Shilpa began training in Kuchipudi at the age of 8 with Ms. Sasikala Penumarthy at the Academy of Kuchipudi Dance and performed her solo debut recital—her Rangapravesham—in 2011 with Ms. Anuradha Nehru and Mr. Kishore Mosalikanti at the Kalanidhi Dance school.
Captivated by the power of dance, Shilpa began to use it as a tool for community development. She spent her summers in college teaching dance to inner-city youth in Schenectady; she had an internship in Dance Movement Therapy at Ellis Hospital; and she taught refugee women to share their traditional dances in a weekly women’s group in Albany called RISSE. In her senior year at Union College, she directed and choreographed Anamika, a mixed-media piece that combined ballet, praise dancing, and Kuchipudi, to serve as a call to action against the harms of human trafficking. Anamika’s value extended beyond its role as a work of art—it served to demonstrate how various social justice activists and kind souls could use their bodies and dances to tell one single human story.
In 2013, Shilpa was the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the connection between traditional dance cultures of the world, their healing systems, and their current states of healthcare delivery. She has performed at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (2014) and at the International Dance Festival in Fes, Morocco (2015). She is also the 2016-2017 Artist-in-Residence for the American Medical Women’s Association. She recently conducted arts-based health literacy research on cervical cancer with the Shipibo-Konibo people of Yarinacocha, Peru as an ASTMH Kean Fellow.
Currently, she is a resident physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Obstetrics and Gynecology, where she still uses dance to perform patient stories.