We spoke to Sound Shore Mom, Aswathi Arun, about her dance classes and summer camp. She teaches Kuchipudi, which is an Indian Classical dance style, right here in Westchester! Read more about her passion for dance, how she got started, details on her summer camp, and how you can sign up!
Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland. I grew up in a diverse town and was very involved in local cultural events. Now I’m settled with my husband and two daughters in our home in Purchase, NY. We used to live in the Upper East Side for a couple of years before we found our forever home here. As much as I liked the city, I’m loving the space and comfort of the burbs!
Aswathi Arun | Photo by Sean Gallery Photography
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two daughters, a 5.5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old. Aadhira is my rising first grader and a great big sister to Aavani. They’re growing up too fast and it’s been amazing watching them grow together and bond. Fun fact: Aadhira means the moon and Aavani means the earth in Sanskrit!
Aadhira and Aavani | Photo by Julia Dags
We are so happy to have you here in the Sound Shore! What do you love about living in Westchester and what are your go to shops and restaurants?
I didn’t know much about Westchester before moving here but once we were settled, I soon realized that even though the neighboring towns are only about 10-15 minutes apart from each other, each one has its own vibe and appeal. For gelato and sweet treats, I love going to La Tulipe in Mount Kisco! I also find myself strolling down Greenwich Ave and tend to pop into McArdle’s Floral & Garden Design shop when I’m in the area. One of the many gems nearby in Armonk is “The LB” pizza at Fortina. The black truffle is divine!
How did you get into teaching Indian Classical Dance?
Kuchipudi is an Indian Classical dance style that I grew up learning since the age of six under the guidance of my guru, Smt. Lakshmi Babu, founder and director of Kuchipudi Dance Academy (KDA). Kuchipudi is very similar to classical ballet which involves formal technique and movements. It became a part of my weekly routine at an early age, and I was given numerous performance opportunities by my guru. My mother devoted her free time as a full-time working parent to help me practice daily at home, while my father was ready to drive us to wherever the performance venue was, whether it was 10 minutes or 3 hours away. Almost every month, I was preparing for my next performance and enjoyed dressing up in the traditional attire. It was fun but I truly started to love and appreciate dance once I started competing as a pre-teen. Even during undergrad college years, despite being in upstate NY at Rochester Institute of Technology, I always relished the opportunities in that area to perform. Once I was at Georgetown University for graduate school and working full-time, I got back into attending classes regularly again with my guru. It was in 2011 that she gave me an opportunity to start teaching at KDA and I co-founded Little Bells, an introductory dance program for children 3 – 5 years of age. I loved working with children and getting them started in their journey in dance. I moved back to New York in 2014 after getting married and continued my corporate job but after moving to Purchase and having a daughter of my own, I yearned for something more fulfilling. Then, after my second daughter was born right when the lockdown was in effect during the pandemic, I really felt a shift in my career interests. I started taking classes virtually with my guru, reconnecting after a 7-year hiatus and I can’t express how much I felt alive again. In the middle of moving, long work hours, and being a mother, I felt a piece of me was forgotten and lost. I quickly realized without dance all those years, I hadn’t felt like myself. This is an ancient dance style that has been passed on for generations and I felt a sense of duty to pass on this precious art to not only my children but to the next generation of students as well. In 2021, I quit my corporate job and with my husband’s support and blessings from my guru, I started teaching here in Westchester. I began with a weeklong summer camp program with 10 children, and we had a blast! I then proceeded with weekly lessons based on the school year calendar.
May 2012 performance as part of a clue to a question at the National Geographic Bee hosted by Alex Trebek
That is so inspiring! What is your professional background?
Before solely teaching dance, I was in the Healthcare IT industry as a Systems Analyst focused on clinical data management. Being in IT offered a lot of flexibility as I worked remotely even before the pandemic. I have a Bachelor’s in Management Information Systems and a Master’s in Technology Management. Now that I’ve completely shifted into the dance realm professionally, I wanted to enhance my background, so I started my masters in Kuchipudi at the University of Silicon Andhra which is based in San Jose, CA. While my overall workload has increased since the shift in careers, it feels significantly more meaningful and fulfilling.
It really is so important as moms to be doing something that we love! I’m so happy that you found something that is meaningful to you. Tell us more about your classes and summer dance camp!
After a successful 2021 year, I’m excited to conduct my upcoming summer camp program again this August from my studio in Purchase! Options for summer camp enrollment are either the week of August 15th or August 29th. Half day or full day options are available. We’ll focus on dance lessons from morning till we break for lunch and during the afternoon we’ll complete some unique arts and crafts projects like painting, jewelry making, and more! We also prepare and put together a performance by the end of the week!
Starting in the fall, my classes will resume for the 2022-2023 year based on start and end dates of the Harrison school district calendar. We meet in person once a week and students have the option to also meet virtually between in-person classes to help practice their new lessons accordingly at home.
By the way, I’ll be at the Heritage of India Festival at Kensico Dam in Valhalla on August 7th where my students will perform, and I’ll have a booth to talk more about myself and Kuchipudi!
First year students of Kuchipudi with Aswathi | Photography by Karla Tomanelli
That sounds like so much fun! How can we sign up?
To enroll for either summer camp and/or school year classes, please email me at [email protected] for a registration form. You can always email me directly at [email protected] or call/text (202) 540-0030 for any questions! Website and social media profiles are underway and will be announced soon!
Interview by Kelly Postiglione