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Sep 2001

Srekala Bharath, student of guru K.J.Sarasa, is an exponent of the vibrant Vazhuvoor style of Bharatanatyam and had her arangetram at the age of 10. She has given many performances and participated in major dance festivals in India and abroad. Srekala believes in strict adherence to her dance form and is the recipient of many awards including the Kalaimamani from Tamil Nadu government, Bharatha Rathnam from the government of Srilanka..
Some of her notable solo and ballet thematic presentations are Kodhai Potriya Kannan, Swati Smriti, Annamayya Bhakti Manjari and Thyagaraja Vaibhavam.
She runs her own dance school Thejas to impart dance training in the Vazhuvoor style. She was elected secretary of ABHAI - Association of Bharatanatyam artistes of India in May 2001.
You are to receive the Nritya Kala Shiromani in December, adding to other awards that you already have. How important are these awards to you?
Awards are recognitions to prominent artistes of performing arts. It gives us more responsibility in order to better our presentations with each performance.

You are known for your strict adherence to tradition. How can you adapt tradition to contemporary themes?
Yes, I am very happy performing and earning a name in solo Bharatanatyam in its traditional format as I was trained only in this by my Guru. I am sure you will agree that tradition is the base of all dance forms. So when this aspect is sound, it could be adapted to any form of contemporary themes.

Is it enough to merely mime past traditions without making a personal interpretation?
Definitely not. Just miming the lyrics of the song is not enough. An artiste should know the meaning of the lyrics and understand to use her own imagination in presenting her dance numbers.
You recently participated in a workshop conducted by modern dancer Jaan Freeman from New York. How has it helped you?
Very interesting. Being hardcore classical Bharatanatyam dancer, I was wondering whether I would like it! As soon as I saw Jaan conducting classes with Thattukazhi, I felt the touch of Bharatanatayam! The stretches he taught were amazing. 10 days of 2 hrs a day has helped me be more active then what I already am.

Do you think local dancers should take more interest in such workshops and not confine themselves to only their own dance rehearsals and routines? How useful do you think such workshops are to the development of a dancer trained in a classical style?
Yes, it will surely help classical dancers like us and if the dancer is able to allocate her time accordingly, it's best to attend workshops like this.

Touching on the topic of health, you recovered from a brain tumor operation to become one of the prominent dancers not only in Chennai, but overseas too. How did you do it?
God's grace. Thanks to my doctors, family members and Guru who have always supported and encouraged me to rise up to this level. Added to this are my grit, love and dedication for this art that has made me what I am today.

Dance orchestra and their increasing demands is a very prevalent problem. What have your experiences been in that regard?
Touch wood! I have had no such problems so far.

Is an arangetram really necessary in this day and age? You recently conducted the arangetram of your 7 year old student. Isn't that an absurdly young age?
Arangetram is the very first step that a dancer takes in her life by presenting herself in front of an invited audience. Agreed, I had my arangetram at the age of 10 and a Guru plays an important role in this. It is necessary to perform this according to their own requirements. I firmly believe in respecting the parents' sentiments as far as an arangetram goes because it is more of a family function in addition to inviting friends. But I was very happy that this arangetram was very well received, as this child is talented with love for Bharatanatyam. Yes, it will take few more years for her to give solo performances and I as her Guru am there to guide her. I don't see anything absurd in age because the legendary Kamala had her arangetram when she was only 6 years!

How did you feel on being elected secretary of Abhai?
It came as a pleasant surprise when the president Mr. Narasimhachari announced me as a secretary.

What projects have you planned for the year?
a. Launch Abhai's website with all necessary information.
b. To give opportunities to young and new talents.
c. To honour performing artistes and gurus.

(As told to LV)

Srekala Bharath
63 A, 2nd Street, Karpagam Avenue
Chennai 600 028, India
Ph: 91 - 44 - 4939671 / 4933865 (R)
4901535 / 4901536 (O)
Fax: 91 - 44 - 4910506