Sunday 11 August 2013

Article - Athai and I - Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant

I am a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, a recipient of a tradition of centuries, a recipient not just of the dance form but of its attendant psychological, social, philosophical, sociological, metaphysical and esoteric constructs. Such constructs can loosely be called tradition. Along with other artistes, I am given the responsibility by virtue of my years of learning, to learn, imbibe and carry forward a tradition of a particular style of performing art. We artistes thereby become dynamic links between centuries, between eras, and between ideas. This onerous responsibility sits heavily upon the shoulders of each and every serious artiste. I am part of that flowing river called tradition, a perennial river, meandering, striking new courses, accepting new temples and new pilgrims, supporting old rituals on its path to the sea.

My passion for dance began early in life – a chance meeting at the Subramanyam temple in Secunderabad when I was 4 years old – a comment that “this child’s eyes are large, you must teach her dance” saw my mother Subhashini Shankar (herself a musician and violinist) enroll me with guru Sharada Keshava Rao. My initial years also saw me training with guru KN Pakkiriswamy Pillai (brother of guru KN Dandayuthapani Pillai) who then taught in Hyderabad.

My dance training continued in Hyderabad until the summer of 1973, when a mother and her very young daughter, wended their way nervously into the courtyard of a building in Chennai. They waited outside the office, after having sent in a message, eagerly waiting to be called in. But they were not summoned inside. Instead, the very person they wanted to see came out to greet them. The lady was none other than Rukmini Devi Arundale, the Director of Kalakshetra (Athai). The young girl was me, and with me was my mother. After the traditional namaskaram (bowing low) I remember asking her to bless me to be like her someday. “No, no, I bless you to be greater than me,” said the beautiful lady, swathed in a maroon silk saree, with her freshly washed hair falling down on her shoulders.

Read the article in the site


  1. Indeed Akka you are our Rukmini Athai. Our passion for dance is due to your passion towards this wonderful art form. I am proud to say I am your first student and feels great to have you as my daughter's guru. Indeed the parampara continues due to great teachers like yourself.


  2. Well written. From the first line to last line, the article speaks of the writer's journey of learning and life. What an experience and exposure! May God bless you to sustain that spirit of life. Your life is not simply living - its LIFE WITH VIGOR AND VITALITY.

  3. The relation between your life and dance has been so well explained! You are indeed a great dancer! Please keep writing blogs and I will read and learn from it!

    Also please visit my blog on Indian dancing and keep reading

    1. personally I don't know Ms Ananda Shankar Jayant, I have seen only one performance , One day I walked in to the auditorium, I was new to Hyderabad, I didn't know anything about her or her dance... .Kalakshetra stamp was evident. KALA & KSHETRA , that is what it was. I am no way eligible to say this.. but she is one of the best we have. keeping the essence of tradition, style, elegance and innovative ways of presentation sure connects her to both set of viewers, those who love traditional blend of the art and 'modernity'. looking forward to seeing more from her and her students