At the forefront of the new generation of Bharatanatyam dancers, "Nadanamamani" Dr. Janaki Rangarajan
represents the future of the ancient art form. Since the age of 4,
Janaki has been passionate about communicating through dance. Her
unique dance style is a sincere result of her undying passion,
self-motivation and dedication towards Bharatanatyam. Her refreshing
approach to Bharatanatyam has won her many accolades and praise from
dance lovers around the world. Being a firm believer in maintaining the
integrity of tradition, Janaki explores her creativity without
compromising on the classicism of the dance form.
Janaki's journey in Bharatanatyam commenced at the age of four under the
tutelage of Smt. Madhavi Chandrasekhar in Trichy, India. At the age of
seven, Janaki came under the guidance of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam in
Chennai, India with whom she studied for the next 17 years. During the
last few years, Janaki has also had the privilege of interacting with
extraordinary Bharatanatyam choreographers, teachers and senior artists.
Janaki's immaculate and graceful movements and her subtle yet
communicative expressions have won the admiration of laymen and
connoisseurs alike. Critics around the world have given her rave
reviews and described Janaki as an "absolutely brilliant performer", "one of the best today," "stunning" and "exemplary". The New York Times hailed her performance as a "spellbinder."
Janaki's performances have taken her across the globe. She tours with
new choreographic works and conducts workshops. In addition to being an
accomplished dancer, Janaki is a gifted dance choreographer. She has
received many accolades of national and international acclaim which
recognize her excellence as a performer and choreographer. As a
teacher, Janaki devotes time and energy into developing a new generation
of dancers who are dedicated to Bharatanatyam.
Janaki trained in Carnatic (South Indian) vocal music and Veena
(South Indian string instrument) music under the tutelage of Smt. Kamala
Viswanathan and has received advanced vocal training with Sri. D.K.
Nagarajan, younger brother of Smt. D.K. Pattamal and Sri. D.K.
Janaki is a member of the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes
of India (ABHAI). She is a member of the Indian Dance Educators
Association (IDEA) and held the office of Secretary for a term. Janaki
was the Chairperson of the Young Upcoming Artists Forum (YUAF) and,
during her tenure, spearheaded a successful dance festival showcasing
various classical Indian dance forms. Janaki has also been invited to
judge dance competitions.
Some of the highlights in Janaki's dancing career include:
Arangetram in 1993 (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai)
Padma Subrahmanyam is a legendary Bharatanatyam dancer and the director
of Nrithyodaya, the dance school founded in 1942 by her father, Sri. K.
Subrahmanyam, in Chennai.
Encouraged by her father, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam started
learning under Kausalya who was a young teacher at Nrithyodaya. Later,
she came under the wings of Guru Sri. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and had
her Arangetram in 1956. Recognizing her talent, her father helped her
further her capabilities. From Sri. Dandayuthapani Pillai, she learnt
adavus, from Gowri Ammal she learnt Abhinaya. From various devadasis,
she learnt 150 different adavus. Thus began her research.
Dr. Subrahmanyam has a Bachelor's degree in Music, a Master's in
Ethno Musicology and a Ph.D. in dance from Annamalai University. As a
research scholar she did her thesis on "Karanas in Indian dance and
sculpture" and focused on the concept that the 108 Karanas (which are
the basic units of dance) are actually movements and not just static
After extensive research, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam theorized that
the Karanas as depicted on temple facades were not merely static
postures but were actually complete movements. What we see on the temple
facades are more like photographs capturing each Karana at a particular
point in the movement. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam has devoted many years to
combining Sage Bharata's description of the Sthana, Chari and Nrtta
Hasta that make up each Karana to recreate the complete movement of each
of the 108 Karanas as described in the Natyasastra.
Ramiah Pillai was a unique teacher. He trained his students with
dedication and instilled into them the need to give of their best to
Bharatanatyam. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai was born into a Isai Vellalar
family, the traditional breeding ground of dancers and musicians.
Ramiah Pillai was a dance master cast in the traditional mould. He was
born in the village Vazhuvoor, a few miles from Mayapuram.
The temple at Vazhuvoor village is dedicated to Lord Siva, under
the name of Gyannasabeshan, and to this day, the students of Vazhuvoor
school, pay obeisance to the deity Gyannasabeshan in the form of
Thodayamangalam at the beginning of each dance recital. Vazhuvoor
Ramiah Pillai trained numerous dance teachers, and numerous outstanding
dancers of today.
He also composed a number of Kuravanjis, and was the first one
to use snake dance, which was very much popularised by Smt. Kamala
Lakshmanan. He used mainly Tamil compositions, and Varnams by Sri.
Papanasam Sivan and Swathi Tirunal. He himself composed many Shabdam,
Keerthanams, Padams, and Thillanas.
"The Nrtta aspect of Bharatanatyam shone in vibrant vitality
throughout Ramiah Pillai's teaching career. He gave equal importance to
Abinaya; but his style demanded a certain lilt which was at once dynamic
and graceful. He was the first one to introduce striking poses in
Bharatanatyam. "This sculpturesque quality became his hallmark and to
this he added facile movements to make his dancers look like elegant
ballerinas," - Lakshmi Viswanathan.
It is this unique portrayal that lends charm to the
Bharatanatyam presented by Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai's school and makes
Vazhuvoor tradition a unique one. Generally there is a popular belief
that there are four different styles in Bharatanatyam. Among them, the Vazhuvoor style gained worldwide recognition.
He became an outstanding choreographer and dance director. He
founded Vazhuvoorar Classical Bharatha Natya Art Centre at Mylapore, and
organised Vazhuvoorar Art Festival in Chennai during the December
season. In the closing years of his life he wrote a book 'Theiveka
Aadal Kalai' on dance.
- Subashini Pathmanathan (a student of late Padmashree Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai)