|July 1, 2003
We had a
casual holiday visit to Atlanta on our way to the Yogaville. Our old students
from Bharatakalanjali, Krishna, Subadra and Uma, on our arrival said they
had arranged a small reception the next day July 1st. This was without
our permission. Any way we did not want to disappoint them.
small reception turned out to be a big gathering of nearly 300 people in
a shopping center hall. Surprisingly the crowd was expecting us to do a
lecture cum demonstration. No preparations.
The best thing
was the local Bharatanaatyam teachers had brought their siblings and they
danced in our honor. They were very happy and enthusiastic in showing us
their student’s performance.
the crowd expecting us to dance, we did not want to disappoint them, so
Shanta sang and I danced “Varugalaamo Ayya” and small Nritta piece.
After the performance a little boy of 10 walked up to me and announced
innocently to the astonishment of every one standing around, “ can
I say something, you are the best Bharatanaatyam dancer I have ever seen, if I
can dance like you I also want to learn Bharatanaatyam.” I
was so taken aback as if a million-dollar prize had been awarded on me.
I told him to write and give me his comment. In a small piece of paper
collected from the floor, he wrote thus:
I loved your performance, it was great. Out of all the people I have seen
dance you’re the best.
- Vignesh Kalidas
I cherish the little piece of paper the little
boy gave me, like a big International Award citation.
Fond memories from students
I have learnt
dance from many teachers, but none of them is so meticulous. The Dhananjayans
are exacting teachers.
- V A K
I owe my present
position in the field of art to the Dhananjayans. Meeting them was the
turning point in my life. They have always encouraged my mission of dissemination
of arts in teaching and community work. To them I just cannot say ‘Thank
- V R Devika
I was first
student of Bharata Kalanjali. My first class was in their drawing room.
Master and Akka simultaneously took classes then. There was no time limit.
Classes went on and on. We thoroughly enjoyed those beautiful days. Master
used to get angry very easily, largely because he's a perfectionist. But
I see that he's sort of mellowed down...They used to treat me like their
own daughter, even feed me...For my arangetram, all the items were new,
'Natyanjali', 'Shanmuga Shabdam'...the latter was choreographed in just
one evening. It is a great experience to watch master choreograph a piece.
is sharing of knowledge. When I learnt from Arunachalam Pillai who belonged
to the nattuvanar community, I felt that they had this deep sense of insecurity
that the art would be snatched from them and they will have no control
over it. As a result of this, we were never allowed to record--written
or taped--any item taught to us. But here, the Dhananjayans don't hold
back on anything. Another aspect is their emphasis on detail, even in the
rolling of a mat, caring for costumes...yet there is sufficient freedom...
influenced every stage in my life and have extended their love and support
throughout, and my gratitude for them knows no bounds.
Of my twelve
years in India more than half had been spent within Bharata Kalanjali and
I learned so many things about life, art and work from the mundane to the
sublime…The Dhananjayans have been part of the link that takes me back
again and again.
The world has
grown smaller in recent years. The frequent exchanges of visits and ideas
draw us even closer in a friendship more permanent than the limits of space
Siebel Kunhiraman, USA
I have learnt from them have been many – like the lesson of hard work,
the lesson of feeling secure in one’s own capacity to do this, the lesson
of not being threatened by others’ opportunities and successes, the lesson
of giving one’s best at any point of time.
Over the years,
the unstinting support I have received from the Dhananjayans in adding
to my repertoire, liaising with musicians, the invaluable advice and all
sorts of help they extend to me and my pupils regularly, makes me feel
that Mudralaya in London is a sapling from the Bharata Kalanjali tree borne
away by the wind, as its destiny is to carry forth the work of the parent
in another place. May the parents flourish and the saplings multiply!
As I get to
know them more, my love, respect and admiration for them keeps growing.
Close proximity in resident camps made them teachers, parents, friends
and counselors to the whole camp. In addition to being my guru, akka is
also my guide, friend and philosopher.
I just read
your interview in Narthaki and found it rejuvenating. I remember seeing
Aikya Bharatam and that looks like a dream. Your story as a dancer is fascinating
and reinforces the worth of dedication and hard work. I have always looked
upon you as my "MANSEEKA GURUS" and will look up to you to lead me in my
artistic journey. I am proud to say that I have lived and seen your dance
and enjoyed every bit of your artistic presentations both as a rasika and
It is not
the dance technique, but sincerity of mind towards the Supreme that is
embodied in Bharata Kalanjali.
they taught us to put our body and mind to complete discipline for many
years to achieve that moment of total abandon where the dancer is lost
and only the dance remains.
- The Trio
Sisters (Radhika, Gayathri, Shobana)
only emerge as excellent dancers from Bharata Kalanjali but also are greatly
influenced by the way of the Dhananjayans’ life style and aspire to become
good human beings. They are a couple of a kind untouched by the politics
involved in the art world of India.
system of training is an ancient one not easily available in our times.
I teach dance in England. I came all this way to live with my Gurus and
train intensively, which is an opportunity not to be wasted. Here you learn
dance with a combination of music and yoga. I’d love to come back. It’s
an amazing experience.
Shankar 1997, UK (about the Yogaville camp)
I would like
to thank you very much for giving to many of us such a fine and beautiful
presentation of Bharatanatyam. This was the first time I have seen a recital
by yourselves. Many people have told me of your wonderful presentations,
but in real life there are no words in English to describe what we see.
I’m sure there is in the beautiful language of Sanskrit.
What a feast
of Bharatanatyam we have had. No doubt you will agree that we all owe a
lot to that lovely lady of Kalakshetra, Smt. Rukmini Devi and her efforts
over many years to bring the beauty of the classical arts of India to all
ambassadors should be artists such as yourselves, who convey to us the
warmth, purity and truth that lies in the heart of all beings. Then perhaps
we would not have so much trouble in the world.
As you are
your disciples’ Guru, so you are your audiences’ Guru for you execute the
word Guru to its fullest. That is, you drive away the darkness for us,
giving us enlightenment. It is like being on a train going through a tunnel
for the light at the end appears at first as a mere speck becoming larger
quite rapidly till we seem to explode out into the brightness of daylight.
The word in
Tamil for goodbye or I take leave is “poi varugiraen”, which I believe
literally means, “I go, I come”, so please do not take too long in coming
- John Morrison
England, 4th May 1964
My Gurus gave
very generously...They were very demanding as teachers...the excellent
training has made me learn how to learn...
remains etched in my memory as a Holy Temple in which I not only imbibed
the infinite power of the mystic dance form that has become a part of me
but also had the revered opportunity of being with divine people whom I
can never forget.
the basis of their teaching. To them I owe not only my clarity but also
my creativity in composing. I love and respect them deeply.
are respected for imparting the highest values of life, apart from dancing.
Nothing is left to chance and no one is taken for granted. Every student
is cherished in his or her own right.
of imparting knowledge to the students and guidance is simply unmatched.
Watching them perform is breathtaking.
To my Gurus...Dancing
bells adorn their feet as
before I look
again - father and mother
I adore them
with all the strength in my heart
I am, what you see today,
is what they
have generously given
I owe it to
them, I know
and here is
Not only are
the Dhananjayans fine artists, they are simply beautiful human beings,
inside and out. All the praise in the world will never be enough to describe
what they mean to me. They have not only been my teachers, but my best
friends, and a brother and sister to me. They are kind, humble, generous,
hospitable, understanding and never say an unkind word about anyone.
Mandelik, Madrid, Spain
I was constantly
filled with inspiration by watching them work and perform, by talking to
them and simply by being in their presence.
The most unique
quality of this world-renowned pair is their desire to teach each student
to the best of their ability with steady and patient nurturing. I feel
I speak for many students who are being brought up in a western society,
yet living in eastern homes – Anna and Akka are a breath of fresh air.
They don’t try to mould us into traditional children, but instead, accept
us as individuals, as they reveal to us the finer qualities of being Asian.
is like a gurukulam. If you want to experience the feeling of a true guru-shishya
relationship, this is the place. We learn not only dance but also choreography.
here for 8 years now. All who come here not only learn dance but also develop
character. After every dance class, theory is also taught.
We learn dance
and also how to impart that knowledge. We also learn about our culture.
I have learnt much here and wish to learn more.
I have learnt
from Calcutta Kalamandalam. I came to Bharata Kalanjali to learn the Kalakshetra
style of Bharatanaatyam. I like the atmosphere and the teaching here.
in Bharata Kalanjali for 12 years. I came here after learning dance in
Trivandrum. Since then I've been a student, teacher under the Dhananjayans.
I've done many major roles in productions done by Bharata Kalanjali, the
first of them notably 'Ghanashyam'. Also 'Ramanaatakam', 'Sanghamitra'
and 'Mahaabhaaratam'. I've worked abroad with the Dhananjayans and others
in Greece, USA and other places.
in Bharata Kalanjali for the past 10 years. It has not only been a dance
school for me but a home away from home. All my values have been imbibed
from the Dhananjayans. I've changed as a person...My first production was
'Tasherdesh', then 'Dhanvantri', 'Rasamudra'...
in Bharata Kalanjali for 10 years. I feel good being here. I've learnt
a lot from Bharata Kalanjali...not only dancing but many disciplines. Our
gurus treat us like friends...
here for the past 7 years. I take great pride and pleasure in saying that
the Dhananjayans are my gurus...they not only teach dance, but slokas,
they tell us the mythological stories...
a student here for the past 10 years. I'm really fortunate to have such
great gurus as my teachers and very privileged to be part of Bharata Kalanjali...they
are very open to other dance forms and imbibing certain aspects of those..equal
emphasis is laid on improving the students in talam, kalari, yoga, music
here for the last 9 years. They emphasise a lot on perfection. I' ve learnt
a lot about discipline...apart from the items, we also learn a lot of theory...
You will both
be in my memories for life; I wanted to tell you that you have both had
such an impact on me. You inspire me to continue my study of dance, and
to also pursue a deeper knowledge of both dance and music.
of the dance camp at Austin.
Thank you for
helping me with my dance moves. I will never forget it.
Thank you so
much for coming to Austin for this dance camp. I feel so privileged to
be able to attend this camp and learn from such renowned artists. Thank
My dancing has gotten better thanks to you.
Thank you so
much for teaching us (and tolerating us). My time at camp was great! Thank
& Anna for all the years of guidance and advice. You are the best.
Thanks a lot
for all the valuable things that you have taught me!
Thank you so
much for the wonderful opportunity.
Thank you for
everything you have ever taught me, not just dance, but discipline and
Wow! This was
fun. Do it again please…
Thank you so
much for teaching me dance and making my stay so great.
a really great time at camp.
It was such
a great experience dancing with you. I hope I get to do this again soon.
Thank you for everything.
As usual, it
was wonderful working with you both. I can’t wait to do this again. Thank
We have written
a poem for Anna and Akka
us with our thayyas and thakkas
We want to
thank them with all our heart
us through this beautiful art
They have put
this form in a new light
each one of the aspects in our sight
has led us to improvement
each one of our movements.
We thank them
again for all of their dedication
to this Austin Dance camp so much love and affection.
for so generously sharing your wisdom, knowledge, and artistry with me.
It was an honor to be your student.
My best times
at camp were those spent in your company and I will hold these memories
close to my heart.
I am deeply
inspired by both of you, and the way your lives seem to emanate the richness
of Bharatanaatyam on so many levels.
To my dearest
Master and Akka,
The gift of
love and knowledge is truly a priceless fortune; my life has been gifted
by your generous love and knowledge.
every moment that I have spent with you and keep it very close to heart.
Thank you for being such a positive influence in my life.
I am very
grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to learn at your academy.
It was a great joy – a wonderful experience. Thank you ever so much.
of life – to profoundly and positively touch the lives of others. I hope
that I will be able to achieve the same one day. Whether it be the attention
that you pay in class, the devotion and haunting beauty / serenity of bhajans,
or simply the positive energy that you emanate, I will remember it all
until I return. For all of this, I must thank you sincerely, Anna and Akka.
A true meaning
of the word artiste in the dance field should include the characteristics
of a dancer, choreographer, teacher, connoisseur, scholar and crusader
for the arts. In my opinion, I feel that the Dhananjayans possess these
qualities and more. I have been an admirer of their dancing as a couple
and their capacity to put together group productions. Their ability to
choreograph interesting patterns and formations in-group, to sustain the
interest of the viewer in a dance drama or group presentation is superior
to anyone else.
They have always
paid attention to production values and details without which a presentation
cannot be a success. They are scholars of the art. But what has earned
my respect for them is their capacity to appreciate talent when they see
it and promote it even if it is outside their school, and their enduring
efforts at reforming the dance field, which is subject to extreme corruption.
They have never hesitated to speak up when they felt something was wrong.
They have also never hesitated to help out younger artists whenever they
could. Such generosity and conviction comes from deep-rooted security of
oneself as an artist and human being.
For you are
a very rare person and special teacher, guide, parent, etc., Akka, and
I thank you for being a wonderful part of my world.
Before I met
you, dance was not a big deal to me, but now it is. You are the best teacher,
and whoever learns from you is lucky.
Friends, Associates & Well Wishers