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Dance as a Bridge With Thulasiram Govinda Chettiyar

This yoga instructor and indie artist has started a chain reaction of cultural exchange.

Indian-born dancer and choreographer Thulasiram Govinda Chettiyar believes that dance is the universal language of unity and expression. The world may be divided by cultural and linguistic barriers, but Chettiyar epitomizes the unifying power of dance through his innovative work in cultural exchange. He is known for promoting Indian dance forms in the United States and collaborating with diverse artists in a celebration of cultural diversity and an effort to bridge disparate worlds.

Chettiyar has a long list of accolades. He’s been featured in multiple indie music albums; he has choreographed various Gala nights and mega Diwali events, such as the celebrated AhA PATTASU 22, an initiative by Dallas Metroplex Tamil Sangam. He’s also a board member of a DFW dance hub, a community-based dance organization focused on improving lives through dance.

For those outside the world of theater, Chettiyar is a distinguished dancer, choreographer, and artistic visionary who transitioned from a career in software engineering to the world of dance and theater. He left a prestigious tech role in India to pursue his passion for dance and yoga, a decision that led him to teach yoga in Vietnam and eventually to the United States. Here, he made a significant impact in promoting Indian dance forms, particularly through his founding of Team Ground Zero, a Dallas Fort Worth metroplex-based Bollywood dance team. His notable achievements include being a finalist in the Indian dance reality TV show ‘Ungalil Yaar Prabhudeva,’ and contributing to acclaimed theatrical productions like ‘The Red Pashmina’ and ‘The Royal Dilemma’ with the Think India Foundation.

Chettiyar has long been determined to bring traditional Indian dances to the US. For him, it seemed only natural to educate and share this rich cultural heritage with the US – and with the world.

“Dance is a powerful medium that transcends language,” Chettiyar explains. “Through dance, we can share the beauty of Indian culture with wider audiences. I’ve been honored to collaborate with various cultural organizations in order to bring the vibrancy of Indian dance to American stages.”

Chettiyar is a dynamic personality, and his warm nature and eager energy give him the ability to draw others to him and allow him to work effectively with a diverse range of dancers and artists. He believes that dance can bring people together, regardless of their background. “When we dance, we speak a common language,” he observes. This ethos is evident in his workshops and performances, where dancers of various ethnicities and styles come together, creating a rich tapestry of artistic expression.

Chettiyar views dance as a tool for cultural connection and understanding. His choreographies often blend elements from different dance traditions, creating something new and universally appealing. “It’s about creating a dialogue between cultures,” Chettiyar explains. This approach does more than simply entertain – it educates audiences, and promotes a deeper appreciation for different cultural art forms.

It goes back to Chettiyar’s desire to educate and inform, and this is a significant component of Chettiyar’s work. He has been involved in various educational initiatives, teaching dance to students of all ages. “Through dance education, I hope to instill an appreciation for cultural diversity in the younger generation,” he asserts. “Right now we’re preparing to expand the studio and training programs to create more opportunities for people to learn about and engage with different dance forms.”

Chettiyar adds that he’ll be offering a wider range of classes, focusing on a variety of dance techniques and also on the cultural contexts of various dance forms. “I want to create a space where learning dance also means learning about the world,” he says. This expansion will also include workshops and collaborations with international artists, further promoting cultural exchange.

Chettiyar’s career in dance and the arts has been marked by numerous awards and recognitions. He first gained prominence in 2012 as a finalist on the renowned Indian dance reality TV show ‘Ungalil Yaar Prabhudeva.’ His leadership and creative vision as the founder of Team Ground Zero led them to remarkable success, including reaching the finals of the Dance USA Dance competition in 2018. Thulasiram’s work has been extensively featured in various media, including prestigious newspapers like “The Hindu,” “Deccan Chronicle,” and “Dailythanthi,” and magazines like “Voyage Dallas” and “Shoutout DFW.”

Chettiyar’s artistic endeavors and commitment to promoting Indian dance forms in the United States have garnered him widespread acclaim, positioning him as a respected figure in the dance community both domestically and internationally. His journey is marked by his dedication to blending dance forms, teaching, and creating performances that celebrate cultural diversity and unity.

“Dance, in its universal language, transcends mere performance,” Chettiyar shares. “It is a bridge connecting diverse cultures, a platform for dialogue and understanding. Through every rhythm and movement, we celebrate our differences and discover our shared human experience.”