Pioneer turns Platinum

Nrithyodaya, founded in 1942 by K. Subrahmanyam, film-maker and freedom fighter, has completed 75 years. Started as a charity organisation to teach the poor, it has grown into one of the premier dance institutions in the country, thanks to the relentless work of his daughter, Padma, who has dedicated her life to Bharatanrityam — its propagation and research.

“Looking back at the records, we realised that 2,500 students have received free tuition from Nrithyodaya. Our students are teaching and performing across the globe,” says Padma. A disciple of Vazhuvur Ramaiah Pillai, she has taken Bharatanatyam to a different level integrating the essence of Bharata’s Natyasastra — especially the 108 karanas — with the art that is widely practised. Individually, Padma has presented themes such as Krishnaya Tubyam Namaha, Jaya Jaya Sankara and so on. The group performances of Nrithyodaya are known for their precision and aesthetic appeal.

All in the family

Music has always been a strength of Padma’s productions. Shyamala, wife of Padma’s brother Balakrishnan, contributed in no small measure to the success of the shows. If her voice lent an edge to the shows, her research, especially in the area of folk music, vested the productions with novelty and variety. Her sudden demise had created a vacuum for a long time. A trained musician herself, Padma composes music apart from doing choreography — a talent inherited from mother Meenakshi, who was principal of Nrityodaya and was author of several productions, one of which is the famous Meenakshi Kalyanam.

Pioneer turns Platinum

Nrithyodaya’s Platinum Jubilee celebration begins on July 26 at Narada Gana Sabha. The five-day event, to be inaugurated by Aruna Sairam, will be a retro of sorts. All of Nrithyodaya’s current students will be on the dais in one event or the other. Alumnae are coming from different parts of the country to showcase their talents.

On the inaugural day, 6.15 p.m., Nrithyodaya 75, a documentary by S.B. Khanthan will set the tone for the events to follow. Awards will be presented to R. Nagaswamy and Shatavadani, R. Ganesh, followed by Bharatanritya Margam by 14 principal students of the school. At 6.30 on July 29, two dance-dramas penned by Meenakshi Subrahmanyam and Krishna Tulabharam, an old dance-drama will be presented.

As a fitting finale on July 30, Padma and 60 of her disciples will come together to present the folk songs of Shyamala Balakrishnan, Ras Leela (with the voice of Swami Haridoss Giri) and Vande Mataram, a bouquet of Subramanya Bharati’s songs.

Natya, her way of life

What, according to Padma is a noteworthy development in the field of dance?

A widespread awareness of Natyasastra. Bharatamuni’s work is given acknowledgement and talked about at seminars and conferences. I have myself not stopped researching on the subject. Nrithyodya has been conducting bachelor and Master’s courses in Bharatanatyam in distant education mode for the students of Sastra University. Contact classes happen at regular intervals.

Nrithyodaya 75
  • July 26-30
  • Narada Gana Sabha
  • All are welcome
  • Follow on fb Nrithyodaya75 and

How has the scene changed for the student?

Those days, we went to the teacher every day, after school — whether or not there was class, whether or not we would get a chance to learn anything on that day. We didn’t mind sitting and watching others learning, because observation is as important . It was a kind of osmosis and it did help. Today, dance is one among the many things that a child is supposed to be learning. So at Nrityodaya, the syllabus is streamlined and observation is a part of it.

How is teaching different here?

The syllabus, a common grammar for all forms of dance, looks at mind-body harmony. Values are instilled and the teaching of yoga as a discipline becomes relevant here. The students don’t have to go elsewhere to learn music, which is vital for the appreciation of dance. It is, therefore, a complete dancer that emerges from Nrithyodaya . During our learning days, we worked really hard to gather knowledge because even celebrated nattuvanars would not part with knowhow easily. At Nrityodaya, we believe in giving.

‘Mentoring’ is slowly gaining ground. Padma’s take?

It is a good concept. While I don’t mentor students of other schools, I certainly encourage Nrityodaya students to watch others perform. There is so much out there to observe and learn.

It was smooth transition from father to daughter. Now what?

Why, Nrithyodaya is safe in the hands of the youth. As principal and coordinator for SASTRA’s Bharatanrityam course, Gayathri Kannan is sharing the responsibilities with me. Her daughter Mahathi is getting trained in all departments of dance and Kannan my nephew, an accomplished veena vidwan, is the administrator. Besides, the school is my extended family. Come, watch us at our five-day celebration, you’ll realise that it is not just a school, but an institution, where art is a way of life.

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Printable version | Nov 16, 2020 10:52:26 PM |

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