Perseverance has made Sujatha Srinivasan a respected guru in the U.S.
“Dance is visualisation of the beauty of music that accompanies it. This makes a recital wholesome,” says Sujatha Srinivasan, talented U.S.-based Bharatanatyam exponent and guru. In a pleasing and humble manner she elaborates about the importance of tala and laya in dance. We also find that she herself is a rare combination of a vocalist, percussionist and dancer. “As my training in dance grew intense I realised the importance of allied disciplines and took up the other two also seriously,” informs Sujatha. For long she had been fascinated by the mridangam and her interest was fostered by Kumbakonam Narayanaswamy Iyer.
Mridangam lessons under Iyer continued for 7-8 years, apart from music classes for nearly a decade, G.P. Kamala and Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr. P. Ramanathan being the gurus.
Recalling her childhood days during her artistic journey Sujatha says, “I was born and brought up in Chennai and inducted into the art as early as six years. More than me it was my mother's determination to turn me in to a good dancer and my father's encouragement that has made me what I am today.
Sujatha began her training under Lalitha of Saraswati Gana Nilayam. She came under the tutelage of Chithra Visweswaran in 1975 under whom she had her arangetram in 1977. The intricacies of the art were taught by other gurus - Swamimalai S. K. Rajarathinam Pillai, Udipi Laxminarayanan and Kalanidhi Narayanan.
Sujatha says that the different styles in dance are dignified, mature and give us variety. “These gurus have created something precious and I feel it is my duty to pass it on to my students with a bit of my creativity,” she adds. In all her presentations, Sujatha maintains a good balance of nritta and nritya. “Recitals should be crisp without unnecessary frills. A good grounding in nritta is important and only this eventually helps a dancer to emote well too.” Emotions, according to Sujatha, is a matter of experience. “Abhinaya cannot be taught. It ought to be felt from within by a dancer. This of course comes with age. Experiences, especially challenges, enhance abhinaya, thus elevating the dancer or her recital.”
Sujatha's involvement with the art is evident when she talks about choreography. “The main facet of choreography is ‘Auchitya' – appropriateness. It involves sound knowledge of music, languages, literary aspects and technical aspects of dance.” One should also be an experienced dancer, researcher and above all a good rasika.”
While Sujatha feels that technology does save time, energy and money nothing can equal having a good team of accompanying artists in a concert. So presentation is important and it also depends on the audience. She also feels the difference in the audiences in the U.S and in Chennai. “When I perform abroad I represent my country. Therefore I see to it that I present the art in its pristine form.”
Memories of Chennai? Sujatha becomes nostalgic. “I cannot forget the exotic moment when M.S. Subbulakshmi blessed me with a shawl when I performed for Kartik Fine Arts during the Papanasam Sivan Centenary Celebrations. She commended my choreography.
Sujatha is a globe trotter and presented a repertoire of thematic presentations, special features and collaborative productions. Triveni, Natya Sangamam and Swagatham Krishna are some of her thematic productions. She also presents lec-dems and conducts workshops. She founded Shri Kalamandir, a Centre for Indian Performing Arts, in 1993, in Ohio. Many of her students have received accolades for their impressive performances.
Sujatha has won many awards which include Yuvakala Bharati, Nadanamamani and Best Dancer from Narada Gana Sabha. Her three decades of association with the art has made Sujatha's life meaningful. “Sincerity and a desire to preserve the art is mandatory,” sums up Sujatha, the statement aimed at young aspirants.