Menu Close

Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers

Tanjore Quartet


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)


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:

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.


  1. sarvada

    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. Vidyaah

    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.
    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.

  3. mandar

    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

  4. Ashlie Jade

    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!!!

  5. Anjali

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

  6. Ashlie Jade

    This was the link I was originally was talking about.
    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.
    As well as this one-
    and this one too!-
    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.

  7. harika mahalakshmi

    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

  8. rosey marry

    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:[email protected] i am a bharatanatyam student

  9. danik

    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

  10. VIjaya

    Hello Anjanli,

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

  11. Chandni Sharma

    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.

  12. piyali

    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..

  13. gayuthri

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

  14. swetha vengal

    HI Anjali
    I totally admire your dedication to bharathnatyam. i have a few questions about arangetram and does arangetram in the us get students college credits? the process is so confusing. pls clarify
    thank you

  15. Anjali

    @Swetha, not sure about college credits. But completing an arnagetram with shows a student’s dedication to an artform. Now that might be a good extracurricular to show for college. just sharing this link
    One of my student who completed the third level certification by APPA managed to transcribe the score as required by her university and secure credit required for an elective in college.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.