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Mrs Uma Chetty, Bharatha Natyam Dancer – August 27th, 2012

Uma first started to learn this art at the age of seven, when she was in Primary one. She says that she was then very much excited when her mother brought her to the class at the Cairnhill Community Center, Singapore. At that age Uma was highly captivated by the beautiful costume, jewellery, makeup and the beautiful dance movements.

Uma was under the tutelage of Srimathi Neila Sathyalingam of Apsaras Arts. Mrs Neila Sathyalingam or otherwise fondly known as mami was truly an inspiration as she had not only taught dance but also as how to persevere one’s passion. This is something Uma still cherishes and is trying to impart to her students.

Yes, Uma runs the Apsaras branch in Richmond, Virginia.

Uma owes much to her parents who took all the steps to nurture her into a dancer, as she says, ‘amma and appa always encouraged me and supported me in my performances.

They took me to many dance programs and they will also sit and watch them with me. My mum also cut any newspaper article about Bharatha Natyam, or nice poses from magazines and saved all program brochures.

All those traits have been passed on to me and I do the same with my students and it has helped me tremendously in inspiring so many little ones.’

She further says, ‘Amma brought me to my classes, I remember in the bus, and used to wait for me during class and even took notes about my adavus and I use a lot of that now to help my students learn their adavus.’

A true supportive mother in deed!

She says dance, which was initially started as an extra -curricular activity, slowly became a passion, as Bharatha natyam allows the mind, soul and the body to blend and that combination is beautiful for the dancer and the observer.

During her school days, she had to give more importance to her studies and hence dance practices were limited to the necessity. Now she has created a routine of daily practice of about thirty minutes with yoga stretches, exercises, two dances and even sit ups. She has also compiled a list of exercise for her students as she believes flexibility, stamina and health are essential for any dance students.

She says that, It is not easy balancing between any activity and schoolwork as it requires other preparations like planning and executing for performances apart from the regular classes.

It is all about time management, priorities and focus. She says that the three essential qualities that she has learnt from her dad that helps her to excel.

Now, the best way she balances dance, work, family and social activities is because of the huge support from her own family, her husband Ashok and both sons Karthik and Ashwin.

She has a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) from Deleware and a MBA from University of Richmond, Virginia. She works full time as a Finance analyst at Genworth Financial.

Uma, who has nurtured more than 120 students, says that the Varnam on Lord Muruga in kamas ragam as her favorite item.

Her vote is also for the brindhavana saranga thilana.

In Hindu Mythology, APSARAS are celestial dancers. Apsaras Arts was originally established in Singapore as an Indian Dance Company in 1977. Srimathi Neila Sathyalingam, Uma Chetty’s guru, is the founder, director and choreographer of Apsaras Arts, Singapore.

“Nelia Mammi” as she is fondly called holds a basic diploma and post graduate diploma form the prestigious dance school, Kalakshetra in Chennai.

Since its inception in 1977, Apsaras Arts has expanded into Canada, Boston (Massachussets) and Richmond (Virginia).

Apsaras Arts, Richmond was started in 2000 by Uma Chetty and since then this school has grown from 4 students to 120 students ranging from beginners to advanced classes. There are also 3 teachers besides her who teach in Apsaars. They started as her students and now teach as well.

More information is available at

The main objective of Apsaras Arts Richmond, VA is to create awareness of Bharatha Natyam in the United States, while maintaining the highest and best standards for teaching and performing.

Apsaras Arts, Richmond, VA has performed in various Hindu Center fund raisers, Childrens Hospital Fundraisers, Indian cultural events, Girl Scout events, Tsunami Fundraiser, Asian Festivals etc.

This school has also given multiple dance demonstrations for various organizations and schools including University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and Thomas Dale High School.

She has also had 10 students complete their Bharatha Natyam Arangetram from 2006 to 2012.

Apsaras Arts Dance Group celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012 and since then every year they have an annual day for 120 Asparas students and call it Apsaras Anjali.

She received the Bharatha Kalai Mani award from her guru in Singapore, for her achievements. One day she hopes to produce a dance drama, ‘valli thirumanam’, with her post arangetram students with live orchestra.

She urges one to take to any Art they are interested in. Once they like it , that will grow into a love, and that can take them through many aspects of life , as they study, marry, have children and grow older. The pursuance of any Art should be based on individual desire and passion and not on others perception or persuasion.

Bhartha Natyam is a beautiful Art that teaches dedication, commitment, discipline and ability to adapt to changing situations.

so one should surely take up this Art as it reaps huge rewards.

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