A Woman of Inspiration

Ramya Kapadia | Photo by Zoe Litaker

Ramya Kapadia brings the traditional arts of India to a new home in Knoxville

When Ramya Kapadia took the stage this past April at the Women of Inspiration Awards, she did so with decades of work behind her. Kapadia is, among many other things, including the holder of a master’s degree in Medical Physics and Neuroscience, an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer and Carnatic singer, two traditional Indian art forms.  

“Music was always part of my life,” Kapadia says. It was simply a part of growing up in India, she recalls. She never expected it to become her career, nor be internationally recognized for it. She came to the United States to study, starting her Master’s Degree in Wisconsin and moving to Durham, North Carolina afterward with the intention of getting a job in a lab. Instead, Kapadia found herself on tour in Europe as a singer with award-winning Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan. 

“This was just supposed to be part of my life at home, but then that wound up taking over,” she says. “I just kept on going on tour. I never applied for that job.”

While still in grad school, Kapadia was approached by parents looking to have their kids learn Bharatanatyam, and Kapadia began to instruct them as a side gig. She eventually opened a school in Durham. It felt natural to her. “I never really thought of it as teaching, just sharing.”

Now Kapadia has made a home in Knoxville and has brought her vast knowledge of traditional Indian arts with her. In addition to instructing her students and practicing her own craft as a dancer and singer, she has been commissioned to paint murals in the traditional Warli art style, composes her own music, and serves on the Tennessee Arts Commission. She is also a mother to two children who are dancing and following in her footsteps.

“The arts erase boundaries and limitations,” she says. “They bring people closer together. I want to see more dance and more art all over Knoxville, and I hope that I can contribute to that.”

You can learn more about Kapadia on her website natyarpanadurham.wixsite.com/mysite

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