Dance

Owning a legacy

Thanjavur K.P. Kittappa Pillai was a name to reckon with in the field of classical dance. Though he hailed from the Odhuvar clan, he carried on the tradition of his ancestors – the Thanjavur Quartet. Their compositions have proved to be a staple with Bharatanatyam artists till today.

Kittappa Pillai had carried on the tradition and many dancers such as Vyjayantimala Bali, Sudharani Raghupathi and Sucheta Bhide feel proud to call themselves his disciples. Now his son K.P.K. Chandrasekaran, the eighth generation scion of the family, upholds the tradition by teaching Bharatanatyam for the past fifteen years at the Government Music School in Tiruvarur and also to other students outside.

He started learning from his father when he was 15. He had been taught many rare items such as Navasandhi kavuthuvam, Panchamurthy kavuthuvam, Sooladhi, Prabandham, Melaprapthi and Thodayamangalam, which were composed by the ancestors of the Thanjavur Quartet. Though he learnt dance, he took up nattuvangam as his profession. He reasons out saying none of the male members in his family had performed dance on stage. Besides grooming Chandrasekaran to be a dancer, Kittappa Pillai has instilled in him the habit of being punctual and dedicated to teaching.

Having taken up teaching Chandrasekaran has been taking classes to many students who come from different walks of life. He teaches them according to the individual’s capacity. While some of them perform on stage, some are teaching at Chennai, Bengaluru and Nagapattinam.

He has students from Chennai, Bengaluru and abroad. Easwara Muthukumar from Malaysia has been learning since 2001. He comes here every year and spends a few months learning. Sandra Jasmine from Germany comes once in two years.

Chandrasekaran takes classes during weekends at the Kittappa Natyalaya, in Thanjavur. He has also been teaching at Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Higher Secondary School since 1993, on two weekends in a month. During May every year he conducts workshops in Bengaluru at the Ponniah Lalita Kala Academy run by Padmini Rao and at Kalasindhu Arts Academy of Poornima Gururaj, bothstudents of Kittappa Pillai. He had been to Netherlands to conduct the arangetram for the students of Rajamani, a disciple of Kittappa Pillai.

One incident that he cherishes the most is that of his father guiding him when he performed nattuvangam at Natyanjali. He says conducting performances at the temple, such as the Natyanjali at the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple gives him utmost satisfaction.

Every year he organises his father’s memorial day, which falls on October 30, in Thanjavur with the support of the Cultural Ministry of Government of India.

The special event will feature dance performances by eminent artists besides showcasing the recitals of his students and his father’s. The tradition continues with Chandrasekaran’s daughter Charumathi, who presented her arangetram on the occasion of the 100th birthday celebrations of Kittappa Pillai and his son Sabhapathi who played the mridangam.


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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 5:42:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/dance-teacher-chandrasekaran-was-groomed-by-thanjavur-kp-kittappa-pillai/article7869608.ece

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