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Acclaimed dancer Shanta Rao passed away on December 28, 2007 at Bangalore. She was 81. An exponent of the Pandanallur style, she was a disciple of guru Meenakshisundaram Pillai. At Kerala Kalamandalam, she was the first female student to learn Kathakali from P Ramunni Menon, and Mohiniattam from Krishnan Panikkar. She was the first Indian to study Kandyan dancing in Sri Lanka. She worked with Kuchipudi gurus Vempati Peda Satyam, Vedantam Reghavaiyya and Vempati Chinna Satyam. To create her own style Bhama Nrityam, she learnt the principles of Bhama Sutram rituals from Venkata Chelapati Sastri.
Shanta transcribed her exhaustive study of comparative dance forms into documented resources without any external assistance. A very private person, the only one allowed to document Shanta Rao's performances for her biographical Dances of The Golden Hall, published by the ICCR, was renowned photographer Sunil Janah.
Shanta Rao was honored with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1970), Padma Shri (1971), Kalidasa and Shantala awards.

Kathakali guru Kavungal Chathunni Panicker (1923-2007) passed away on November 29, 2007 at the age of 84 at a private hospital at Erumappetty near Thrissur. The last patriarch of the Kavungal Kalari, known for its methodical training, he was famous for his portrayal of Hanuman in 'Kalyana Saugandhikam' and 'Thoranayudham,' Raudrabhima in 'Duryodhana Vadhom,' the hunter in 'Nalacharitham' and 'Kiratham.' From 1947-1985, he taught at Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad. He returned to his native place in the 1990s and tried to revive the Kavungal Kalari. Among the awards he received were Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Kendra Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Kerala Kalamandalam fellowship, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi fellowship and the State Kathakali Award (2003). He was honored with the Padma Shree in 2006.

Asako Takami (April 19, 1960- November 3, 2007) was born in Nigata, Japan. When she saw her first Odissi dance performance in Tokyo, it captured her heart and Asako was inspired to learn this beautiful art form. Asako started her training in Odissi in 1983 under Kumkum Lal. She later studied under guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. After fiercely fighting cancer for the last four years, Asako passed away on Saturday, November 3, 2007. She leaves behind her parents and her partner Ralph Lemon, and a community of dancers and dance lovers who will deeply feel her absence.

Odissi guru Surendranath Jena passed away in New Delhi on October 8, 2007. He was 83. He was the Odissi guru at Delhi based Triveni Kala Sangam and won the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in March 2007. Dr. Kapila Vatsayan, Yamini Krishnamurti, Rekha Tandon, Ranjana Gauhar are some of his noted disciples.
Through a project funded by the British Academy, Alessandra Lopez Royo made a documentary film 'Performing Konarak, Performing Hirapur' on him last year. Surendranath Jena was greatly inspired by the sculptures of Konark temple and Chausat Yogini temple in Hirapur. His dance style differs from those of other gurus in that he introduced elements of folk forms with various sculpturesque poses. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and son Nirmal who runs a dance school in Sydney, Australia. His eldest daughter Pratibha Jena propagates his style.

B Lalitharatnam, eminent arts patron of Chennai, popularly referred to as Mrs. B.V.S.S. Mani, passed away on August 27, 2007. She was the sponsor of the prestigious Natya Kala Conference of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai and was the Co-Founder of Lalitha Kala Vedika, a premier self-financing cultural institution of Chennai.

Bharatanatyam guru SK Kameshwaran passed away at 8.10am on July 20, 2007 at Chennai.
A Kalaimamani awardee, he was aged 79.

Bharatanatyam guru Medha Yodh, passed away in Los Angeles on July 11, 2007 at the age of 79. Yodh joined the UCLA as faculty member in the Department of Dance in 1976 and remained until her retirement in 1994. She continued to teach privately till 2002. She was born on July 31, 1927 in Ahmedabad and trained in Manipuri under Nabhakumar Singh. In 1962 when Balasaraswati visited Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for a residency, Yodh came under her spell and became her student. Yodh worked with numerous dance companies and dance organizations in Los Angeles during her career. Her documentary film 'Garba-Ras: A glimpse into Gujarati culture' (1987) was funded by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department as part of its folk arts program.

R Visweswaran (husband of Bharatanatyam dancer Chitra Visweswaran) passed away on June 28, 2007 a little before midnight in Chennai. He was a composer for dance, a vocalist and an acclaimed santoor player.

R Ramachandran (born on January 1, 1924), founder-secretary of the organization Hamsadwani, popularly known as 'Hamsadhwani' Ramachandran, passed away in Chennai on May 24, 2007 at the age of 83. At Hamsadhwani's popular NRI music festival in December, dancers and musicians from abroad perform in Chennai.

Chakyar Koothu exponent K K Rajan (father of Bangalore based Bharatanatyam dancer Padmaja Suresh) passed away on April 6, 2007. K K Rajendran, popularly known as Chakyar Rajan received the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in 1994. Though Chakyar Rajan had not got any formal training in the traditional art, Painkulam Rama Chakyar, Sengalipuram Anantharama Diskshithar, Anjam Madhavan Namboodiri and Maani Madhavan Chakyar were sources of guidance and strength to him.

R Yagnaraman, who served as secretary of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha from 1956, passed away on April 3, 2007 in Chennai. He was 85. Born on July 1, 1922, at Ranganathapuram in Thanjavur district, he had his schooling at Tirukattupalli and later in Chennai. One of the longest serving secretaries of a city sabha, he was instrumental in organizing landmark events such as the annual Natya Kala Conference, the Gokulashtami festival, and the Pongal Nagaswara festival. He promoted music, dance, theatre, harikatha, namasankeerthanam and interesting lecture demonstrations apart from inviting artistes from all over the country and abroad to perform at Krishna Gana Sabha. Under his dynamic leadership, the sabha is now a well appointed a/c hall with good aesthetics.

Kathakali exponent and guru Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair passed away on April 3, 2007 at his residence in Shornur, Kerala. He was 79. The son of Kathakali maestro Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, he was one of the early students at Kalamandalam where he later became a teacher and then principal. His major contribution was 'Cholliyattam' a comprehensive performance manual published by Kalamandalam. He will be always remembered as an outstanding actor, teacher and writer. He is survived by his wife Kalamandalam Satyabhama, two sons and two daughters.

Bharatanatyam guru Narmada, a disciple of Guru Kittappa Pillai, passed away at 9pm on March 30, 2007 at Bangalore. She was 65. She recently received the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her immense contribution to the field of Bharatanatyam. She was director of Shakuntala Nrityalaya.

Born on 27 March 1917, veteran art critic P V Subramaniam, better known as Subbudu, passed away on March 29, 2007. A fearless writer known for his frank criticisms of even established artistes, Subbudu was the music and dance critic of The Statesman for 60 years. He was also popular for his writings in Tamil journals like Kalki. He lived the early part of his life in Burma. There he took part in theatre activities and provided musical accompaniment to drama companies. He returned to India during World War II. A proficient player of the harmonium and keyboard, he was also a composer and accompanied well-known musicians and dancers, including Yamini Krishnamurti.
His biography 'Beyond Destiny: The Life and Times of Subbudu' by Lada Guruden Singh, is perhaps the first ever biography of an Indian critic from the world of classical performing arts.

Chitti Durgadevi, founder / director of Nartana School of Kuchipudi Dance passed away on March 6, 2007 at Chennai.

Tangirala Raghu, 61, a noted singer, composer and dance accompanist based in Mumbai passed away on February 7, 2007.

Bharatanatyam dancer/teacher Padmini Rao, passed away on January 27, aged 51. She was a direct disciple of guru Kittappa Pillai and won the Rajyotsava Award in 2006. She was the founder of Ponnaiah Lalithakala Academy, Bangalore.

Bharatanatyam guru Uma Sundaram passed away in Chennai on January 24, 2007. She was 62.

Natanamani Balu, director of Natanamani Natya Niketan passed away on January 22, 2007 at Chennai.

Mr Jathar, husband of Kathak guru Rohini Bhate (who received Sangeet Natak Akademi's Fellowship this year), passed away in Pune.

Kathakali guru Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty, who was suffering from lung cancer, breathed his last at the Thakurpukur Cancer Hospital on January 5, 2007 at Kolkata. He was 79 and is survived by his dancer wife Thankamani Kutty and three sons.

Born in Palghat district of Kerala on Nov 13, 1927, Kutty came to Kolkata in 1955 and popularized Kathakali in this region. Kalamandalam Calcutta was founded in 1968 by Thankamani and Govindan Kutty as an institution to impart training in South Indian classical dances to students of Kolkata and beyond. When guru Govindan Kutty completed 50 years of his settlement in Kolkata, it was commemorated in July 2005 with a photo exhibition on his life and works followed by a felicitation by the Govt. of West Bengal. Recipient of the Uday Shankar Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, he was the sole promoter and guru of Kathakali in Kolkata for many years. His forte was to create a fusion between Rabindra Nritya and Kathakali. Kutty has also written various books on Kathakali in English as well as in Bengali.
A smarana sabha will be held on Jan 14 from 10am to 6pm at Kalamandalam Performing Arts & Research Centre, 49/61, Prince Golam Md. Shah Road, Golf Gardens, Ramdhan Park, Kolkata 700033
Ph: 98311-68491, 98312-86440, 98313-95136, 98318-33954, (033) - 24618454 / 24618338

Bali Ram, Indrani Rehman, Korada Narasimha Rao
Photo courtesy: Ram Rahman

Kuchipudi dancer/guru Korada Narasimha Rao passed away in Hyderabad on January 4, 2007. He was 74. Korada gained fame as the guru and dance partner in Kuchipudi to Indrani Rahman in the late fifties. He travelled and performed with Indrani across India, Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Cuba in1960 and received widespread acclaim for his dramatic and theatrical performances. They performed before many heads of State including Jawaharlal Nehru, Queen Elizabeth and Fidel Castro. At the International Cultural Festival held at Paris during 1960 by Theatre-Des-Nations under the sponsorship of the UNESCO, he was adjudged as the Best Male Dancer of 1960. He was the first Indian, who had received that award so far. He lived and taught at Elluru in Andhra Pradesh and his last rites were performed there. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2006.

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