Dr. Mayadevi Kurup’s career in high-risk obstetrics and gynaecology never interfered with her continuing passion for dance

People are left-brained or right-brained; logical and objective or intuitive and creative. Dr. Mayadevi Kurup commands both. From dance to a career in medicine she has traversed a road not taken very often.

Daughter of eminent poet-lyricist, Jnanpith Award winner ONV Kurup, Mayadevi’s plunge into performing arts was natural. It was part of growing up. What was surprising was her choice of career. “My parents never interfered in our interests. They have always been supportive to me and my brother in whatever choice we made in life. My grandfather (O.N. Krishna Kurup) was an Ayurveda physician, the only one from our family to dabble in medicine before me. So, perhaps, it was always there in the genes,” says Mayadevi, who did her MBBS and MD (Gynaecology) from Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, MRCOG from the UK and worked in the country for 15 years.She is now Senior Consultant and heads the women’s health department at Aster Medcity.

Mayadevi started her classical dance training at the age of three and a year later performed on stage for the first time.

Since then dance has not been an option but a part of life. Mohinayattam and Odissi are two forms that Mayadevi specialises in though she has been trained in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and contemporary dance. “I started off, almost in a gurukulam way, with the late Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, the doyen of Mohiniyattam. I used to stay at her home in Tripunithura for a few days and then return to Thiruvananthapuram. My father insisted that I study from her. I was also the first dancer to get the National Talent Search Scholarship in Mohiniyattam when I was in Class Seven. I trained in Bharatanatyam from Leela Panicker, Kathakali from the late Vembayam Appukkuttan Pillai, Odissi from Guru Trinath Maharana, Kuchipudi from Chandrika Kurup and contemporary dance from K.R. Kurup.”

Academics did not interrupt her dance. Mayadevi continued to train and perform but rarely took part in competitions. “My father did not approve of me participating in competitions. He never came to watch me at some of those competitions that I had to take part owing to pressure from the school or college. But he and my mother were always there to watch me at the proper recitals.”

Marriage has often led to the premature end of a dancer’s career. Mayadevi was fortunate to have a very understanding husband. “My husband, Dr. Vijay Jayakrishnan, is a Consultant Neuroradiologist. We were classmates at medical college. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. He is into theatre, writes, directs and acts in stage productions. This enabled me to pursue dance as passionately and seriously even after marriage.”

Mayadevi’s two daughters, Amritha and Sumita are also into dance. “Amritha has been trained by Girija Chandran, Mohiniyattam by Sreedevi Rajan, daughter of Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, Kuchipudi by Anupama Mohan and contemporary dance by Aswathi Anil Nair. She is also learning Carnatic music from Alleppey Sreekumar and Perumbavoor G. Ravindranath and Hindustani music from Vijay Rajput and Apadrutha Banerjee. Sumita has taken her early steps into dance.”

Mayadevi has performed in various venues in the State and the UK. She choreographs dance shows, teaches Indian classical and contemporary dance. “There have been some memorable moments as a dancer. Sharing the stage with Bharathi Shivaji, performing a full three-hour Mohiniyattam concert before my guru (Kalyanikutty Amma), staging Poothanamoksham before the great Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, were some of them. In the UK I’m closely associated with the activities of some cultural organisations like ‘Sruthi’ and ‘Kala’. Most of my choreographed pieces were performed here first. I have been fortunate to adapt my father’s poems like Muthiyum Chozhiyum, Rithukeli, Kavyadrishyangal that looked at women and Nature into dance. Most of them were set to music by my brother Rajeev. Another one that I hold close to my heart is the dance adaptation of Sreevalsan J. Menon’s music album Monsoon Anuraaga, which was done in a fusion of styles. Most of these were performed by my students.”

Her recent production Chilanga Charthum Chitrangal is a choreographic interpretation of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings and was staged last year in Durham.

Heading the women’s health department and practising high risk obstetrics and gynaecology, Mayadevi has a busy professional life. Dance offers an important counterpart to her intense work in the hospital.

Mayadevi has managed to strike a fine balance, training regularly, ready to perform. “I always tell my patients and colleagues that there is nothing better than a bit of indulgence in dance or the fine arts to keep you physically and mentally fit. And personally dance has helped me enter other worlds like music and literature.”