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Flag-Bearers of Indian Classical Dance

We celebrate the Indian republic day as a remembrance of the “constitution making day”. A step where the country walks to bring in a dynamic change in the setting up rules and preamble. let’s not forget the exponents who were the flag bearer of what we today call it as an Indian Classical dance.

They were the ones who built these art forms, who nourished its existence, who surpassed the ocean and spread the glory of classical dance. they are no less than the freedom fighters of the country as every dance has to fight for their existence, they fought the battle with glory and gave us a beautiful gift to cherish.let us meet the leaders as following

Uday Shankar (8 December 1900–26 September 1977) (was an Indian dancer and choreographer, best known for creating a fusion style of dance, adapting European theatrical techniques to Indian classical dance, imbued with elements of Indian classical, folk, and tribal dance, which he later popularised in India, Europe, and the United States in the 1920s and 1930s He was a pioneer of modern dance in India.

In 1962, he was awarded by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s The National Academy for Music, Dance, and Drama, with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement, and in 1971, the Govt. of India, awarded him with its second highest civilian award the Padma Vibhushan. Soon he embarked on a seven-year tour through Europe and America with his own troupe, which he called — ‘Uday Shankar and his Hindu Ballet’, under the age of impresario Sol Hurok and Celebrity Series of Boston of impresario, Aaron Richmond. He performed in the United States for the first time in January 1933 in New York City, along with his dance partner Simkie, a French dancer. As part of the visit, a reception was held at the Grand Central Art Galleries. After, Shankar and his troupe set out on an 84-city tour throughout the country.  His adaptation of European theatrical techniques to Indian dance made his art hugely popular both in India and abroad, and he is rightly credited for ushering in a new era for traditional Indian temple dances, which until then had been known for their strict interpretations, and which were also going through their own revival. Meanwhile, his brother Ravi Shankar was helping to popularise Indian classical music in the outside world.  In 1936, he was invited by Leonard Knight Elmhirst, who had earlier assisted Rabindranath Tagore in building Sriniketan, close to Shanti Niketan, to visit Dartington Hall, Totnes, Doven for a six-month residency, with his troupe and lead dancer, Simkie. Also present there were Michel Chekhov, nephew of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, the German modern dancer-choreographer, Kurt Jooss and another German Rudolf Laban, who had invented a system of dance notation. This experience only added more exuberance to his expressionist dance.

Rukmini Devi Arundale (29 February 1904–24 February 1986) was an Indian theosophist, dancer and choreographer of the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, and an activist for animal rights and welfare.

she also is the first ever woman in Indian History to be nominated as the Rajya Sabha member. She is considered the most important revivalist in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam from its original ‘sadhir’ style, prevalent amongst the temple dancers, Devadasis, she also worked for the re-establishment of traditional Indian arts and crafts.

Though she belonged to the Indian upper-caste she espoused the cause of Bharata Natyam, which was considered a low and vulgar art in the early 1920s. Recognising the beauty and the spiritual value of this art form, she not only learned the dance but also presented it on stage despite strong public protests.  Rukmini Devi features in India Today’s list of ‘100 People Who Shaped India’. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956, and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1967.

n 1933, at the Annual Conference of Madras Music Academy, she saw for the first time, a performance of the dance form called Sadhir Later she learned the dance from ‘Mylapore Gowri Amma’, and finally with help of E Krishna Iyer. from ‘Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai’. In 1935, Rukmini Devi gave her first public performance at the ‘Diamond Jubilee Convention of the Theosophical Society.  In January 1936, she along with her husband, established Kalakshetra, an academy of dance and music, built around the ancient Indian Gurukul system, at Adyar, near Chennai. Today the academy is a deemed university under the Kalakshetra Foundation and is situated in its new in 100-acre (0.40 km2) campus in Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai, where it shifted, in 1962Amongst its noted students are Radha Burnier, Sarada Hoffman, Anjali Mehr, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Sanjukta Panigrahi, C V Chandrasekhar, Yamini Krishnamurthy and Leela Samson.

Balasaraswati, (13 May 1918–9 February 1984), was a celebrated Indian dancer, and her rendering of Bharatanatyam, a classical dance style originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, made this style of dancing well known in different parts of India and many parts of the world.  She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1957 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1977, the third and the second highest civilian honors given by the Government of India. In 1981 she was awarded the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award of The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai.

She received numerous awards in India, including the President’s Award from the Sangeet Natak Akademi (1955), Padma Vibushan from the Government of India for distinguished national service (1977) and Sangita Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy, South India’s highest award for musicians (1973). In a review in 1977, the New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described her as one of the “supreme performing artists in the world”. India Today, one of the leading news magazines of India, based on a survey, classified her as one of the 100 prominent Indians who has shaped the destiny of India. She was the only non-western dancer included in a compilation of the Dance Heritage Coalition, “America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100” (2000).

Ram Gopal (20 November 19121–12 October 2003) was an Indian dancer and choreographer who performed mostly as a soloist and toured extensively throughout his lengthy career. A modernist, he blended the classical Indian dance with balletic choreography, and along with Uday Shankar was among the first to showcase Indian classical dance in the West starting in the 1930s, Polish critics Tadeusz Zelenski called him “the Nijinsky of India”.  As a choreographer, he is most known for his productions, Legend of the Taj Mahal, Dance of the Setting Sun and Dances of India.He is also noted for “Radha-Krishna”, his collaboration with British ballerina Dame Alicia Markova, in 1960.  He toured extensively as a soloist and with his company both before and after World War II, and soon his production was known for their costumes, staging, and lighting.He appeared at the New York Golden Anniversary International Dance Festival at NYC’s City Center in 1948 where he represented India, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires in 1954 and Edinburgh Festivals in 1956.

He collaborated with ballerina Dame Alicia Markova to create a duet “Radha-Krishna” in 1960, based on Hindu mythology, in which she danced as Radha, while he danced as Krishna. Today their collaboration is commemorated at the National Portrait Gallery, London where her bronze bust stands next to his full-length portrait by Feliks Topolski.In the later years, he also danced with Mrinalini Sarabhai in Bangalore and toured with Kumudini Lakhia.Another successful dance partnership was with the young and talented Tara Chaudhri whom Ram was very fond of. Dance critic, Cyril Beaumont editor of “Dance Journal”, wrote about his dancing, “what impresses one most about Ram Gopal’s dancing is the manner in which he is able to assimilate the characteristics of the four schools of technique so completely different in style, costume, and mood.”In Kay

Vempati Chinna Satyam (October 15, 1929 — July 29, 2012) was an Indian dancer and a guru of the Kuchipudi dance form. Chinna Satyam was born in Kuchipudi, Andhra Pradesh. He was taught by Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry. He then refined his art by learning from Sri Tadepally Perrayya Sastry and later was trained by his elder brother Sri Vempati Pedda Satyam in expressions.

As he learned the nuances of this style of dance, he was successful in popularising the Kuchipudi dance form all over the world. He died of old age related problems at the age of 83 on July 29, 2012.

Chinna Satyam sublimated and systematized Kuchipudi, giving it a more classical basis. He refined the art form, bringing it closer to the standards of Natya Shastra and gave it a whole new perspective and introduced new elements, e.g. chair (leg movements) of Natya Shastra that are significantly different from the interpretations of other dance authorities, such as Padma Subrahmanyam. Previously, it had been considered a “rustic” (folk) form of dance.

Nataraja Ramakrishna (21 March 1933–7 June 2011) was a dance guru from Telangana, India. He was the chairman of Andhra Pradesh Sangeeta Nataka Academy. He was also a scholar and musicologist who promoted classical dance in Andhra Pradesh and worldwide. His dance performance before the royal assembly consisting of scholars, poets, art critics and the elite of Nagpur city was his turning point. At the age of 18, he was given the title of ‘Nataraja’ in Nagpur, by the then ruler of Maratha.

He was the architect of the revival of the Andhra Natyam dance form, a devotional temple dance tradition performed in Andhra Pradesh for over 400 years until virtually extinct.3He is also known for reviving Perini Shivatandavam, 700-year-old dance form and brought international fame to it along with Kuchipudi -another traditional dance form.

On request of the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy he established Nritya Niketan — a dance school at Hyderabad. Other awards bestowed upon him were the Padma Shri in 1992,”Kala Prapoorna,”- a doctorate from the Andhra University and a ‘Bharata Kala Prapoorna,’- by Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi and NTR State Award by Andhra Pradesh State government.

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra ( January 8, 1926 — April 7, 2004) was an Indian classical dancer, guru, and proponent of Odissi dance, who is credited for the revival of the classical dance form in the 20th century. He is the first person to get Padma Vibhushan from Odisha. A noted Sanskrit poet of India writes on this Guru ‘Saango-paanga-subhangi-laasa-madhuram samteerna-nrutyaarnavam’ which means — Each fraction of his dancing body leads to paramount sweetness through the miraculous poses and postures. In fact, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra crossed the ocean of styles. In his youth, Kelucharan Mohapatra performed Gotipua — a traditional dance form of Odisha where young boys dress up as a woman to praise Lord Jagannath. Later in his life, he did extensive research on Gotipua and Mahari dance, which lead him to restructure Odissi dance. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was a master of Percussion instruments — Mridangam, Pakhavaj and Tabla, which clearly resonates in his dance compositions. He was also skilled in the traditional Pattachitra painting.

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra along with his wife, also a dancer Laxmipriya and their son Ratikant Mohapatra built Srjan

Guru Bipin Singha  Among the above-mentioned dancers, Guru Bipin Singha ranks for Manipuri. He may rightly called the ” Father of Manipuri Dance and style”.

He was award a number of the prestigious titles like Bharat Ratna,kali dasa Samantha etc. Guru Bipin Singha, has the past four generations of his disciplines and has contributed a great deal in the field of Manipuri dance and culture.

Classical dance in India wouldn’t have been in its present-day glory if it wasn’t for these brilliant stalwarts. Feeling inspired and proud? Share this and let everyone know!


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