Trans Women who are paragons of Classical Dance
TRANSGENDER — Does the word ring a bell? Does it acquire your unwarranted attention? For those who are socially aware and conscious about sensitive issues this word might not bring about earth shattering changes but for most of the inhabitants of our country the word and the associated meaning might be very well still considered a taboo.
The transgender community at large is still considered to be a pariah in our community even after the massive intervention from the government and media. They are still chained by the illogical barriers of archaic ideologies and obsolete perspectives. The encroachment in our so called civilized society is so atrocious that often they are even bereft of the basic right of being considered a Human being.
March 31st is celebrated as transgender visibility day. lets remind ourselves that even after such harsh obstacles, we find individuals who overcome every hurdle with their sheer will , aspiration and dedication. below are such stories of shining starts of the Classical dance blurs it all. these trans women are perfect idols of courage, inspiration and diversity. they are the very apotheosis who bring in beauty to life. Proudly presenting you the embodiment's of art as follows.what they always believe in a deep passion for — DANCE
Narthaki Nataraj, the first transgendered superstar of Bharatanatyam, has always been unordinary.Born in the temple town of Madurai in 1964, Nataraj took early interest in the arts and fell in love with dance watching local drama troupes. she realised he was born in the wrong body at age 10. Driven by social insensitivity, he left home two years later.
Rejection and ridicule followed him to the streets. she and her only friend, Shakti Bhaskar, did menial jobs for food, though Nataraj’s love for dance kept drawing herback to events and festivals. Nataraj searched for a guru who would accept her, and finally found one in the legendary Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai in 1984.
As she pleaded his heart out, hoping to be accepted, Kittappa rechristened her Narthaki Nataraj.
Narthaki studied Bharatanatyam from the generous Kittappa, whose other star students included Yamini Krishnamurti, Vyjayanthimala Bali and Sudharani Raghupathy. Seeing Narthaki’s diligence, Kittappa taught her several dance pieces from the traditional repertoire, making her among a handful of custodians of the rare items performed in the Thanjavur tradition of Bharatanatyam. When Kitappa worked with the Tanjore Tamil University, she served as his research assistant. When the Sangeet Natak Akademi made a documentary on the life of Kitappa, Narthaki was chosen as the main demonstration artiste for the dance pieces he described.
The dance community had to accept Narthaki. Though many conservatives sniggered at her, Sabha secretaries mocked her and the Bharatanatyam establishment kept ignoring her, she grew steadily into a fabulous performer. She even established her own dance school Velliyambalam Nadana Kalaikoodam in Chennai and Madurai. In 2007, the government of Tamil Nadu honoured her with the Kalaimamani award. And four years later, she was honoured with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi award from the President of India, a first for any transgender.
Narthaki specialises in widening her repertoire by dipping deep into Tamil literature. Keeping the style and form the same, she has choreographed songs of nationalist poets like Subramanya Bharati. At present, she is researching the history of transgenders in Tamil poetry and literature.
Varsha Vardhana from Malaysia is an established Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi artist who was born in Muai Johobaru in Malaysia and began practicing the dance forms at the age of 5. She was trained by Mrs. Indra in Malaysia and Dr. Chandra Banu in Melbourne, Australia.
Varsha has performed in Singapore, India, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Indonesia among other places. She has been acknowledged by the Hindu Sangham in Malaysia with the Natya Per Oli recognition, which means “bright youth star.
Maalika Panicker from Malaysia is an established Bharatnatyam and Mohiniattam artist who was born in Pallakad, Kerala and began practicing the dance forms at the age of 7. She was trained at the Kalashetra school in Chennai.
Maalika has performed throughout Asia, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand among other places. She currently resides in Singapore as a citizen and has been teaching at the Bharatnatyam school there since 1996.
Lakshya is an established Bharatnatyam artist who was born in Cochin and began practicing the dance form at the age of 10. She began training under Guru Kalamandalam Sumathi from Kerala and continued her training at the Kalakshetra School in Chennai.
Lakshya has performed professionally in Kolkata, Guwahati, Delhi and internationally in Germany, UAE, Malaysia and Belgium among other places. She was awarded the T S Parthasarathy Award for excellence in performance in 2002. Currently, she is a dance teacher at IIT Madras and the costume designer of head accessories for dance productions in Chennai.
Born in Tuticorin, Ponni is the youngest in the family. Dance has been her fascination since childhood.Initially she was denied training ,however her zealous passion towards dance could not resist her from secretly watching the dance sessions. She joined a dance class for a year when she was in 8th grade but her training could not continue during high school because of the academic pressure she faced.
Academics always had immense importance in her life and thus she pursued B.Sc in Mathematics. But dance ruled over her mind and she always had an insatiable desire for it. Thus she pursued a Diploma in Bharatnatyam and eventually received a M.A. in Dance. But she never stopped dreaming.
Once such long awaited dream was opening up a dance academy. Thus when she got the invitation to teach as a dance trainer in Theni District by an NGO she took one huge step towards achieving her dream. There she taught 20 students. Her fear of non-acceptance by the society was broken when she got immense amount of respect from her students. This inspired her to start her own dance class. As a result, Abhinaya Nrityalaya was started in 2006 in Vyasarpadi, Chennai for which Ponni got a government loan of Rs 1 lakh.
The Dancing Queens
The Dancing Queens is a transgender-led dance troupe, headed by Abhina Aher, Urmi Jadhav and Madhuri Sarode. The talented members of the group exceed boundaries of personal and ideological expression. Founded initially as part of the Mumbai Pride Festival 2009, the Dancing Queens uses dance to break through the boundaries formed by words. Through sensitive choreography, the Dancing Queens embodies, promotes, and fights for the rights of everyone to be who they want to be and love who they want to love.
So, lets applaud them all for their courage, passion and for being such a great inspiration to many human beings around the world and celebrate diversity in dance.