Guru K. J. Sarasa has generally been alluded to as the first female nattuvanar in dance circles. But there is a clarification from dancer-scholar Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam who says the first female to take up the cymbals was Kaamukkanu Ammal, the last devadasi of the Thanjavur Brihadeeshwara Temple, and mother of late mridangam vidwan Thanjavur Upendran. The next lady nattuvanar was Kausalya, from the first batch of graduates from Nrithyodaya in 1944, who teaches Bharatanatyam in T. Nagar.
Guru Sarasa took her first student, Rathna Papa, in 1952 when she was 18. She remains one of the pioneers, who was, perhaps, the most successful.