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Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers

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.

73 Comments

  1. Rema

    I think what you have up there against Rukmini Devi’s name is the photograph of Smt. Chitra Visveswaran. Please look into this and make the change.
    This is not Smt. Rukmini Devi

  2. N.Kumarasamy

    This is a most welcome site; my grand daughter who just started learning will benefit immensely. Our appreciation and thanks.

    As a refinement on the Famous… one of teh quartet is Vadivelu and not Vadivelu.

    God bless you.
    Kumarasamy, Singapore

  3. archana

    really an appriciable attempt to give worldwide publicity for barathanatyam..please keep this active and updated..thank you very much for starting this website..

  4. Raghu

    In this post the “She did her Arangetram when she was seven years old in 1925 at Amnakshi Amman Temple at kancheepuram” for balasaraswati has a spelling mistake. It is Kamakshi Amman temple.
    Raghu

  5. Poonam

    I am so happy to find this site. No doubt this will be my learning ground. Thanks for making this website for all those Bharathnatyam fans who didn’t get a chance to master the art.

    Thanks a lot,
    love,
    poonam

  6. Deva

    Hi Anjali,

    I was searching for the famous bharathanatiam dances list and found your site. It is nice to know about them. Thanks a lot and keep it up.

  7. Aruna Jyothi

    Tons of thanks for all the information and service you offer through the website.

    Travelling althrough my education, job and further studies, I am serching for this sort of source since long time. I am sure, this would help me learn basics of bharatanatya by the time I reach India to get further training,

    many thanks [:)]

  8. Pavani

    Hi Anjali,

    Please let me know the Bharatnatyam style you follow and the video clippings you posted are in which style.

    (Tanjore or Kalashetra).

  9. Pavani

    Thanks Anjali.

    I saw many performances where the songs Varnams and Shabdams in Bharatnatyam were performed for Tamil lyrics, can you please suggest any website where I can get songs for Ninnu kori varnam, Sarasi Shabdam and other bharatnatyam dance songs in Telugu. I really need songs in Telugu.

    Thanks for answering the questions patiently.

  10. Chetan kuckian

    I cam across this website when browsing the net for pictures of famous Indian Classical dancers for my daughters school project. Would appreciate if more pictures are added.
    Thanks for the help.

  11. Anjali

    Pavani
    Some varnams in telugu are tanjore quartet varnam– manavi chekonarada, Emayaladira ( which is a swarajati), Sami ninne kori ( raagamalika) , Rupamujuchi, danike takujaanara. You will get some telugu varnams like – manavi and Shabdam sarasi juksulu in aCds available with kalakendra.com.

  12. Anjali

    Hi Chetan, thanks for the feedback. I shall try addding some more data on these lines. Meanwhile you can search information on dancers like padma subramaniyam, Chitra vishweswaran, Dhananjayans, Yamini krishnamurthy, Sundarani raghupaty who are known for their contributions to dance.

  13. bandhu

    hey anjali
    i think ur missing the dhananjayan dancers.
    they r the popular dancers in the 21st century now.
    check them out.
    thanks
    bandhu

  14. Kajol

    Hi Anjali,

    Nice site you’ve made. There are several styles in Bharatanatyam. 6 Main styles. I was searching for information about Kancheepuram – style. Why is there so little info? Because the other styles are fully represented on the web. Do you know why this is?

  15. Shakti

    hi anjali! why don’t you also provide info on celebrity dancers Like Natya Pehroli Padmini, Vyjayanthimala, Kamala Lakshman and hemamalini? Will be more interesting to read

  16. Chloe

    Thanks so very must for putting all this info on the net! This has helped me so so so much with my Bharatanatyam assignment for Dance class 🙂 We have to write an essay then perform the dance!
    Thank you again, Chloe

  17. A. NAGA BHUSHANA

    VERY INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE. SURELY HELPS ASPIRING ARTISTES. I AM A RETIRED MECH.ENGINEER.
    way back in sept.1964 i happened to attend dance performance
    by yamini in bangalore and was washed off my feet. earlier i was of the opinion that classical music and dance was for old people.i developed interest in bharathatyam,kuchipudi,odissi,
    manipuri,kathak,kathakkali, karnatic/hindusthani performances.
    i am thankful to my guru yamini krishna murthy.

  18. nigamaa

    This is a fantastic film about Kuttiyatam dancetradition, showing a temple sanscrit drama depicting a scene from the Ramayan of Valmiki. Written perhaps from 700 B.C. onwards it is believed to have used pure Jatis for its music (gandharva style). Phps someone knows what danceform was used at Valmikis time? In this film is embedded the story of Shalini and Sangeet, one dancing pair joining together.
    http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/content/694908?inPopup=true

  19. nigamaa

    17-year-old Ester is Konkani’s rare multi-talented BN dancer,
    see educational videoclip with interview from TV.

  20. nigamaa

    In case one missed it? Exciting new version of Thaaye Yashoda on utube: commentary reads Vijayalakshmi Iyer adapted the choreography from Anjali (nandananjali in you tube)

  21. Anjali

    hey that was a good one. Nice to see people trying to adapt the choreography. That itself is an appreciation.

  22. punam

    thank you , anjali mam…your site contains the best bharatanatyam informations and i ve been helped by this in the bharatanatyam examinations…..thanks a lot.
    punam….

  23. Vijayalakshmi Iyer

    Hi Anjali,

    I am Vijayalakshmi. I adapted you ‘Thaaye Yashoda’ choreography for a performance at my University. Its agter 13 long years that I revisited Bharatanatyam and you helped me a lot.
    Thanks once again.

    -Vijaya

  24. urmila

    hi anjali, i want the pancharatna kruthies with jathies in cd. please did u have any idea please give the addres

  25. mehila

    hi anjali thank u. many more information. but srilankan famous artist karthika kaneshar bharatha natya dancer.her details plz.

  26. mehila

    Your informations were really helpful to me. But i want some more informations about some other famous dancers known as Shantha Ponnuthurai and Karthika Kanesha. They were the professors in Jaffna Ramanathan Fine arts Jaffna University. So please help get informations of the too.

  27. Avasarala rukmaji rao

    Its very good to know abt these great dancers , abt bharathanatyam and all. i did Rukmini devi arundale cenetary celeberation in Madras the balley GODA GOVINDHAM

  28. Avasarala rukmaji rao

    THE attempt to give worldwide publicity for barathanatyam is extra ordinary..please keep this active

  29. Dr.Sanath kumar & Bharathi

    dear sir
    we are thankful to you for providing information onsri nandanallure meenakshi sunderam pillai.This is excellent nodoubt if some more photes are added tothis this would have been marvolus

  30. anuja

    hi,
    can u suggest me the best Bharatnatyam dance classes in mumbai i wish to take this dance form as a career or profession please.

  31. Anjali

    @Anuja,There are many which part o mumbai are you in. Else you should consider nalanda dance institute at Juhu to take up a degree.

  32. anuja

    thanks i stay in santacruz-west so i guess nalanda will be best and if i just want to learn and not take Bharatnatyam as a degree then which 1 is best..

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