Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers

December 18th, 2007 by Anjali

Tanjore Quartet

chinnayaponnaihsivanandanvadaivelu

The modern day Bharatanatyam was given the formal shape by these four Nattuvanars (widely known as Tanjaore Bandhu) namely Chinnaiya, Ponaiyah, Sivanandam, Vadivelu. They flourished in the Darbar of the Maratha ruler, Sarfoji-II between A.D 1798 to 1832. Todays Margam (repertoire from Allaripu to Tillana) was also given a face lift by them. Fresh compositions were also brought in the Dance items.

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 aunts 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.

Balasarswati– (1918-1984)

balasaraswati

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.

Rukmini Devi

Rukmini Devi

Born in a Brahmin family in Madurai on 28th February 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 ballerina Anna 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.

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

Mrinalini srabhai

Photo Credit: Darpana.com

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 mythologicalthemes. She has received awards from the French archives international Iela and Sangeet Natak Academy for her creative experiments with choreography.

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71 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sarvada Mar 11, 2011 at 4:54 am

    hey anjali,i dont know much about bharatnatyam but it attracts me towards it..and my parents dont want all this.They think that studies r more important…but i m more interested in dancing. pls help me out…:0

  • 2 Reena NC Apr 22, 2011 at 2:58 am

    thank u for the information mam… thank u

  • 3 Vidyaah Apr 24, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Im doing my 3rd year exam in dance and for my scrap book and for one of my scrapbook pages i need to put info of famous people who helped dance take shape.
    After alot of trouble of researching i found this page where i found more than information need.
    Thx
    I never knew that Smt Rulmini Devi designed new costumes though i still adore how she used to dance and how much effort she put into changing dance.
    Did u know that She changed the way of performances, specifically she made the orchestra have a place to sit and perform for the music. If it wasn’t for Smt Rukmini Devi, during dance performances the orchestra would have to be walking behind the dancers.

  • 4 dany gill Jun 1, 2011 at 5:05 am

    i want to know the best bharatnatyam school in delhi…

  • 5 nhirmaya Jun 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I love bharatanatyam.That means I love all of the bharatanatyam dancers.

  • 6 mandar Jun 16, 2011 at 8:49 am

    bharatnatyam shows richness of indian culture

  • 7 mandar Jun 16, 2011 at 8:53 am

    i want to learn bharatnatyam but there is no one bharatnatyam dancer in jalgaon maharashtra. so for the expansion of bharatnatyam it is nessesary to open the classes in each & every town in india

  • 8 Ponn Krithika B Pillai Jun 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

    VEry nice and useful website

  • 9 Ashlie Jade Sep 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Again Thank you! I just learned in my Dance appreciation class that Anna Pavlova had done a dance in europe called the Krishna and Radha dance. During that time, ethnic dances were huge and the world of ballet was changing and Modern dance was being fortified as a real dance form. The book does not once mention Rukmini Devi or that Anna Pavlova actually learned her Indian dance training from a real Indian dancer. As a ballet dancer this is a hugely important detail and very interesting to me! I think Rukmini Devi might just be added to my list of dance Idols! I also saw on a website the praise for dancers like Anna Pavlova, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn for reviving Indian dance during the Brittish rule in the early 1900’s. This is also inspiring to me because again it goes back to my teacher’s issue with appropriation and really it wasn’t so much appropriating as showcasing something they found irrevocably beautiful and awe inspiring and wanted to share it with the world! This is wonderful to me and am so excited about the ideas and resources you have helped put together here! Thank you again!!!

  • 10 Anjali Sep 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

    @Ashlie that is interesting. Can you also mention the names of the books and do share link of the articles you read. Thanks

  • 11 Ashlie Jade Sep 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    This was the link I was originally was talking about. http://www.nadanam.com/b_revival.htm
    But I couldn’t find where it said Rukmini suggested to Anna to go to India, this link says it is the other way around. http://www.katinkahesselink.net/his/kalakshetra.html
    As well as this one- http://www.narthaki.com/info/tdhc/tdhc6.html
    and this one too!- http://www.navhindtimes.in/panorama/rebirth-bharatanatyam-india
    I must have misread the part about Anna’s Indian training, I guess it is still appropriating. My book for my dance appreciation class is Ballet and Modern Dance by Susan Au ISBN-978-0-500-20352-1
    It’s only on Western Concert dance though.

  • 12 harika mahalakshmi Jan 28, 2012 at 6:42 am

    your website is a wonderful site for youngers and also for bharatanatyam biginners keep updating and also please mail me some bharatanatyam tips because i am a bharatanatyam student.Thank you for making this website
    -Harika.

  • 13 rosey marry Jan 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Hi,anjali
    i know your facebook profile plese add me as a freind my name is rosey marry.if you any other information please contact me from this email:lakshmimaha683@gmail.com.Beacause i am a bharatanatyam student
    -rosey

  • 14 Papiya Banerjee Mar 24, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Too Informative….

  • 15 chandrani Mar 24, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Anjali, your website is really helpful but why not add Mrs Thankamani Kutty to this list too?

  • 16 danik May 13, 2012 at 7:10 am

    bharatanatiam is a very classic and modern dance that i know.many people like to send their kids for dance(bharatanatiam).if i have a kid i will send to….pls forgive if there are any mistakes…tq

  • 17 VIjaya Jan 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Hello Anjanli,

    I was a pleasure going through this section…. Thank you for the information on the dancers…

  • 18 Chandni Sharma Mar 19, 2013 at 1:54 am

    I am working on the project of Indian Culture and wanted to prepare the project on Indian Classical Dancers. This site is very helpful for the students like me… that we are able to get the knowledge of of our vast and great Indian Culture. Thank You so much for creating this site.

  • 19 piyali Jul 17, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Hi Anjali Thank you For your answers i again want to learn Bharatnatyam i found ur vedios much essentials can u pls tel me where i can find the audios of of every topics like Alarippu etc..

  • 20 gayuthri May 26, 2014 at 5:14 am

    wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it helped me very much……

  • 21 gayuthri May 26, 2014 at 5:17 am

    hi anjali your websites is very useful to other people
    and to me Thank you very much for making this …………………………………………………………………….. :]]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:}:]:]
    :]]