Indian Classical Dancers

Indian classical dance has a distinct character that reflects the great cultural and traditional endeavor. The forms of Indian dance have transcended beyond the fences and socio-cultural hindrances. Exponents of the Indian classical dance believe that it has the caliber of creating a new and disciplined lifestyle. The Indian Classical Dance is often regarded as the form of worship and meditation. The performers of Indian Classical Dance, despite of the background and forms, have played a crucial role in presenting India to the forefront of the World stage. It has helped in ending the erstwhile artistic isolation. Here, in the following lines, we provide the profile and biography of those great artists who made the country proud.

Born: 1954 Contributions Mallika Sarabhai, a multifaceted personality, is a noted Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer. She has immensely contributed to the fields of acting, writing and publishing. She is a social activist and has participated in many socio-developmental projects initiated by the United Nations. Mallika Sarabhai has also received the "French Palme D'or'', the highest civilian award of France. Life Born to famous dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and reputed space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, Mallika is a woman of many dimensions and talents. She is a noted dancer, film maker, TV anchor and social activist. Mallika Sarabhai, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, was trained by R. Acharyelu in Kuchipudi. As a young dancer, Mallika won many international awards for her classical dance including the "French Palme D'or'', the highest civilian award of France. In 1977, she took over the reigns of Darpana, the arts academy founded by her parents. Theater and Dances Mallika Sarabhai's theatre works reflect the challenges of the society and sends a strong message. Her natural charm with conviction creates a unique style of presentation. Following are some of the works performed by her: Unheard Voices "Unheard Voices" is a physical, musical theatre piece. It is based on Harsh Mander's book "Unheard Voices". The story is about the lives of marginalized faces - the beggars, children at the Traffic Signal and "chhotu", the little child at roadside restaurant. These are stores of struggle and courage. India Then, Now, Forever: This revolves around the multiple lifestyle of the people of India. It attempts to show the resemblance between the life of the tribal of Mizoram and their lifestyles with the bollywood. The show takes the audience from the temples of southern India to the forests of the Dangs and the minds of today's creators.

communal hatred. Peter Brook's "The Mahabharata". The project supported by ArtVenture took crucial learning on how to avoid maternal deaths and infant deaths amongst the very deprived communities. with social issues like gender bias. she had accused the BJP-led state government of supporting the genocide against the Muslims in Gujarat. violence etc. in 2001 she launched Darpana Communications. The movie was launched in French and English. Tomorrow". she founded the "Darpana for Development" concentrating on the development of performance as a language for change. the voice of the people.2007 FATEHPURA Model village project and UNICEF Rural Health Project. Following are some of the acclaimed books published by Mallika Sarabahi and Mapin Publishing Private Limited. Controversy In 2001. Publisher Mallika Sarabhai never tried to confine herself into a single character. . corruption. "A Thousand Flowers" and "Katha". she has also played an active role in the UNICEF Peer Educators Project.Actor Mallika Sarabhai started her acting career at the age of fifteen and has worked in more than 30 films. Some of her critically acclaimed films include "Lovesongs: Yesterday. she has also made herself count in the world of publications. the environment. Mallika Sarabhai took up many developmental projects including the "The Acting Healthy Project" (2008). Deeply excited by the possibility of continuing the work as an activist on TV. directed by renowned director Peter Brook. In 1979. UNICEF Anandshala Project in 2005. In the PIL. After being recognized as a reputed dancer and film actor. she was criticized by the extreme right-wing political parties after she filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India. "Kahkasha". Today. Besides. In 1982. She has also produced over 2500 hours of broadcast programming in Gujarati dealing. She also formed "JANAVAK". Mallika Sarabhai published India's first design magazine. she played the character of Draupadi in "The Mahabharata". • • • • • • • • • • • • • India's Daughters Cultural Guide to Ahmedabad Spectacular India Jute Handlooms of India Sufism And Beyond Romance of Golconda Diamonds From Mustard Fields to Disco Lights Parvati: Goddess of Love Documenting Chandigarh Image & Imagination:5 Indian Artists Performing Arts of Kerala Understanding Kuchipudi (Co-Author) Krishna as Shrinathji: Miniature Paintings From Nathdwara Social Thinker In an effort to serve the society. called Inside Outside. to archive and preserve the folk and tribal culture of India. In 1984.

There. he was invited to Delhi to teach at Sangeet Bharati. but also live as modest. as a result. he mastered the different aspects of the Kathak and other Indian classical dance forms. used to spend much time in teaching young Birju. He gave his first performance at the age of seven. At the age of thirteen. Sanskrit. Birju also accompanied his father to the places where Achhan Maharaj had to go to perform. Sangam Kala Award. Pandit Birju Maharaj has also been conferred with the honorary Doctorate degrees from Banaras Hindu University. the students are trained in the field of Kathak. Life Birju Maharaj was born in the house of renowned Kathak proponent. His uncles. humble and disciplined members of today's society. practice halls and amphitheatre of Kalarshram reflect a shade of rural setup in the busy and fast urban lifestyle. The classrooms. Awards Pandit Birju Maharaj has won several honors and awards including the coveted Padma Vibhushan (1986). He is the only son and disciple of Shri Achhan Maharaj and is a familiar face of Indian Kathak dance all over the world. So. Thumri. Soviet Land Nehru Award. 1938 Contributions Birju Maharaj is a leading exponent and torch-bearer of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Lucknow. painting. In Kalashram. Dadra. In 2002. popularly known as Achhan Maharaj. His father. Pandit Birju Maharaj is not only a Kathak dancer but also a sensitive poet and captivating orator. After his retirement from Kathak Kendra. He has also been awarded with the Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. with numerous trees and ponds would be extremely inspiring and would bring everyone close to the simple.Born: February 4. The objective of the institute is primarily to produce highly talented students who would not only prove worthy of the training they receive. He has performed in almost all the countries of the globe. stagecraft etc. Kalashram Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj had a dream of opening a dance-school and Kalashram is the realface of the dream. Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj also guided him in learning the Kathak dance. However. Teaching Birju Maharaj. Jagannath Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana. . in 1998 Birju Maharaj started his own Kathak and Indian fine arts academy. and Khairagarh University. and other associated disciplines like vocal and instrumental music. Bhajan and Ghazals. Bharatiya Kala Kendra and headed the teaching faculty Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) in Delhi. He is a wonderful singer with a strong grip over. unassuming but rich heritage of the country. yoga. the fundamentals of Kathak. dramatics. the family moved to Bombay. The natural atmosphere. Birju Maharaj started learning dance forms at a very early stage. He was the recipient of the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskaar. after the death of his father in 1947. taught in Sangeet Bharati. Kalashram. the master of Kathak.

Chennai). considered as a low and vulgar art during that period. was a dedicated member of the Theosophical Society formed by Annie Besant. to Neelakanta Sastri and Seshammal. February 1904 24. After his retirement. She also convinced proficient Meenakshisundaram Pillai to come to Madras to teach her. S. Vegetarianism Rukmini Devi was against the custom of killing and sacrificing of animals. in 1920.Born: Passed February Away: 29. She also acted as the Vice President of International Vegetarian Union for 31 years. 1904. Sarada. Muthukumara Pillai and Karaikkal Saradambal Ammal joined the Kalakshetra as its teachers. Dance Though she belonged to the upper-caste. the then Prime Minister of India. It was on Pavlova's request that Rukmini Devi learnt "ballet". Rukmini Devi was enthralled by the great artiste. Her father's involvement in the Theosophical Society paved the way for Rukmini to come under the umbrella of Annie Besant's influence. Radha. Marriage Rukmini Devi first met Dr George Arundale. in 1917. at an early stage. once offered by Morarji Desai. Subramania Sastri. Fascinated by Rukmini Devi's love for the mankind and humanity. Her father. Anna Pavlova After her marriage. Arundale was also in-charge of the organization's paper. The marriage created a huge uproar in the society. she began to attend different performances of Pavlova's in Australia. She began to learn dance performances from Mylapore Gauri Ammal. . near the headquarters of Theosophical Society at Adyar. Rukmini Devi advocated the cause of Bharatnatyam. Rukmini Devi gave her first performance at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Theosophical Society in 1935. Many renowned dancers including Meenakshisundaram Pillai. an engineer with the Public Works Department. "New India". Ever since. married her with the approval and support of her family. Rukmini Devi met the legendary ballerina. The family built their house. an Indian classical dance form. Her charismatic personality and contribution to the renaissance of Indian Classical music attained her niche in the arena of Indian culture. Rukmini Devi was also known for her efforts towards the protection of animal rights and their welfare. especially the conservatives. Life Rukmini Devi Arundale was born on February 29. Neelakanta Sastri shifted to Madras (now. 1986 Contributions Rukmini Devi Arundale was a reputed dancer and choreographer of Bharatnatyam. He was an active member of the Theosophical Society. a Sanskrit scholar and member of the academy. Kalakshetra Within a year after her first performance at the Theosophical Society. Dr Arundale. They couldn't accept the fact that a Brahmin girl can marry outside the prevailing caste-system. It is believed that Rukmini Devi had declined the chair of the President of India. Rukmini Devi and Dr George Arundale formed the Kalakshetra. Anna Pavlova on a ship to Australia. Leelavati (Rukmini's niece) were among the first to join Kalakshetra. The name was decided by Pandit S. All the members were deeply committed to the Theosophical society and as well as Kalakshetra. until her death in 1986.

She is married to Dr. Trained by legendary Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj and Kundanlal Gangani at Kathak Kendra. Shovana Narayan was the first dancer to work on philosophical themes and on the lives of contemporary sages such as Vivekananda. Besides. Ramana Maharshi. Contributions Shovana Narayan is a Kathak Maestro and an outstanding dancer. She has been awarded with Padmashri in 1992 and Sangeet Natak Academy Awards in 1999. Life Shovana Narayan established herself as a dancer during 1970s and the last four decades have seen her captivating audiences in numerous dance festivals. She has set a unique trend by redefining dance and often considered as a living legend in the field of art. Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Mahatma Gandhi. unknown and talented faces of the field. the narrative tradition of the North-Indian dance form in "Shakuntala". Some of her well-known books are: • • • • • • • "Indian Classical Dances" "Performing Arts in India: A Policy Perspective" "Indian Theatre and Dance Traditions" "Kathak: Rhythmic Echoes & Reflections" "The Dance Legacy of Patliputra" "Sterling Book of Indian Classical Dances" "Folk Dance Traditions of India" Awards Shovana Narayan has been conferred with numerous awards including the Padmashri Award for excellence and outstanding contribution to dance in 1992 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1999. Delhi University. Shovana Narayan also organizes two festivals for providing a platform to the young. Shovana Narayan is an alumnus of Miranda House. received the "Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship". Shovana Narayan has also worked with many western dancers and musicians. Rukmini Devi was awarded the Padma Bhushan and in 1967. She created a new and innovative style of performing arts by enriching it with a deeper and wider canvas of expression and dimensions. Shovana Narayan is known for her strong urge for experimentation. Herbert Traxl. Delhi. Some of her choreographic works like "Moonlight Impressionism" and "The Dawn After" have been successful in bringing out the true color of different dance and musical forms. Author The noted Kathak dancer has written around ten books on the subject of dance. She also featured in India Today's list of '100 People Who Shaped India'. former Austrian Ambassador to India. She is an incarnation of the great artistic and social traditions of India. she .Awards In 1956. She is also the first dancer to have rejuvenated the soliloquy tradition. Narayan is the first ever professional dancer who combines a full fledged career as a senior serving civil servant in the Government of India.

To her.has also been awarded with Rajiv Gandhi Puraskar. Besides. 'Singar Mani' from Haridas Sangeet Sammelan. 'Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award'. which are currently in the repository of Odissi. poetry. and one of the first five Governors of India. 'Aatmayan'.A. at the Pandanallur school in Bombay. 'Indira Priya Darshini Awards'. she learnt Bharatanatyam from Professor U S Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi at Bangalore. she learnt Odissi from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. a freedom fighter. and Rotary International Award and Japan's Oisca Award. teacher. 'Natya Kala Ratna' from National Cultural Organisation. 1944 Contributions Sonal Mansingh is an eminent Indian classical dancer and a leading exponent of Bharatnatyam. Sonal has made much choreography on Indian mythology. She has B. 'Devi Durga'. Bombay. Sonal Mansingh believes that society and its happenings have an impact on all arts and subsequently on the artists. 'Mera Bharat'. Later. and Chhau. Manavatta'. Her mother was a noted social activist and in 2002 awarded with Padma Bhushan. the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts. she has received several other honors for her contribution to dance. 'Draupati'. (Honors) degree in German Literature from Elphinstone College. Awards Sonal Mansingh is the youngest recipient to receive the Padma Bhushan awarded by the President of India in 1992. in 1992. She learnt almost all the dance numbers. Sonal aggrandized her dance by acquiring the different strands of Orissa culture. She is also the trustee of the largest institution in India. Learning Sonal Mansingh started learning fundamentals of Bharatnatyam from Guru Kumar Jayakar at the age of seven. She was the youngest recipient of Padma Bhushan. languages. The organization has been working to promote performing arts and nurturing the cultural legacy of India. Besides being a dancer. dance is the medium through which she can present the views of the unheard. 'Sabras'. Indira Priyadarshini Samman. For her contributions in the field of "Classical dancing" she has received accolades from many national and international organizations. Centre for Indian Classical Dances In 1977. Born: May 1. Kuchipudi. Sonal Mansingh is a well-known choreographer. 1944 in Mumbai. Medals of . According to her. Sonal became the first Indian woman dancer to be awarded with Padma Vibhushan. dancers must have love for literature. sculpture and painting as dance is a rare confluence of all these arts. In 1965. Life Sonal Mansingh was born to Arvind and Poornima Pakvasa on May 1. a few of which are listed below. In 2003. It includes the. Her grandfather was Mangal Das Pakvasa. orator and a social activist. Her maiden professional performance was at Mumbai in 1964. Her renowned choreographic works include 'Indradhanush'. Sonal Mansingh founded the Centre for Indian Classical Dances in New Delhi to train students in Indian classical dance.

Shankaran Namboodiri for Kathakali. He also knitted the two different techniques so beautifully that his art became hugely popular both in India and the West. The government of India awarded Uday Shankar with the coveted "Padma Vibhushan. based on the stories of Radha and Krishna and the other on "A Hindu Wedding". Sonal becomes the first Indian woman dancer to receive this high honor. During the World War-II. Rabindra is a popular sitar maestro and familiar to all as "Pandit Ravi Shankar". Rewarded with Padma Vibhushan in 2003. he choreographed two ballads. Amobi Singh for Manipuri and Ustad Allauddin Khan. To develop his skills further. Own Troupe In 1929. School of the Arts in Bombay. Among the experts were. 1977 Contribution Uday Shankar initiated a unique movement of revival of classical dances in 1930. Between 1930 and 1960. but in Calcutta. After Uday's death in 1977. Life Born in Udaipur. He was the eldest of the four siblings. His youngest brother. Later. Anna Pavlova at Covent Garden. Besides an adept classical dancer. his presentations were creative. the "Uday Shankar Indian Culture Center" was forced to shut and was reopened twenty years later. Rajasthan. Uday Shankar returned to India to form a dance troupe of his own. improvisation. the school came to be known as "Uday Shankar Indian Culture Center". Born: Passed December Away: 8. Kandappa Pillai for Bharatanatyam. Family Uday Shankar was married to one of his students Amala and also had a son and a daughter. he was sent to the J. Ananda Shankar. He also met famous Russian ballerina. In 1938. Uday Shankar used the essence of various traditions and techniques in his dance dramas and succeeded in presenting an integrated composition. Uttar Pradesh. he toured through the western world and learned the western theatrical techniques. Uday Shankar went to England to study painting at the Royal College of Art. He also invited leading exponents of different musical forms to teach in the school.Friendship of Vietnam and Cuba State Council etc. his widow Amala Shankar took the charge of the school in Kolkata. Awards Uday Shankar was awarded with "Padma Vibhushan" by the Government of India and the Desikottama by the Visva-Bharati University. J. September 1900 26. . He was married to classical dancer Tanushree Shankar. where his ballads were premiered. was best known for his fusion in Western and Eastern musical styles. Uday Shankar also had the brilliance of a painter within. Uday Shankar opened a dance school at Almora. There. The school continues to teach an all-embracing performance curriculum that includes training in folk and classical dance. Though he had no formal training in any classical form. London. In 1920. Uday Shankar was the eldest son of noted barrister Syam Shankar. his son. costume design etc.

including the coveted Padma Shree in the year 1968 and the Padma Bhushan . Yamini became one of the most admired dancers of the country. Training Yamini Krishnamurthy received the initial training of Bharatnatyam from Rukmini Devi Arundale. Chinta Krishnamurthy and Pasumarthy Venugopal Krishna Sharma. at the age of seventeen years. groomed by eminent masters like Kanchipuram Ellappa Pillai and Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai. Her grandfather. Yamini Krishnamurthy performed her debut dance event in Chennai. She is also considered as the torch-bearer of the Kuchipudi form of dance. Ever since. Awards For her contribution in the development and promotion of the Indian classical dance forms. better known as Yamini Krishnamurthy is a renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam Kalakshetra School of Dance. She was born into a Telugu family on a full moon night in 1940 at Madanapalli. she had a colorful and eventful dancing career. Chennai.Born: 1940 Contributions Yamini 'Poornatilaka' Krishnamurthy. "a beautiful mark on the brow of light". Within three years of her maiden performance. Yamini also learnt Odissi from Guru Pankaj Charan Das and Kelucharan Mahapatra. later. in 2001. Life Yamini Krishnamurthy is an eminent dancer and one of the major figures of Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi dancing. Besides Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. Since childhood. Yamini was recognized as "Asthana Nartaki" (resident dancer) of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. Yamini was fond of dancing and wanted to become a dancer. meaning. She learnt Kuchipudi under the guidance of Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Shastri. Her dancing career brought her many awards. To impart training to younger dancers. She has also made a special program on dance for Doordarshan channel. Yamini led an eventful dancing career and has been honored with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the government of India.the second highest civilian awards of the India. Yamini appeared as one of the leading classical dancers of India. Her book 'A Passion for Dance' was well-received and appraised by the critics. In 1957. Her performances brought accolades from national and international recognition arena. Andhra Pradesh. at the age of seventeen years. named her `Yamini Poornatilaka`. Yamini Krishnamurthy started the 'Yamini school of Dance' in Delhi in 1990. She was. a noted Urdu poet. She was also honored with the Sangeet Natak akademi Award in 1977 . She started her career with a dance performance in 1957.

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