ravi Shankar accompanied his father through all of his International trips to USA, Russia, Canada, European countries like Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Gulf countries and staged programs in all those countries, earning a name for himself.

From 1994 to 2004 Vempati Ravi Shankar performed the leading male role in almost all of Vempati Chinna Satyam’s productions, including Shiva in Haravilasam and Ardhanareeswaram, Rama in Ramayanam, Dusyanta in Abhignyana Shakuntalam, and Arjuna in Kirata Arjuneeyam. Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar earned his status as one of the most experienced disciples of Guru Vempati Chinna Sathyam. His graceful style undoubtedly attributed to his performance as Shiva in Ksheera Sagara Madhanam, Haravilasam and Ardhanareeswaram. These are particularly significant because Guru Vempati Chinna Sathyam composed it with his son in mind to play the lead role of Shiva/Ardhanareeswaram. Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar’s skill is evident in the penultimate item of the dance drama in which he dons the costume of Ardhanareeswara, and simultaneously represents the grace of Parvati and the vigor of Shiva by nimbly shifting a black veil from one half of his body to the other.

With his first own dance piece choreographed at the age of 12, Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar has many choreographies to his credit. He has composed over 100 solo items, 3 major dance dramas, and Sri Leela Ganapathy, which were well received by artists and art connoisseurs alike. The dance drama Navadurga has won accolades and rare reviews.

The forte of Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar is always referred to the fluidity of his movements. His body transitions so seamlessly that leaves the audience in awe of him . Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar is considered to be the embodiment of grace and therefore stands in a league of his own within the art form of Kuchipudi. More than that, he is always referred to as a complete artiste, for he is not only a choreographer, but also referred to as an accomplished writer, music composer and a great musician.

Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar is an accomplished musician, and the disciple of the Carnatic vocal music legend, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna. He has set tunes to numerous keerthanas, javalis and thillanas and also often writes his own lyrics. Vempati Ravi Shankar is also a well-known and respected Guru in India and abroad. From 1995, he started conducting numerous workshops in India, USA, as well as in Europe. Vempati Ravi Shankar has dedicated his life to the propagation and development of the art form, Kuchipudi.

Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar was an innovator par excellence. His expertise in both music and the theoretical aspects of dance is highlighted through his brilliant perception and execution of his choreographic details. He was supported by his wife Priyanka Vempati in teaching and also in his choreography for more than a decade. He is the founder of Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar School of Kuchipudi.