MIDDLETON — Dance lessons for Shruti Parthasarathy are down the basement steps and thousands of miles away through an internet connection.
Two to three times a week, the Middleton High School sophomore logs onto Skype and for two hours, typically on a Saturday and Sunday evening, has a private lesson in Bhartatanatyam Indian classical dance with her guru, Medha Hari, in Chennai, India.
The long-distant tutelage has paid off.
Shruti, 15, the daughter of Partha and Hemalatha Parthasarathy, has been named one of 171 finalists in the National YoungArts Foundation competition, an event that draws more than 11,000 entries from around the country. Categories include multiple forms of dance, photography, writing, cinematography, classical music, voice and other art forms. Julia Zeimentz, a Middleton High School senior, received a merit award in popular voice in the competition.
Shruti now has a chance to win $10,000 and will spend part of next month in Miami taking part in the 37th annual National YoungArts Week. The event allows artists to take master classes with internationally recognized leaders in their field and do workshops and performances.
“I was so excited when I found out. This is my passion,” Shruti said. “It’s an art form that tells the tales of the past. Those stories often have a lesson within them that really help you grow not only as a dancer but as a person.”
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Nurturing young artists
The National YoungArts Foundation was founded in 1981 as the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts by Lin and Ted Arison to help nurture emerging high-school artists. YoungArts nominates up to 60 candidates for consideration as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts following participation in YoungArts week. Alumni from the program include those who have gone on to win Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards, dancers with the New York City Ballet, musicians with professional symphonies, best-selling authors, and filmmakers who have presented at Sundance and Cannes film festivals.
Shruti, who also plays tennis, viola, violin and is active in forensics and student council, applied in September to the YoungArts program by submitting a series of videos of her work that showed off her techniques, stamina and other disciplines of what is one of India’s oldest dance forms. She was notified of her award late last month.
Shruti was born in southern India and moved to the U.S. when she was 4 years old when her father accepted a job in information technology. She began dancing a year later at Mandir of Madison temple and later took lessons at Kalaanjali School of Indian Dance in Verona where she graduated from the program when she was 11. For the past three years, as a way to further advance her dancing skills, her classes have been in her home where part of the basement has been converted to a dance studio, compete with mirrors, a hardwood floor and a 36-inch Sony flat-screen television mounted to the wall to access Skype.
In summer, Shruti, who is leaning toward studying business in college, spends two months in India taking classes and performing.
“There are many things I like about it,” Shruti said of her dancing. “It really helps me connect back to my roots. It lets me express who I am as a person.”