A deserving artiste  
- Mallika Madduri  
e-mail: mallikajobs@yahoo.com 
January 17, 2008 

Vimala Sarma is Sydney's best known dance teacher and performer of the Kuchipudi style of classical Indian dance, and her company, Nayika Indian Dance, is located in inner city Sydney.  Vimala has made regular visits to Chennai over many years to pursue her passion for Kuchipudi.  Vimala's guru is Satyapriya Ramana, who was both a student of, and teacher at, guru Vempati Chinna Satyam's Kuchipudi Art Academy for many years.  She has also taken short courses from Bala Kondala Rao and Kalpalathika Krishnan, both students of Satyam.  Vimala has also learnt Mohiniattam, a graceful dance style from Kerala at the Vijnana Kala Vedi cultural centre in Kerala.  Her company has received grants from Australian Government organizations.  Nayika Indian Dance also conducts cultural tours to India. 
Kuchipudi, the dance style of the Telugu speaking people of South India (both in Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu) was originally performed as dance dramas depicting stories of Krishna.  The style differs from the more dominant southern classical dance form, Bharatanaytam, by its torso movements and fluid gestures.  There is greater variation in the range of its footwork, and greater spatial movement.  Like other classical dance forms, Kuchipudi draws on the original dance text, the Natya Shastra, for hand gestures, and upon the rich material of Indian myths for its content.  Mohiniattam (literally the dance of the enchantress) is a feminine style from Kerala. 
Vimala Sarma produces her own shows in Sydney including the recent shows Raga & Rasa (2006), Lotus & Phoenix (2007) and Laya Timeless Rhythms (2007).  In the production Lotus & Phoenix which was part of the City of Sydney's Chinese New Year Festival of 2007, she collaborated with Chinese musicians and  choreographed an original work in Mohiniattam style set to Chinese music composed for the show by Tony Wheeler.  In her other shows, the Kuchipudi dances she performs are choreographed by Vempati Chinna Satyam.  She performed with live music at the Sydney Opera House in her production Silhouettes in September 2004, which used a backdrop of silhouette images of dance poses to enhance the production.  Vimala has performed in the prestigious annual Madras Festival of Music and Dance, and in other South Indian Festivals.  She was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for her performance in Chennai in January 2006, which was also favorably reviewed in the Telugu newspaper, Varta.   
Her audiences and students in Sydney are largely non-Indian and Vimala's approach to teaching and performing is non-traditional.  She uses yoga and pilates to warm up, and Western dance principles to enhance the Kuchipudi style.  She makes use of voice-overs which explain hand gestures in the dances to Western audiences before performances. 
Vimala Sarma was born in Malaysia, but has been living in Australia, after winning a Colombo Plan scholarship, for most of her life.  She has a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Adelaide and worked for 15 years in the Australian Public Service in Canberra, holding senior positions, before moving to Sydney.  In Sydney, she was a management consultant with two private companies before starting her own research & development management consultancy, Ashwyn Innovations Pty Ltd. She is currently learning Sanskrit from the University of Sydney. 

Vimala Sarma was invited to perform at the Andhra Arts Academy at Vijayawada on 16 December 2007 and was honoured by the President KV Subha Rao and Satyanarayana Sarma, after a Kuchipudi recital.  She performed Lakshmi Pravesham, two  Annamacharya pieces - Pallukuthenella and Muthugare - and Rukmini Pravesham, all choreographed by guru Vempatti Chinna Satyam.  The organizers presented her with a shawl and a gilded statue of Sri Venkateshwara, the deity at the temple of Tirupati.  She was showered with flowers and presented with a framed felicitation from the Academy.   She performed in the Chennai Dance and Music Festival for Gana Mukundhapriya Sabha, on December 3, 2007 and the title Natyakala Sironmani was conferred on her by the Sabha.  The conductor of orchestra for these performances was Vedantham Ramu from the Kuchipudi Arts Academy in Chennai.