Urmila Sathyanarayanan's Natya Sankalpaa celebrates its tenth anniversary on April 23.
When it comes to performance, she is a traditionalist who believes in the timeless beauty of the margam but when it comes to teaching she prefers being a modernist. "In the present-day situation where academics overtakes art, it is better for the guru to be open-minded. After all you are dealing with young and savvy multi-taskers, many of whom consider dance as just another activity in their hectic schedule," says acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer Urmila Sathyanarayanan. Urmila's dance school, Natya Sankalpaa, celebrates its tenth anniversary on April 23 with a special event at the Narada Gana Sabha. The programme, with Leela Samson, Director, Kalakshetra, as chief guest begins at 6 p.m. Urmila finds teaching a humbling experience "because somebody is going to carry out your ideas. In the process, you also learn a lot and it is easier to reach out." Talking about grooming students, she says, "You cannot expect each one of them to become a successful performer. Why, you cannot even expect them to pursue the art once they get into professional courses or land a job. So, I only wish more and more youngsters learn the art, to experience, appreciate and enjoy its beauty. This way, at least we will create a whole new generation of rasikas." Urmila strongly feels that unless there is good remuneration, very few will take up this art as a profession. "I have now started restricting admissions to my school. I interview the parents to know their understanding of the art and also test the child's artistic ability. I tell them about the hard work it entails. It is important as many join dance classes more as a hobby or for fitness. Training at my school includes theory and yoga classes (conducted by Kannan) and warm up exercises." Natya Sankalpaa has a small team of teachers headed by Urmila. "There is Swamimalai Kalidas Suresh, who trained in music, dance and nattuvangam under his grand uncle, the renowned Bharatanatyam guru S. K. Rajaratnam Pillai. Rama Durai Swaminathan and Saikrupa also help in guiding the students. With my busy performing schedule, it is with the dedicated efforts of these teachers that I am able to impart almost the same kind of exposure to the richness of this classical art that I gained under revered gurus K.N.Dandayuthapani Pillai and K.J.Sarasa." Adds the dancer, "The ultimate aim of a sishya should not be just the stage but a sound understanding of the subtleties." Known for her purity of abhinaya and nritta, in her recitals Urmila loves to explore the inherent appeal of the art form by taking traditional compositions. She has toured across the globe showcasing the magnificence of Bharatanatyam to the common man and connoisseur.