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Blessed to be the daughter of Jayalakshmi
- Urmila Sathyanarayanan

January 29, 2017

It may sound like a clichéd statement, but I am a narthaki chiefly because of my mother. I was taken to class when I was three! I cannot recall my first few classes, but dance classes are a part of my early childhood memories. To me dance class and Church Park convent go hand in hand.



The choice of schooling and learning Bharatanatyam were decisions taken solely by my mother. Being an only child and knowing how much dance meant to my mother I took full advantage. I would command and demand just as compensation for practice. My mother patiently monitored me through all this. She always said that once inside the class I was a different person.

I performed first when I was four years old as part of a group for my grandfather Dr. B. Nammalwar Naidu's 60th birthday. My mother worked hard to make it happen. I was ten when I had my arangetram. The previous night I told her I felt my body was a bit warm. That was reason enough to trigger a panic attack in her to the extent that she was hospitalized and came to the arangetram in a wheel chair! I travelled all over the country giving performances and my mother would painstakingly cook South Indian food for all the musicians. While on stage I would expect her to SEE my every item and then come flying back to see me after every item.

My diet was always of utmost importance to her. Even after my own child was born she made sure I had enough rest and proper diet prior to performances. My dance wardrobe (costumes and jewellery) were her prerogative (which I gladly gave in to). Over the years, with age and illness we have spent days in hospital rooms where I have quietly practiced, choreographed and even taught! Her only response being it took her mind away from the pain.

A few years back a casual visit to the doctor revealed the dreaded malignancy of the breast. It was mid November. Her first response was to get surgery done at the earliest so the Season will not be disturbed. I was doing a new solo production. She made sure she was present for the stage rehearsal as usual in the first row with drains cleverly concealed in a shoulder bag! She is affectionately called 'amamma' by all the students. The arangetram saris are handpicked by her despite knee surgeries and fractured bones.

Her motto is "Dance is divine, dancers are a gift of God; they MUST be nurtured." A beautiful lady, in body and mind, I am truly blessed to be the daughter of Jayalakshmi.

Urmila Sathyanarayanan trained under eminent gurus K.N. Dandayuthapani Pillai, K.J. Sarasa and Kalanidhi Narayanan. Urmila is the founder of Natya Sankalpaa, her twenty-year old dance institution in Chennai, which aims to create a complete Bharatanatyam artist where she imparts to her students theory, music and yoga as part of the curriculum. She is a member of the Governing Board of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, and Governing Body of South Zone Cultural Center.

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