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Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers
Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers  
Rukmini Devi
  Rukmini Devi

Born in a Brahmin family in Madurai on 28thFebruary 1904. She came from a village called Thiruvayur with rich association of saint Tyagaraja. Her background was full of culture and learning. She got married to Dr. George Arundale in 1920 who was an educationist. With him she traveled Europe giving lectures on Indian culture. In Australia she learned Russian Ballets from a legendary Russian ballerinaAnna Pavlova. It was she who advised her to learn Indian Classical dance. So when she came to India She met Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram pillai and took lessons from him. She also studied from Gauri amma and Muthukumar. She brought about a great revolution in the field of Bhartanatyam.

1. She corrected the theory of dance and Music
2. Costumes were designed artistically.
3. Chose exquisite jewellery and ornaments.
4. She laid emphasis on selection of padams and highlighted the spiritual aspect of the contents.

She established the Kalakshetra in training students in the art of bharatanatyam. Kalakshetra laid emphasis on correct movements and thorough training. The art of Nattuvangam is also taught here. Here one learns how to conduct dance and Music in choreography and composition. It has therefore gained reputation as an international dance centre.
Padma Subramanyam
  Padma Subramanyam

A rare combination of a flawless dancer, choreographer, music composer, singer, research scholar, teacher and author, Dr. Padma Subramanyam is one of the most respected and reputed Bharatanatyam dancers of India. She was born on 4th February, 1943 in Chennai. Her father was K. Subramanyam who was a famous director and also a freedom fighter. Her mother was Meenakshi was a lyricist in Sanskrit and Tamil, dancer, choreographer and a flawless instrumentalist who mastered the Violin, Veena and Harmonium. Given here is a short biography of Padma Subramaniam that covers her life history.

She is currently the director of "Nrutyodaya", which is a dance school that
was founded by her father in the year 1942. She started to learn dance at Nrutyodaya under the guidance of a teacher named Kausalya. She was also trained later on by Guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai. Her first public performance known as "Arangetram" was in the year 1956. After that, she gave innumerable performances in concerts all over the world. She also continued her education side by side.

Padma Subramanyam never let her studies suffer because of her performances and busy schedule. She has got a Bachelor's degree in Music, Master's in Ethno Musicology and Ph.D in dance from Annamalai University. She has been a research scholar and has written a thesis on "Karanas in Indian dance and sculpture". She laid emphasis on the fact that the 108 Karanas or units of dance are not just poses but movements. She has also designed the sculptures of the Karanas of Lord Shiva with his consort Parvati that are kept in the Nataraja Temple at Satara, located in Maharashtra. She has composed music for most of compositions and has also released a couple of albums.

Padma Subramanyam was the first dancer to introduce "Pushpanjali" as a dance piece. She has written many articles that have been compiled as "Legacy of a Legend". She has also composed a Bengali Varanam, the first of its kind whose lyrics have been penned by Salil Chaudhry. Padma Subramanyam enchants spectators with perfect movements and hand gestures and emotes beautifully with her face. This versatile dancer has received many awards and honors that are listed below.
Alarmel Valli
  Alarmel Valli

Alarmel Valli holds the distinction of being the leading proponent of the Pandanallur tradition in Bharatanatyam. People have applauded her for bringing depth, passion and spontaneity into her work. One of the most creative artists of today, Alarmel Valli became the youngest dancer to be conferred with Padma Shri award. She has performed in almost all the major festivals in India and has also displayed her talent in most of the cultural capitals of the world. Read on further to explore the complete biography cum life history of Alarmel Valli.

Alarmel Valli was born in the year 1957 and developed an interest in dance right from her childhood. She received formal training in dance by the
renowned guru Shri Chokkalingam Pillai and his son Shri Subbaraya Pillai. Thereafter, Alarmel came under the tutelage of Smt. T. Mukha and studied Padams and Javalis for many years. She learnt Odissi from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and his disciple, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena. At the young age of 16 years, Valli was invited to perform at the International Dance Festival of the Sarah Bernardt Theatre De La Ville, in Paris.

Then onwards, started her journey as on one of the internationally recognized dancers of India. She has been touring since then, on a regular basis, and has received acclamation for her dance performances in leading theatres throughout the world. Alarmel Valli is also involved in lecture demonstrations, classes, workshops and seminars. She is responsible for creating an international awareness about Bharatanatyam. Alarmel Valli founded 'Dipashikha', a Center for Performing Arts, in the year 1984. The center was set up with the aim of imparting training to promising new artists.

Alarmel Valli has involved herself in research work, for around 12 years, on classical Tamil anthologies of Sangam poetry. She has tried to use dance performances for bringing the beauty of the poem in front of the people. Her own distinct style, which emerged as a result of her practice as well as research, has enriched the domain of Bharatanatyam. Alarmel has brought a contemporary interpretation to the traditional framework of classical Indian dance. Presently, she is staying abroad, with her husband Bhaskar Ghosh, former I&B secretary and former director general of Doordarshan.
Yamini Krishnamurthy
  Yamini Krishnamurthy

Alarmel Valli holds the distinction of being the leading proponent of the Yamini Krishnamurthy is an eminent classical dancer of India. She has attained her mastery over the dances of Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. Yamini was born in 1940 at Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. She took birth in a Telugu family, on a full moon night. On seeing the child, her grandfather instantly named her Yamini Poornatilaka which suggests "a beautiful mark on the brow of light." Since childhood, Yamini was fond of dancing and her desire was to become a dancer.

When she was merely five years old, she went to Chennai in order to learn dance at Kalashetra School of Dance under the direction of Rukmini Devi
Arundale. Following the basics of dance at Kalashetra, Yamini went for advanced studies of dance. She took training from the marvels of dance field like Kanchipuram Ellapa Pillai, Thanjavur Kittapa Pillai, Dhandayudhpani Pillai and Mylapore Gouri Amma. Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Shastri, Chinta Krishnamurthi and Pasumarthy Venugopal Krishna Sharma were the trainers of Yamini for Kuchipudi.

The dancing art of Odissi was to Yamini by Pankaj Charan Das and Kelucharan Mohapatra. In 1957, Yamini gave her debut stage performance at Chennai. This performance made her an overnight star as she captivated the people with her charismatic performance. She acknowledged herself on the International panorama by the year 1960. Yamini appeared as one of the leading classical dancers of India.

Through her alluring dance performances, Yamini popularized Kuchipudi all over the world. She received national and international appreciation for her dance. Yamini received the credit of being Asthana Nartaki (Resident Dancer) of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (context regarding India). Her dance talent brought many awards to her fame. In 1968, Yamini got the title of 'Padma Shree' by the Government of India. She received `Sangeet Natak Academy Award' in 1977 and 'Padma Bhushan' in the year 2001.

Above and beyond her stage performances, Yamini produced a serial based on dance for Doordarshan. She also wrote a book, `A Passion for Dance' that was appreciated by the readers. In 1990, Yamini established 'Yamini School of Dance' at Hauz Khas, New Delhi. She teaches dance skills to the young dancers at her institute. After continuing more than 40 years of dance journey, Yamini is still active with her dancing skills.
Anita Ratnam
  Anita Ratnam

Anita Ratnam is one of the most talented dancers of the Indian subcontinent. She has been trained as a Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam as well as a Kathakali dancer and is counted amongst the best choreographers of the South. Anita is also handling the responsibility of being a cultural commentator, writer and speaker on the performing arts. One needs to applaud her for the role she is playing in the promotion of Indian dance internationally. Get more information on the life history of Anita Ratnam with this biography.

Anita received formal training in dance from Adyar K. Lakshmanan. Later, she enrolled herself in Rukmini Devi Arundale's 'Kalakshetra' for a
Postgraduate diploma in Dance. She is a trained Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Mohiniattam dancer. Anita completed her Master's degree in Theatre and Television from the University of New Orleans. Then, she worked as a Television Producer in the United States for a period of approximately ten years. As an appreciation of her work, Anita was nominated for the Emmy and Ace awards. Anita also made a foray into films and played the role of an antagonist in Rajiv Menon's famous movie, 'Kandukondain Kandukondain'.

Anita wrote Natya Brahman, a book for dance students, and also served as the editor and publisher of 'Narthaki', a directory of Indian dance. She is the Founder-Director of 'Arangham', an organization based in Chennai that is involved in the promotion of performing arts. She regularly takes part in dance and theatre seminars in foreign destinations, right from the Far East to Europe to United States. Anita is one of the main persons responsible behind the initiation of 'The Other Festival', held in Chennai every December for promotion of contemporary Indian dance. In her career of three decades, she has given over 1000 performances in 15 countries and made immense contribution in the field of classical dance.
Mallika Sarabhai
  Mallika Sarabhai

Versatility could very well be Mallika Sarabhai's middle name. She is not just a fabulous dancer of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi but also a film maker, editor, TV anchor, social activist and a famous alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. She is the daughter of the famous scientist Vikram Sarabhai and reputed dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai. Intelligence and talent is in her genes. Despite being a gracious dancer and performing most of the time, she never ignored academics. She in fact has an MBA degree and a doctorate in "Organizational Behavior" from IIM Ahmedabad. Her life history is very interesting. Read it in this short biography of Mallika Sarabhai.

She was trained by R. Acharyelu in Kuchipudi. Her sharp features and
exotic looks prompted her to do some films in the Indian film industry. She has also portrayed the role of Draupadi in Peter Brooke's "Mahabharata" that was made in two languages, English and French. She has won the highest civilian award of France known as "French Palme D'or''. She also won the "Best Solo Artist" award among 400 dancers who had come from 25 countries.

Mallika Sarabhai is also a social activist and has stood up for many causes. She, along with her mother Mrinalini manages the Darpan Academy of Performing Arts. It is a center for performing arts where talent is encouraged and is given a platform to be showcased. The academy also publishes books that address environmental concerns, depict the rich cultural heritage of India, show women in a better light, etc. Mallika Sarabhai is truly a woman of many dimensions and talents.
Mrinalini Sarabhai
  Mrinalini Sarabhai

Mrinalini sarabhai was educated in Switzerland and had received a training in dance steps in Dalcroz.

When she came to India she began her training in Bharatanatyam under Muthukumar Pillai. She also studied under Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Chokalingam Pillai and Ellapa Pillai.Later got married to Dr Vikram Sarabhai and settled in Ahmedabad. In 1948 she founded the dance academy called “Darpana” for imparting training in Bharatanatyam and other allied arts. She was also a well known choreographer of several dance dramas. Mirnalini has attempted contemporary interpretations of mythological themes. She has received awards from the French archives
international Iela and Sangeet Natak Academy for her creative experiments with choreography.  
  Balasarswati- (1918-1984)

She was looked upon as a child prodigy and a brilliant dancer by Pandits and Vidhwans in those days. She did her Arangetram when she was seven years old in 1925 at kamakshi Amman Temple at kancheepuram. Kandappa was great guru of Bala.

She was known for her enchanting, inimitable and exquisite sancharibhavas in Abhinaya. As a singer of great repute, music seeped through her body and reflected in all her movements.

At the Edinburg Festival Bala was acclaimed as a great dancer on International platform. The tamilnadu goverment and national centre of
performing arts has prepared a documentary on her directed by Styajit Ray. Dr Narayan has written a book Balasaraswati published by international cultural centre New Delhi in 1963  
Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai
  Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai

He was Born On September 22, 1869 in the family of suryakumar Nattuvanar who was a renowned musician and scholar. His wife was the daughter of the great Ponnaiya. He received his initial training under kumaraswamy Nattuvanar who was his aunt’s son.

Later on in the 1934 he came to madras when invited by Rukmini Devi. She underwent a thorough training under him.

He died in 1954 leaving a gap which can never be filled up. He was a Modest guru and was addressed as “Tata” by his students. His Style was known as the Pandanallur school of Bharatanatyam. It is known for its
Broad sweeping movements, exquisite framing of Teeramanams with beautiful Adavus. His students are Thiruvalputhur Rajalakshmi, Jeevaratnam, Pandanallur Jayalakhmi, Chokalingam Pillai, Kandappa, His son Muttaiah.  
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