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Dance diva waltzes on

Anita Ratnam has struck a fine balance between the commercial and aesthetic components of her art

Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

SHE COMES across as a multi-dimensional personality, a flesh-and-blood epitome of DH Lawrence's `real' woman. Anita Ratnam is not just another exponent of classical dance. She is an ideal woman of the 21st Century - one who lives life with the courage of her convictions, traditional at heart yet very progressive in thinking. Her esteem and faith in Indian tradition lies in preserving and propagating its culture with missionary zeal. Her outlook is to constantly develop with the times, imbibe the best in a technologically-driven world and make good use of modernity. What sets her apart from others is her singular approach to life, which brooks no suppression in the form of illogical reproaches or rules.

Her positive attitude pulsates in everything she says and does, which accounts for a sense of completeness in her and her work. Anita was in Hyderabad as a part of the ongoing South Indian Cultural Association (Sica) festival. A tête-à-tête:

"Born into a dyed-in-the-wool industrialist family (TVS), I was positioned and also had the potential to follow finance but chose to be a classical dancer very early in life, which was not quite the done thing among my folks. After Bharatanatyam solo performances galore, I started to tire and went abroad to do something else. I found the electronic media a powerful means of communication. But the deadlines couldn't sustain my interest for long and I came back to dance, but this time with a purpose,'' she pauses and goes on, "My media stint helped me watch artistes of real calibre go unnoticed. It sharpened my management skills too in a way as I was in charge of arranging cultural festivals abroad.

Egos and economics

This, coupled with the financial acumen, that perhaps runs in my blood made me set up Arangham - a foundation for dance which stages performances by assembling artistes from various quarters. I was the first to bring out a directory

Narthaki (, a sort of database on dance... My expertise in management came in handy to professionalise dance through my foundation Arangham. Today it is a platform for collaborating with other artistes drawn from varied fields.''

Anita has struck a fine balance sans ethical compromise between art for arts sake and money for sustaining the best of arts. "I had my share of adulation right from my teenage days as far as dance goes. Now I also want my group of dancers to be recognised and showcase their art. The corporates are the modern patrons of art. I try to work via media where performances are edited to suit a corporate-sponsored cultural programme, where there is big money and which also gives a free hand to artistes to display their full potential in a conventional dance festival. It is veritable juggling of egos and economics,'' she voices her view with defined practicality.

Though most of her work is woman-centric, her choreography is not gender specific. She likes to see herself as a `culture entrepreneur'. She created `River' (a theme on universality of waters) to help launch a chain of hotels abroad. With a PhD on the anvil, two teenage children to bring up and a gamut of cultural activities to handle, Anita Ratnam is a real cultural ambassador for India.


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