Once a little girl with stars in her eyes and rhythm in her soul, Varna Sandeep is now one of the many beacons of Indian classical dance in Canada. Her journey is a testament to the immortal words of George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Born in the cultural city of Thrissur and raised in the city of Chennai, Varna’s love for dance was evident from a young age. She would lose herself in the enchanting world of rhythm and movement, mirroring the dance steps she saw on television. Sensing her inherent talent, her mother enrolled her at Rajeswari Natyalaya, an institution that practised the famed Pandanallur bani of Bharatanatyam where she began her formal dance education. Her Guru Smt.Vidya Venkatesh provided her with able guidance deeply ingrained with traditional values.
Her passion for dance grew over the years, nurtured by her school that, encouraged her talent, providing a platform for her to showcase her skills at various events and inter-school cultural festivals.
Varna’s journey in dance took her under the wings of some of the most celebrated gurus in Indian classical dance. She was a disciple of the renowned Mohiniattam teacher and artist, Padmasree Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, and after completing her arangettam at Guruvayur temple in Kerala, she pursued her training in Mohiniyattam under the guidance of Sahithya Academy awardee Dr. Smt. Neena Prasad at Sougandhika Centre of Mohiniyattam. Additionally, Varna also trained in Indian Carnatic music at Chennai under Smt. Sridevi Padmanabhan, an All India Radio Artist whom she considers a perfect Guru with exceptional qualities. With her training in both dance and music, Varna’s artistic expression knew no bounds, enriching her performances and captivating audiences with her versatility and talent.
A new chapter unfolded in 2010 when she moved to Canada with her husband, Sandeep Ravi. Faced with the unfamiliar, she initially sought a teaching job, only to realize her Indian qualifications weren’t readily accepted. But, as they say, when one door closes, another opens. Varna decided to dance her way into the hearts of Canadians.
She founded Varnanjali Natyalaya, a haven for those seeking to learn Indian classical dance. To mark her place as a teacher, she advertised in local media, developed a comprehensive website (www.varnanjali.com), and performed at community organizations and temples, impressing audiences with her profound talent.
Her first student came from the local Sri Lankan community, marking the beginning of her success. Slowly, her dedication and talent began to draw in students, and Varnanjali Natyalaya flourished with time. Today, it is a bustling hub of over 100 students, with students from age 5 to 60 yrs and Varna is at the heart of it, teaching, choreographing, and performing.
She runs a Rental boutique called V’s Rentals for dance and theatre costumes and accessories to cater to the performing artists in Canada.
From 2015 to 2019, Varna also spread her love to the multicultural diaspora in Canada working as an RJ for Madhurageetham. This experience helped her connect with a wider audience and further establish herself in the community. Her school has a long standing relationship with various public schools, senior citizens communities, political ward councils, Mayor’s and MP’s offices, through which she prefers to integrate Indian Classical dance with the Canadian audience.
In 2015 she became recipient of the Outstanding community Volunteer in the field of Performing Arts Award from then Member of Parliament of Uxbridge Ms. Tracy Mcharles.
Behind every successful woman is a tribe that supports her, and Varna is no exception. Central to her tribe is her loving family. Her husband, Sandeep Ravi, an IT professional, has been a pillar of strength and support throughout her journey. The couple has been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Shishira and Sithara, who add joy and vibrancy to their lives. Living in Ajax, Ontario, Varna not only balances her professional commitments with grace but also ensures she is present for her family. Her daughters, growing up in an environment filled with music and dance, show signs of following in their mother’s artistic footsteps.
In the face of adversities and cultural differences, Varna Sandeep refused to let her passion fade. Instead, she used it to create a space where Indian classical dance could thrive in a foreign land. Her journey serves as a reminder that no dream is too big, and no obstacle is insurmountable when you’re armed with passion and resilience. Her story, written with the rhythms of her dance, echoes in the hearts of her students, family, and all those who have had the privilege of witnessing her art. Varna Sandeep’s tale is an enduring saga of determination, talent, and the transformative power of dance.