Award for Kamala Lakshminarayanan
- Uma Dandapani

July 15, 2011

For legendary Bharatanatyam exponent, Kamala Lakshminarayanan, art is a metaphor of life. The rhythms, ragas and the bhavas expressed through Bharatanatyam have determined the robust pulse of her career. With her artistic skills burnished by more than seven decades of experience, Lakshminarayanan continues to notch new awards. Earlier in April this year, this 2010 National Heritage honoree, was conferred the title of ‘Nrithya Rathnakara’ by the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana committee, during the festival of (Carnatic) music and dance held each year, which is attended by well known artists from North America and India. In Cleveland, Lakshminarayanan also danced to the accompaniment of several songs sung by children, one of which included a padam in ragam Saveri, “Ithai vida ennamum vendumo sakshi” by 19th century composer Subbarama Aiyyar. Two of her senior students, Pooja Aier and Shreya Desikan also performed there.

Kamala receiving the Nrithya Rathnakara award

Shreya Desikan

Age rests lightly on this energetic seventy seven year old artist, who is director of the Sree Bharatha Kamalalaya dance school and drives weekly from Long Island, New York to impart the art to her students at the India Center of Westchester Inc., in North White Plains, New York. Recently, senior student Shreya Desikan, performed her arangetram held on June 4, at the Peekskill Middle School auditorium in Westchester County, New York. With her guru Kamala Lakshminarayanan providing support to the crisp and precise rendition of local nattuvangam artist TV Krishna, who also played the morsing, along with a team of musicians from India, this 9th grade honors student at the Yorktown High School, displayed her forte in rhythm and expression, winning plaudits for an impressive solo performance.

Lakshminarayanan’s choreography sparkled with bracing rhythms, ornate and graceful movements and sculptural poses of the classic Vazhuvoor style of Bharatanatyam in which she is justly regarded as a leading exponent. A jathiswaram composed and choreographed by Lakshminarayanan in ragamalika and talamalika, displayed the luster of a well crafted gem, which Shreya delivered impressively. She displayed her well honed rhythmic and expressive skills in the varnam on the Devi, composed by Madurai Muralidharan in ragam Ranjani, while her Thillana in ragam Poornachandrika provided a fitting rhythmic finale to the program. 

The expressive singing of vocalist Sudev Warrier, who is a disciple of maestro Dr. Balamuralikrishna, enhanced the bhava of each presentation, particularly that of the varnam, as well as in the sonorous rendition of the Annamacharya padam, Sriman Narayana in ragam Bhowli. Flautist AP Krishnaprasad, disciple of virtuoso Dr. Ramani, provided melodic support to the orchestra with his deft fingering reminiscent of his guru, expressing the nuances of each ragam in dulcet cascades of notes. The mridangam player KS Sudhaman, provided the rhythmic anchor for the presentation. The percussion skills of the artist, who is a disciple of his father KNS Namboodiri and of Kandaswami Pillai, lent robust and resonant support to the entire program.

As a teacher and artist, Kamala Lakshminarayanan seemed rapt in every dance, as if watching them for the first time, conveying her love for the art with an untiring gaze.

Uma Dandapani is a freelance journalist, whose articles for over 25 years have been carried in leading Indian publications.