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Every performance is important: Janaki Rangarajan
- Lalitha Venkat, Chennai

January 24, 2007

Janaki Rangarajan received her training from the renowned Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam who is the leading proponent of the Bharatanrityam style. Janaki had her arangetram in 1993 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. In 1995, she received the "Young Talent Promotion Award" of Narada Gana Sabha from Vyjayanthimala Bali.

Janaki founded Nritya Niketan in the Washington, DC area, in order to promote South Indian classical dance in the Nation's Capital.

As a performer based in the US, participating in the Chennai season regularly, Janaki shares her thoughts with

Why did you choose Bharatanrityam over Bharatanatyam?
It was never a conscious choice although I am glad it was made at an early age for me. My grandmother decided to put me under the guidance of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam at Nrithyodaya when I was 7 years old. Of course, my former guru, Madhavi Chandrasekhar of Trichy had a role to play in my grandmother's decision. Nevertheless, once I learnt the theory of dance and understood the importance of my guru's research, I relished dancing in the Bharatanrityam style and I still do. What makes Bharatanrityam very special and interesting is the inclusion of the 108 Karanas from Bharata's Natyasastra. Currently, my guru is spearheading the effort to build a temple and a research center in honor of Sage Bharata.

You performed in Chennai last season as well as this season. Did you notice any changes?
No, not really. It has always been a great experience for me to dance in front of the Chennai rasikas. I could see many new names and young dancers being given opportunities to dance during this season. A personal change for me was that this time, I choreographed all of my items whereas last time, I performed to items choreographed by my guru.

Dancers from outside India are generally labeled as 'NRI' dancers. Your comments.
I don't understand the reason why anyone should be labeled an "NRI dancer." What makes these dancers any different from those residing in India? I think Bharatanatyam, or for that matter any art form, is and will be above all these labels that society gives. Whether one stays inside or outside India, it is definitely the quality of the dancer that should bring recognition to the dancer and not their status in the society. I was born in Chennai and grew up living and dancing in this city for 21 years. It is only for the past 5 years that I have been living in the US and yet, I am labeled a "NRI dancer." Sometimes, I feel like some people do not take NRI dancers seriously since the usual assumption is that these dancers are not talented and pay for performances. But, it is a fact that we put in the same amount of time and effort and are as devoted and dedicated as the "local dancers." I only wish dancers were labeled based on the quality of their work and not on where they come from. Labels or not, at the end of the day, it is how well I dance that will speak for me.

How do you feel when you travel all the way to perform during the Chennai season and you find a sparse audience?
It does not really matter to me since I always give my 100% effort whether I have 10 or 100 or 1000 people in front of me. Dancing is a form of prayer for me and I dance for God before I dance for others. I have been dancing for the past 21 years both as a solo performer and also as part of my guru's dance productions. In all these years, I have seen different kinds and sizes of audience. One of the most valuable things that I have learnt during these years is that every performance is extremely important and the performer's enthusiasm or quality should not vary depending on the audience or the venue. Having said that, it would be nice if more rasikas and dance critics attend performances by upcoming dancers. Is it not true that today's veterans were yesterday's young dancers?

Any suggestions on how this season can be improved?
I don't have any suggestions as to how the season can be improved but I hope to see the continued encouragement of new talents by the sabhas, dance critics and the rasikas.

What brings you back to Chennai every year?
Even though I have danced in front of different audiences outside Chennai, it is only in Chennai that I feel completely satisfied, encouraged and creatively challenged - all at the same time. Being a part of the Marghazhi Mahotsavam is a dream come true for me. It is not only about getting the chance to share my dancing with the rasikas of Chennai, but also about watching and learning from all the other dancers who are part of this great festival. The personal comments and constructive criticisms that the rasikas give at the end of each performance make me grow not only as a better dancer but also a good rasika. It is very invigorating and I truly look forward to dancing during the Chennai season.

Janaki can be contacted at