Guru V.S. Ramamoorthy is a satisfied man with his disciples carrying the mantle of his dance across the world.
At 90, Guru Ramamoorthy is a contented man as an artiste and teacher. What keeps him going strong today is the undefined joy of seeing his dance school ‘Sri Rama Nataka Niketan' grow by leaps and bounds under the able tutelage of his diligent daughter Manjula Ramaswamy and churn out students who in turn have become teachers and are passing on the Vazhuvoor baani of the illustrious Dandayudhapani Pillai.
“My teacher Dandayudhapani Pillai was a dance guru par excellence. My own interest in drama and later dance must have sprouted from my birthplace Vishnampettai in Thanjavur district, the belt of performing arts and culture from days immemorial. At the same time, I firmly believe that it was the divine help that turned me into a dancer and later a dance guru; or else, how do I explain why a young man with an engineering diploma got himself a job as an SDO in the military engineering services (MES), took to pursuing his passion which was diametrically opposite to his profession? Though I did not give up my job, I slowly and steadily established myself as a performer first and a teacher next, thanks to my army bosses who backed me to the hilt,” says the veteran guru going down memory lane.
He proved to be a dancer of great flexibility and moved over from stage plays to donning female roles in dance dramas. It was Sivagami Sapadam that catapulted him to instant fame. As the female lead, he bowled over the critics into admitting that he was better than any woman. Regular government transfers notwithstanding, Ramamoorthy was able to start a dance school with his daughter as his first disciple initially in Chennai and later brought it to Hyderabad under the present name. Students from all walks of life thronged his school for its dedication and discipline in maintaining the classicality of Bharatanatyam.
As a performer, he earned rave reviews that any artiste can dream of and as a teacher, his students vow by his single-minded discipline and perfection. “I'm sure that my strict and rigid teaching hurt them and they would all be cursing me under their breath,” he quips while his disciples proudly yell a big 'no' showering him with flowers.
A very emotional Ramamoorthy whose birthday was celebrated by a cultural organisation in the twin cities recently, says in a choked voice, “What more can I ask of life? All those little ones whom I had trained came up to me as adult teachers and performers themselves and were vying with each other to get me to remember their names and faces as I saw them ages ago. It is by the names that I recognised the once blooming buds of my dance garden. And it was with the pride of a father who has seen his daughters grow into artistic, adults running their own set of dance schools and in turn receiving the same veneration from their pupils. It was such a wonderful moment. I wished that time would freeze making for a memorable picture.”
Guru Ramamoorthy's senior disciples congregated from far and near with their students to celebrate his 91 years. A book commemorating his lifetime dedication to the art form was released on the occasion. He had created some remarkable dancers like Surupa Sen (now an Odissi performer/teacher), Sangeetha and Sushmita Paul, Gita Ganeshan, to name a few who have walked in their guru's footprints and taken dance to another generation. His daughter Manjula too is a full-time director-guru of Sri Rama Nataka Niketan which is now known for its perfect mythological ballets, innovative opening karmas both within the state and outside. The disciples are sought after for the inaugural of prestigious cultural events across the country. Ramamoorthy has not only passed the mantle to Manjula, he is overwhelmed to see his granddaughter learn and teach dance in his style and his great grand daughter perform under the aegis of his cherished school.