Shaped by veterans, Bharatanatyam became Lakshmi Ramaswamy’s passion. V. V. Ramani

There comes a decisive moment, when destiny brings us face to face with a person, place or event, and guides us to a path we could take, which changes the course of our lives. For young Lakshmi, who was learning dance from Indira Krishnamurthy in Tirunelveli as an extra curricular activity, marriage decided the future. She landed in Madras and destiny came in the form of Chitra Visweswaran, whose guidance and tutelage transformed her life completely and dance became a passion and career.

“It was Chitra akka, who taught me to look at dance in a holistic manner and pursue it as a way of life and not just as a performing art. The 15 years that I spent with her learning the technicalities of dance are my most cherished memories,” says Lakshmi Ramaswamy as she gets ready to present ‘Aalavadhu Eppadio,’ a production of her dance school.

Lakshmi enhanced her dancing skills with additional inputs by training for abhinaya under Kalanidhi Narayanan, studying karanas from Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and learning Tamil classics from Dr. Raghuraman.

Fulbright scholarship

A turning point came when she won the Fulbright scholarship and the subject of her studies was art and culture management at Golden Gate University, San Francisco, the U.S. “This scholarship helped me to understand the nitty-gritty of handling and managing a career in arts, and even today it helps me in the management and functioning of my dance school. I got an opportunity to not only interact with artists from diverse cultural backgrounds, but also a chance to showcase my art at their festival.”

“A question that they asked me in the interview about my academic background in dance set me thinking and when the University of Madras opened its doors to dance education, I enrolled in the first batch to do my Master’s. Completing a doctorate, my association with the university continues as a guest lecturer,” she says.

Lakshmi’s passion for the Tamil language has inspired her to delve deep into Tamil literature and pick out gems and adapt them. She acknowledges the immense support she has got from the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram by way of grants, which has helped her document Sangam age works such as Nattrinai, Purananooru, Ainkurunooru and Thiruvaranga kalambakkam.

‘Aalavadhu Eppadio,’ produced with a grant from the Ministry of Culture, focuses on finding answers to questions that Pattinathar asks Lord Siva, seeking ways to attain moksha without undergoing extreme travails and acts of devotion shown by Siruthonadar, Neelakantar and Kannappar.

The production has been structured in the traditional format, beginning with a mallari in the form of a victory march of Thiruthondar’s return from Vatapi to the grand finale in the form of a thillana. The narrative explores the three stories of the nayanmars in dance theatre style bringing out the underlying common thread of love, devotion and surrender.

Rajkumar Bharathi, veteran musician and composer has composed the music for this production with Prof. Raghuraman penning the lyrics. The costumes, following the traditional Bharatanatyam style, have been designed by Lakshmi. This show, featuring her students will premiere at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on July 21, 10.30 a.m.