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Sudharani Raghupathy: 60 years of dance

December 8, 2007

An eminent artiste, nationally and internationally honoured and respected, Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy has completed 60 years on August 17, 2007 in her journey of dance.

Lauded as a "Living Legend," she is perhaps one of the rare Bharatanatyam dancers in India who has performed before the visiting dignitaries to India since 1956. To mention a few Bulganin and Krushchev, Shah of Iran, Emperor of Ethiopia, King of Afghanistan, Chou en Lai, Ho Chi Minh and many others, including a command performance for Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

A graduate in Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Mysore, her accomplished gurus in the field of Bharatanatyam include KP Kittappa Pillai, US Krishna Rao and Mylapore Gowri Ammal. Her training in Carnatic music was under violin maestro, T Chowdiah and vaggeyakara, Vidwan Madurai N Krishnan.

She was the first Indian at the Randolph Macon's Women's College, Virginia, USA, in 1964-65. She was sponsored as an international student and majored in the World History of Dance, Studio arts and the Martha Graham technique in modern dance, which she learnt from Eleanor Struppa. She learnt western music from Elaine St. Vincent.

An artiste of outstanding calibre, she had the privilege of performing at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York, on Human Rights Day in December 1981, on an invitation from the then Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim. Her TV serial 'Bharatanjali,' an appreciation of Bharatanatyam, the first of its kind on Doordarshan in 1981 (13 episodes in B & W) and 1989 (8 episodes in colour), is one of her significant contributions to dance.

She has participated in several national and international seminars and has served on the board of several cultural committees. She was the Vice-Chairperson of the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, New Delhi from 1998 to 2002. She has also been awarded the unique honour of Senior Teaching Associate of Indian Studies (Professor) by the Colgate University, New York, in December'95.

Shree Bharatalaya, an institution of fine arts founded in 1970, by Sudharani Raghupathy, grooms dancers who stand out as cultured individuals as well. Her institution is perhaps the only one of its kind in the nation that has produced valuable resource material - Madura Margam (book containing dance compositions of Vidwan Madurai N Krishnan), Laghu Bharatham -Volumes I, II & III (Handbooks on Bharatanatyam) and 12 audio cassettes, which is a unique contribution to the world of fine arts.

The Tamil translation of Laghu Bharatham -Volume III, was released on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary celebration of Shree Bharatalaya in July 2002. Recently, she has produced and directed Madura Margam, Navasandhi Kavuthuvams and Madura Tillanas audio CDs and DVDs, which have been released by M/s. Super Audio (Madras) Pvt. Ltd.

At the instance of Kamaladevi Chattopadyay, she documented the famous 'Arayar Sevai' of Srivilliputhur. The Sangeet Natak Akademi has recorded her Navasandhi Nritta in 1981-1982.

Mammudha - From Dust to Life

Her choreographic mettle is well reflected in her dance dramas Ramayana, Krishnam Vande Jagat Gurum, Shakthi Prabhavam, Vande Guham Umasutham, Ekameva Na Dvayam and Shankara Loka Shankara, Silappadikaram among many others, which have been well received and acclaimed the world over. The CCRT, New Delhi, has produced a videocassette of her Ramayana-Balakanda, which was released by the Sankaracharya of Kanchi, HH Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji in 1993.

A few of the prestigious awards conferred on her include Padma Shri (1988), Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award (1984), Kalaimamani (1981 - Tamil Nadu state award), Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani (1996 - Andhra Pradesh); Kalashree (1999 - Karnataka); Telugu Academy award among many others. She was the first recipient of the Natya Kala Sikamani title conferred by the Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai, and Natya Kala Sarathy title conferred by Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Chennai, which were presented to her in January 2001 & 2002 respectively. Sri Lalitha Kala Academy, Mysore, honoured her with the award of Sri Lalitha Kala Ratna conferred on her by H.H. Swamiji of Pejawar Mutt, Udipi.

She was a Member of The Society of National Council for Science Museums (NCSM). She was on the Committee on National Policy on Culture and she was also a Member of the Program Advisory Committee for Doordarshan Kendra, Chennai.

Her graceful execution of technically perfect dance movements along with a vivid and soulful exposition of abhinaya, have gone into making her one of the most outstanding dancers of the present times.

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