Take 10: Rama Suresh
As founder and artistic director of Mythili Dance Academy, Rama Suresh runs one of the oldest premier institutions of Indian classical dance (Bharatanatyam) in Peoria. In collaboration with a diverse community of artists, she uses dance to engage in collective action and raise funds and awareness for a variety of good causes. With her team of 120 ballet, Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean dancers, she has produced and directed numerous Broadway-style shows—raising more than $675,000 for charitable organizations over the past eight years. “We are more than just dancers,” Rama explains. “We are dancers with heart!”
Born and raised in Chennai, India, Rama moved to the United States in 1986 and came to Peoria three years later. She holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from Bradley University, and her career spans 30 years in the field of human resources—in addition to performing and teaching dance full-time. Through Mythili Dance Academy, she has performed around the world and brought to the stage several dancers who have emerged as teachers in their own right.
Rama loves to cook, read books and travel—and she especially enjoys her trips to Italy. She lives in Peoria with her husband Vallanore Suresh, her daughter Vandana, and granddaughter Trisha, who is the “apple of her eye!”
- Proudest moment: Raising close to $700,000 through my Broadway-style shows. When I see the difference these funds have made to organizations such as Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the Center for Prevention of Abuse, it makes me very proud.
- What would you say to your 20-year-old self? Hang on and be prepared for an amazing journey! Secondly, if you think that people will do for you as you do for them, you will be greatly disappointed—so give without any expectation.
- Person who’s had the greatest impact on my life: My mother, who recognized my potential to be a dancer when I was just four years of age. She introduced me to the world of Indian classical dance.
- Which living person do you most admire? My dad for uplifting the lives of so many people. He is 87 years old, yet he still works constantly toward bettering the lives of the less fortunate in India.
- What trait do you most deplore in others? Most times we can forgive the hurt, but it is difficult to forget the disrespect. I believe people should be treated with honesty, civility and respect—no matter what the situation.
- When and where were you happiest? In 1987 when my daughter was born in New Jersey. Nothing can compare to the happiness of holding her in my arms for the very first time!
- My most marked characteristic: The passion I have to learn anything and everything and pursue it with conviction. I believe when you stop learning, you lose the ability to be alive in your mind in the truest sense.
- Favorite film: It's A Wonderful Life. I must have watched it more than 50 times! I love black-and-white movies in general, especially from the 1930s and ‘40s.
- What is your motto? Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” William Shakespeare: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I would love to travel back in time to see how the events in early-1900s India affected my ancestors. I would love to see what they looked like, what they wore, what they did for work, how they managed their homes, where they lived, what they did for fun, and who I resemble and take after. PM