Thanjavur Rajalakshmi, musician, Bharatanatyam artist and teacher, film actress of yesteryear and director of Sri Gurulaya Academy, passed away on December 25, 2015 in Chennai. She was a recipient of the Kalaimamani award.
Professor Ramanujam, the pioneer of parallel theatre movement in Tamilnadu, passed away on December 7, 2015 at his house in Tanjavur. He was 80. He was a student of National School of Drama. He played a crucial role in reviving Kaisika Natakam at Tirukurungudi temple in Tamilnadu.
"My theatre mentor, my pillar during the 20 year challenge of reviving the now well known annual KAISIKA NATAKAM. Teacher, guru, cheerleader. You will be missed by many. A rich life. A peaceful end. 80 years of dedication and contribution to Indian theatre. SALUTE!"
- Anita Ratnam
Margi Sathi, who died in Thiruvananthapuram on December 1, 2015, was among the finest practitioners of Koodiyattam and Nangiarkoothu. She was 50 and died after a long battle with cancer.
About Margi Sathi
Kathak guru and performer Pt. Arjun Mishra passed away on October 22, 2015 in a nursing home in Lucknow.
Photos: Avinash Pasricha, courtesy Bhuyan family
Renowned senior Sattriya exponent Pushpa Bhuyan passed away at her Vasant Vihar residence in New Delhi on Oct 7, 2015. During her childhood she trained in Manipuri under Guru Rathindra Nath Sinha and later with Guru Kamini Sinha. When she was in her teens, she travelled from Jorhat, Assam to Chennai to learn Bharatanatyam in Kalakshetra, Chennai. She also learnt from Kubernath Tanjorkar in Baroda, Muthaiah Pillai at Tanjore and abhinaya from Gauri Amma. Simultaneously, Pushpa learnt Kathak from Guru Vishnu Vaishalkar. She studied Sattriya dance under Tankeshwar Hazarika Barbayan of Mul Kamalabari Sattra, Titabor, and established Pushpanjali Cultural Academy in Guwahati, offering training in Sattriya dance and Bharatanatyam. Pushpa started her annual Pushpanjali Dance Festival in Guwahati and also worked to gain classical status for Sattriya dance. She trained her three daughters Vanita Nagpal, Sangeeta Mehta and Simran Raheja in Sattriya dance. She received Padma Shri in 2002.
One of the early pioneers in the revival and reconstructing of Sattriya dance, this Assamese beauty adorned several magazine covers, including Femina and Illustrated Weekly of India. A Padmasri recipient from President R K Narayan, Pushpa Bhuyan’s tireless efforts towards the classical form of her native Assam has been widely acknowledged. She was married to businessman Nobo Bhuyan and was the first Assamese student of Rukmini Devi's Kalakshetra. In Madras, she also continued her dance practice with Adyar K Lakshman and Mylapore Gowri Amma. She is survived by three daughters Vanita, Sangeeta and Rita.
- Anita Ratnam
Kathak guru Sudarshan Dheer passed away on October 3, 2015.
Sudarshan Dheer taught Kathak at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai in early 1950s. He danced in a modern dance drama ‘Dekh teri Bambai’ produced by INT Damu Zaveri in 1956 in which he played the role of a policeman and did Kathak to control traffic. It was applauded for the brilliant choreography. It was sent to Paris in 1957 by Govt of India and brought to SNA’s all India dance seminar and festival in 1958 and staged at Talkatora Garden.
- Dr. Sunil Kothari
Mohiniattam Guru Kalamandalam Satyabhama (born Nov 4, 1937) passed away in the early hours of September 13, 2015, aged 77. She joined Kalamandalam as a teacher in 1957. She was the first woman Vice Principal of Kerala Kalamandalam and later became its Principal till she retired in 1992. She was married to Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair.
She shaped the art! by K. K. Gopalakrishnan
Doyenne of a dance tradition by V Kaladharan
Luise Elcanness Scripps, patron, artiste, India lover and main supporter of Balasaraswati's art in USA (and of her family art as represented by Lakshmi, Aniruddha and Douglas Knight), passed away in the USA on September 11, 2015.
Koodiyattam exponent and Guru Kidangoor Rama Chakyar passed away at the age of 88 in Vallachira, Thrissur, Kerala, on September 2, 2015.
Bharatanatyam and Kuchupidi Guru MV Narasimhachari (Aug 22, 1942 – Aug 19, 2015) passed away at Kaveri Hospital, Chennai on 19 August 2015 of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Vasanthalakshmi and two daughters. With his dancer wife, he started the Kalasamarpana Foundation in 1969. Together, they have been honored with Kalaimamani by the Government of Tamilnadu, Nrithya Choodamani by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for their contributions to the field of Kuchipudi and the Param Acharya Award for 2011. Narasimhachari was a music composer, choreographer, singer, nattuvanar, mridangam player, concert musician, performing artiste of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi and a guru of an outstanding capacity. He was an MSc. in Yoga and has done extensive research on the use of yoga in dance. He was the president of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India) for nine years.
Pandanallur M Gopalakrishnan Pillai passed away on August 17 (1938-2015). A scion in the lineage of Thanjavur nattuvanars, he was the son of Pandanallur Muttayya Pillai (1900-1979), and grandson of Pandanallur Meenakshisundaram Pillai (1869-1954).
Bharatanatyam Guru Pandanallur Swaminatha Pillai, grandson of the great nattuvanar Meenakshisundaram Pillai, passed away in Pandanallur on August 5, 2015.
Senior Bharatanatyam Guru Jayalakshmi Alva (81), a student of Dandayudhapani Pillai, Swarna Saraswati and Mylapore Gowri Ammal passed away in Mangalore on July 21, 2015. Fondly called Alva amma, she was instrumental in popularizing Bharatanatyam in Bombay and Mangalore. As an early student of Dandayudhapani Pillai, she used to learn in his barsati room in Adyar, a room where two other Kalakshetra boys - Mohan Khokar and Adyar Lakshman - stayed in 1946. She was dedicated and fought societal pressures then to learn dance. She based herself in Mangalore where in 1974 she created her dance institution Sridevi Nrithya Kendra along with her husband Ramakrishna Alva and continued to teach and promote Bharatanatyam, a task in which her daughter Dr. Araty Shetty helped her. Among her celebrated students are Sonal Mansingh and film actress Waheeda Rehman. She was awarded the attendance Lifetime Achievement award in 2013. The film compiled on her for the occasion by Ashish Mohan Khokar, remains the last updated record of this genial, gracious guru. With her death, an era comes to an end.
Kathak exponent Surendra Saikia passed away in a Lucknow hospital on July 16, 2015. He was a recipient of the Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and a senior guru of Kathak Kendra, Lucknow.
Shyamala Mohanraj (1941-2015), senior most student of the legendary T Balasaraswati, passed away in the early morning hours of July 14, 2015 in Chennai. She had been ailing for several months. She is survived by a son. Shyamala was a sensitive and outstanding interpreter of the abhinaya tradition made famous by her guru, the iconic Bharatanatyam performer and musician, T Balasaraswati. For several years, Shyamala retreated from the performance scene until she was coaxed into returning by some students and scholars of the traditional form.
A sad morning - heartbroken with the passing of the great dance exponent, my teacher and mentor, Shyamala Mohanraj, a true luminary of the T. Balasaraswati dance tradition. Her unique abhinaya was a master class in subtlety, humility, humanity and sheer poetic elegance, as evidenced by the sheer volume of praise from awe-struck audiences in Canada when inDANCE had the privilege of presenting Shyamala in 2007 as part of our Devadasi Dance Symposium at the University of Toronto and again in 2010 as part of our symposium on Solo Dance in South India at the Royal Ontario Museum. Shyamala’s passing is a genuine loss to the world of Bharatanatyam. The last of her kind - an original artist, who so effortlessly excelled in portraying such complex interpretations of text, movement and music.
- Hari Krishnan
Bharatanatyam dancer Jayanthi Subramaniam lost her husband Subramaniam (popularly known as Mani) to cancer on June 20, 2015 in Chennai.
Adyar Rama Rao, elder brother of late Guru Adyar Lakshman, passed away peacefully in the early morning of May 3, 2015 at Chennai. He was a torchbearer of his alma mater Kalakshetra.
Karunambal G Pillai, daughter of Kuppiah Pillai, sister of Guru T.K. Kalyanasundaram Pillai and wife of A.T. Govindaraj Pillai, of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kala Mandir, Mumbai, passed away on April 29, 2015. She was the fourth generation of dance gurus tracing her lineage which started from Venkatakrishna Nattuvanar. She taught dance along with her husband from the day the school was founded in 1945. She trained many brilliant students. Damayanti Joshi, Kamini Kaushal, Nalini Jayawant, Guru Mani of Kalasadan, Praveena Vashi, Sudha Chandrasekher, Lakshmi Iyer, Jayam and Asha Amarnath are some of her well known disciples. Karunambal’s son G. Vasantkumar follows the profession becoming the eldest of the fifth generation of nattuvanars.
Bharatanatyam guru Leela Ramanathan passed away (Sept 8, 1927 - March 22, 2015) in Bangalore. She studied under some of the greatest dance maestros - Bharatanatyam under Kolar Puttappa Pillai, Ram Gopal, Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Muthiah Pillai, Kittappa Pillai and Mylapore Gowri; Kathakali from Chandu Panikar; Kathak from Gowri Prasad and Sohanlal; and Odissi from Deba Prasad Das. In 1972 she founded the Meenakshi Sundaram Center of Performing Arts in Bangalore under the auspices of the East West Education Trust. She was a prolific writer and researcher in classical Indian dance forms with hundreds of articles to her credit. She was the former President of the Karnataka Nrityakala Parishat, a member of the Sangeeta Nritya Academy and a Trustee of the East West Education Trust. She was also a member of various national and state level Dance Audition Boards.
She was the recipient of numerous awards and titles from organizations like the Karnataka Gana Kala Parishat, Bangalore Gayana Samaj, Karnataka Sangeetha Nritya Academy, Bangalore University, University Women’s Association and the Karnataka Nritya Kala Parishat. The Karnataka Government awarded her the State Rajyotsava Award and the Shantala Award. Her interpretation of Varnams in Bharatanatyam has been archived by the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi and Karnataka Sangeet Nritya Academy.
More about her
The last surviving dancing mahari of Jagannath temple, Shashimani Devi passed away at Puri on March 19, 2015 aged 93. She was a fine exponent of abhinaya and a true sevika of Lord Jagannath.
More about her - sacredspaceblog.com ; Times of India
R. Krishnaswamy, Secretary of Narada Gana Sabha, passed away in the early hours of March 18, 2015 at Chennai at the age of 78. He had been ailing for some time.
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Bharatanatyam Guru Udupi Laxminarayan (September 17, 1926 – March 17, 2015) passed away at 6am at Chennai.
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A disciple of Kanchipuram Ellappa Mudaliar, Guru Udupi Lakshminarayanan had an extensive, prolific choreographic trajectory spanning both the proscenium stage and cinematic screen for decades. A wonderful, kind, humble and generous human being, I will always be immensely grateful to him for assisting with my doctoral fieldwork on Tamil cinema and Bharatanatyam.
- Hari Krishnan, InDance
Very friendly and self effacing, graceful artist. Never allowed his 'guru' status sit heavily on his shoulders.
- Prasanna Ramaswamy
A huge loss… He was a perfect teacher who never lost his cool with any student. I went on various performance tours with him and he was a great fun to travel with...and we learnt a lot, mainly to be humble…
- Sridhar Shanmugham
Child star dancer, Vilasini Ramachandran, daughter of legendary Guru Gopinath, died of prolonged terminal illness on 5th March 2015 in her home in Trivandrum. She was 62. An IAS of Gujarat cadre, she did much for art and handled many portfolios. As a child, had acted in films Moodupadam, Kadalamma, Laila Majnu, Bhaktakuchela, Lilly, and Chilampoli.
Anil Kumar (1944-2015), husband of dancer Ratna Kumar, passed away in Houston at 11:30pm on February 13, 2015 due to health complications.
The President and the Board of Directors of Samskriti mourn the death of their beloved Founder & Executive Director, Anil Kumar, husband of Artistic Director Rathna Kumar. From Samskriti’s inception, Anil was instrumental in planning, organizing and overseeing its administrative operations. His organizational genius was best manifested in the creation of Houston's most popular show since 2007, the one and only Bollywood Blast, drawing an audience of over 9000, and also the culturally rich and diverse Incredible India, both presented at the prestigious Miller Outdoor Theatre, promoting Indian popular and classical arts to the Houston community at large. His efforts helped Samskriti to bring to stage some of the finest of Indian performers, seminars and conferences. His life was one of giving, sharing, caring, and smiling, and he was, above all, a very good person at heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family to give them strength during this difficult time. Anil, we will miss you; you and your hearty laugh will always remain in our thoughts and our hearts.
Kuchipudi guru Lakshmi Rajamani of Bangalore met with a fatal road accident on early hours of January 27, 2015. Her last rites took place the same evening in the presence of her family, dance disciples and noted gurus of Bangalore. She was a member of committee for dance examinations, Karnataka Secondary Board. She trained many disciples during the past 30 years at her Lakshmi Kuchipudi Centre.
Veteran critic SN Chandrashekar passed away on January 19, 2015 in Bangalore. He was 93.
- S.N. Chandrashekar passes away by Ranjani Govind
Prabhavathi Shastry, dancer and artistic director of Naatyakalakshetra (Bangalore and Chennai) passed away in Chennai on January 7, 2015. She was 66.
Kathak maestro Pt Chitresh Das (born 9 November 1944) passed away on Jan 4, 2015 due to acute aortic dissection at San Rafael, California. He is credited with establishing Kathak amongst the Indian diaspora in America. In 1979, Das established the Chhandam School of Kathak and the Chitresh Das Dance Company in California. He was well known for his virtuosic footwork, rhythmic adeptness, compelling storytelling as well as his own innovation of ‘Kathak Yoga.’ He is survived by his wife, Celine, his two daughters Shivaranjani and Saadhvi.
- More about Pt Chitresh Das
- Kathak maestro Pandit Chitresh Das passes away at age 70
Renowned Kathak dancer Chitresh Das, who was settled in San Francisco, was honoured by the President of USA, was a pioneer in bringing Kathak to USA and has trained several American female dancers. Son of Prahlad Das, one of the pioneers in Kathak in Kolkata, Chitresh Das was known for his energetic dance. Prahlad Das had received training from Birju Maharaj's father Acchan Maharaj. He had studied both from Lucknow gharana exponents and Jaipur gharana but his dance reflected more of Jaipur gharana energy and tandava element. He organized many international Kathak dance conferences in USA and in his last conference had all the great masters including Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia, renowned Kathak dancers from Kolkata including few traditional tawaifs for whom he had great respect. He had often performed jugalbandi with American top tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith. He has a younger brother who lives in Canada and is a well known tabla player. He was married twice to his American female disciples.
- Dr. Sunil Kothari