Wednesday 8 November 2017

Article - The dynamic new gen Bharatanatyam teachers of Chennai - Part I- Lalitha Venkat

(This article was commissioned for the 2016-2017 issue of Attendance - edited by Ashish Mohan Khokar - that had focus on Guru-Shishya Parampara. Reproduced here with permission.) 

Chennai has been the hub of Bharatanatyam training, since the times of the great masters who migrated to the city for brief or extended periods of time, to pass on their knowledge to the new class of aspiring dancers, who in turn turned teachers to meet the ever growing demand for learning the art. It would be no exaggeration to say that almost every other street in Chennai has Bharatanatyam dancers and teachers. Kalakshetra veterans like the Dhananjayans, Chandrasekhars, C.K. Balagopalan, Savitri Jagannath Rao, A. Janardhanan, Vasanthalakshmi, Ambika Buch, Leela Samson are evergreen gurus as are Rhadha, Chitra Visweswaran, Sudharani Raghupathy and Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Alarmel Valli and Priyadarsini Govind have few disciples in the public eye while Malavika Sarukkai has turned mentor to a couple of bright talents. 

Kalakshetra Foundation, Madras University, MGR-Janaki College, Kumararani Meena Muthiah College of Arts all based in Chennai, Annamalai University (Chidambaram), Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts (Trichy), Sastra University (Thanjavur) are reputed institutions for courses in Bharatanatyam. ABHAI conducts yearly camps. Bragha Bessell and Indira Kadambi are sought after for their abhinaya skills. A. Lakshmanaswamy's Nrityalakshana is like a "finishing school" for dancers from far and wide. Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Urmila Sathyanarayanan, Binesh Mahadevan, Jayanthi Subramaniam, Vijay Madhavan, Sheejith Krishna and many Kalakshetra alumni are busy teachers. The current rage is of course to learn 'items' from various dancers. The budding students of Sheela Unnikrishnan dazzle with their superb coordination and almost perfect synchronization on stage. Anitha Guha's dance dramas are famous for the skilled dancers many of whom are also good soloists. So many established dancers in Chennai are quietly doing their bit to impart the aesthetics of dance to the current generation as well as the employed who attend late evening dance classes to unwind from their work stress. Some of these dynamic teachers share their experiences about their own training, what they imbibed from their gurus and how they are passing on their knowledge to the present generation while also adapting to the current scenario. 

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