CHENNAI: Not hailing from a family of dancers did not affect bharathanatyam artiste A Lakshmanaswamy’s career prospects a bit. “It’s not often that parents allow their child to take up dance as a career option, especially a dance form like bharathanatyam,” says the 51-year-old bachelor, who was conferred with the Madurai N Krishnan Memorial Award by Karthik Fine Arts at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan recently. “But thankfully, that wasn’t the case with me,” he adds with a smile.
Given that he had no background of dance, how did he develop an interest in the art form? “I just don’t know. I feel I was destined to become a dancer. Even when I was a school-going kid, I used to look at the television, observe dancers and practise dance moves myself. So, it all came out of an interest,” he tells us.
After completing his schooling in Malaysia (his birthplace as well), Lakshmanaswamy took to catering and worked in a bakery. That’s when he decided to start learning bharathanatyam professionally. “Having completed my schooling, I had an urge to learn bharathanatyam from a professional dancer. In 1982, when I was 19 years old, I started taking classes under bharathanatyam artiste Meera Venugopal,” says the founder of dance school Nrithyalakshana.
But even before he mastered the dance form, he made a move to Chennai (then Madras). “In 1985, I shifted to Madras after being told that there was a dearth of opportunities in Malaysia. I soon came under the direct tutelage of dance guru K J Sarasa (who has taken classes for former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as well) and started getting trained in Vazhoovoor bani,” he says. “I soon started assisting her in teaching students. I observed her closely, and it was only in 1994 that I launched my own dance school,” he adds.
How many students does he take classes for? “I take classes for two boys right now. One is from Canada and the other from the US. As far as girls are concerned, I have no count as to how many!” he tells us. Ask him the reason for not many boys learning the dance form, and he’s quick to respond, “There’s a general feeling that male dancers are effeminate. But that’s not the case. Isn’t lord Nataraja a bharathanatyam dancer? Dance is not dependent on one’s gender,” he says. “In fact, if you look at the history of bharathanatyam, you’ll find numerous male bharathanatyam exponents, much higher than their female counterparts,” he adds.
While Lakshmanaswamy has received a number of awards and accolades — Bharatha Kala Rathna from Shree Bharathalaya and Yuva Kala Bharathi from Bharath Kalachar to mention a few — he says it is the Madurai N Krishnan Memorial Award that will always stay close to his heart. “I received the award from artiste Krithika Subramanian, who I know very well. So, it’s indeed very dear to me,” he signs off.
Lakshmanaswamy will be performing in Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, Brahma Gana Sabha, on January 1.