Sagarika Venkat is finalist in Young Citizen of the Year award

12-year-old Bharatanatyam dancer in Hills Shire Council’s 2022 Australia Day awards

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What were you doing when you were 12 years old?

Not receiving a ‘Highly Commended’ award on Australia Day, to be sure.

Sydney’s Sagarika Venkat was a finalist in the Young Citizen of the Year award at the Hills Shire Council this year.

Although the big prize was claimed by Tian Yi Wong See, a former Hills Shire Youth Ambassador, for his work in youth health and mental health (including a book he wrote on his own struggles), Sagarika was honoured for her work in classical Indian dance and her charitable works through dance.

Sagarika Venkat with Mayor of Hills Shire Council Dr Peter Gangemi and Councillor Reena Jethi (Source: Supplied)

“I’m very proud,” Sagarika told Indian Link. “Thanks to dance, and to my mum for her guidance.”

The youngster, who is about to start Year 7 at Cherrybrook Technology High School, has already made a name for herself in the community’s classical dance scene.

She started dancing at the age of five, learning the art of Bharatanatyam from her mum Manjula Vishwanath, a well-known dancer and teacher and founder of Rasika Dance Academy.

She performed her arrangetram (debut performance) at age nine, in what must probably be a record of sorts. To helm a 3 ½ hour solo show as a young child, must have been a daunting task.

“No actually,” Sagarika revealed, “I practiced 25-30 hours a week for months before. It also helped that I enjoy dancing!”

Less than two years later, she followed it up with another 2-hour solo show. This one was to raise funds for a child in India, only a few years younger than herself, who had lost both parents to COVID.  The $3,000 raised that day is currently seeing the young child stay on in school.

(Source: Supplied)

“Through dance, I hope to raise awareness not only about Bharatanatyam as an ancient artform and a tradition but also use it for good,” Sagarika said, with a maturity way beyond her age. “I want to be able to raise funds for kids’ health and education, wherever in the world they may be.”

She has already fund-raised extensively, performing at various Indian community as well as mainstream fundraisers.

Sagarika likes drama as much as dance, and has already dabbled in modelling. You might think it is the tween in her coming out when she says, “I want to be a performer when I grow up – I want to be in the movies and walk the red carpet.”

But with her stunning good looks, surprising grace and poise, not to mention a demeanour to match, she might just make it.

She’s already knee-deep into her first screen-based project, a dance video.  All she will reveal about it is, “It is based on Bharatanatyam, but it has a Sanjay Leela Bhansali kind of treatment!”

Wonderful to see Next-Gen serving up old delights repackaged in new formats.

COVID came in the way last December of another milestone achievement – being invited to perform in the famed kutcheri season, southern India’s mega classical music and dance fest.

“For NRI dancers to get this opportunity is rare, and that too for such a young dancer,” Mum Manjula mused.

She also revealed that Sagarika recently choreographed part of the performance at two recent arrangetrams. “It’s unusual for such a young dancer to do so. You need to understand not only the lyrics in Sanskrit, but also the finer aspects of the mythology involved.”

She added, “I’m very proud to see Sagarika in the Young Citizen of the Year awards. I’d be proud of any kids from our community who would be felicitated in this manner.

Sagarika with other awardees (Source: Supplied)

READ ALSO: Sagarika Venkat: A nine-year-old’s arrangetram

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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