Bharatanatyam dancer Paris Laxmi believes art and music are in her blood and that she was destined to become part of Kerala’s culture

Even before she categorically embraced the Indian way of life through marriage, dancer Paris Laxmi aka Myriam Sophia Lakshmi was familiar with the sounds and sights of the country. Her parents being self-proclaimed Indophiles, had brought up Lakshmi (Paris Laxmi) and brother Narayan in the traditional Indian way. Stories from Hindu mythology were part of her growing-up years just as Indian food and clothing were. Today the 21-year-old, living in Vaikom, poised as a promising Bharatanatayam dancer and married to Kathakali artiste Sunil Pullipuram feels that she is in the place and the land where she belongs.

One of the recent highlights in her budding career was her performance for the visiting royal couple from England, Prince Charles and his wife, and her brief but colourful dalliance with Malayalam films, in 2007, where she performed a song, ‘Oh January’, for the film Big B.

An early start

Laxmi’s dance journey and relationship with India began at a young age. She enrolled, as a five year old, to learn western contemporary dance and remembers the image of baby Krishna hanging in her room in Aix–en-Provence. It was at school that she was introduced to Bharatanatyam by Armelle Choquard, her first teacher. Later, as a nine-year-old, she began learning the dance from Dominique Delorme, a disciple of Padma Subramanyam. Along with Indian dance she continued her practice of jazz, contemporary and classical ballet.

“Learning different styles allow for a holistic approach toward dance,” says Laxmi who got her stage name from Thiruvarur Bakthvathsalan, a mridangam maestro who taught mridangam to her brother Narayan.

Laxmi’s unconventional induction to the classical art was the reason that she did not have a formal arangettam or a traditional stage initiation. She does not regret it and reasons, “In the beginning I learnt Bharatanatyam under French teachers but could not pursue it professionally. In a way my parents did my arangettam. They made me perform every year. It was in 2009 that I performed at Vaikom temple during Kumbhashtami.”

Amidst her travels between India and France Laxmi decided to hone her dance skills. She went thrice to Pune and studied under Sucheta Chapekar and spent a year at Padma Subramanyam’s school Nrithyodaya in Chennai. She met Kathakali artiste Sunil in Fort Kochi and found an instant rapport. “Though there is a big age difference between us our minds and interests are the same,” she says beaming. Sunil agrees and says with pride, “I saw her practice in 2007 and knew immediately that Laxmi was a good dancer with nimble footwork and natural expressions.”

He began helping her professionally and in charting a career and the two decided to marry in 2012. Together they have started Kalashakti School of Arts in Vaikom where the duo teaches Bhartanatyam and Kathakali and have teachers for other arts.

“Dance is my way of living. It is a passion and a job,” says Laxmi through thick kohled eyes and a very Indian face. Coming from an artistic family, her father Yves is a drummer and mother Patricia is a sculptor, Laxmi believes that art and music are in her blood.

Her evolving career is marked by several performances in temples across Kerala and in a few theatres in Chennai. Her recent performance, “a small part from a tillana”, in front of Prince Charles has been an exciting high point. She says, “He remarked about my foot work and expressions. He spoke in French and said the dance was incredible.”

Happily ensconced in her new home, teaching her students, busy with local performances - Laxmi feels that she was destined to be a part of Kerala and her deep culture.