'Art is a Continuous Journey, It Sails With You' - The New Indian Express

'Art is a Continuous Journey, It Sails With You'

Published: 03rd April 2014 07:57 AM

Last Updated: 03rd April 2014 08:06 AM

Even the term ‘multi-faceted’ may fall short—when one tries to summarise the credentials of renowned danseuse Nandini Ramani in one word. A torch-bearer of the bala tradition of dance, the artiste, who is the direct disciple of the legendary T Balasaraswathi, Nandini also has a distinct identity as a performer and teacher.

Gearing up for the 35th Remembrance Day of her father Padma Bhushan Dr V Raghavan, with the release of a Tamizh Katturai Kalanjiyam, Nandini lives by a simple rule. “T Balasaraswathi always believed that art is a continuous journey; it sails with you,” she says. The latest book that will be launched on April 5 is a part of her endeavour to bring out a number of unpublished works by her father from his treasure of research and insightful writings, apart from reprints, translations and compilations. 

Born in an artistic environment, Nandini’s father was instrumental in engaging her in the field of dance from a very young age. Watching her elder sister Priyamvada learn dance from Balasaraswathi, only gave a momentous push to the interest in a young Nandini. “My father established a school for Balasaraswathi, and my sister was the first to learn from her. I soon joined in 1955 and continued my training under her till 1982, a couple of years before she passed away,” she recalls.

It was not a usual class, for it required following of the prescribed guidelines by the legendary exponent, who hailed from the Kandappa tradition of dance. “We could not talk about performance, as she was against the concept of presenting something and forgetting about it after that. She believed art sailed along with you,” she adds.

While she learnt the techniques of the art from K Ganesan, Balarasaraswathi trained her in abhinaya. “The school was equipped with trainers for both the aspects, for it helped me learn throughout from one teacher,” she says. A trained carnatic vocalist, she is one of the few dancers adept at singing while performing.

Launching her own school in the seventies, she also continued to serve as the standby teacher in Balasaraswathi’s absence, when the latter toured the world on programmes.

As a teacher, Nandini has had students from across the world, especially the US, Canada and The Netherlands.

One of the few dancers who regularly toured The Netherlands with her performances and for documentation of research work, Nandini has taken the art to the European country on several occasions between 1981 and 1996 in venues like The Tropical Institute (Amsterdam) and Music Center (Utrecht).

An active supporter of Sanskrit Theatre, she continues to keep the legacy of her father, a Sanskirt scholar, through Samskrita Ranga that was founded by him in 1958. Associated with it since the age of eight, the artistes’ theatre works have toured across India.

Having held some of the most prominent posts in the expert committees at various levels over the years, Nandini has been an active supporter of new talent. “I have wondered how things changed over the years. On the positive side, there is no dearth of talent among young men and women. But, I have a sense of anxiety about how lined have blurred between schools of bharathanatyam. Yet, I am very optimistic,” she adds.

Taking forward a natya sampradaya that continues to find space in its original form, Nandini says that she firmly adheres to principles that keep the austerity of the tradition absolute. “Balasaraswathi set certain principles for performance. It received a noble and dignified status from India and abroad. Hers is an impression that cannot be erased,” she says.

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