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IDA and Leela Sekhar
- Revathi Ramachandran

February 3, 2014

The International Dance alliance is a non-profit world organization, formed for the promotion of friendship and cooperation of all dancers in the world- of varied style and belonging to different schools. Ben Sommers, founder of IDA, was the head of the Capezio Dance Foundation founded in 1951. T.T. Vasu and Leela Sekhar were the two advisory council members, of the Madras chapter of International Dance alliance. IDA has 32 branches all over the world and its Madras Chapter was started by Leela Sekhar in 1986.

All the senior dancers shared the stage and performed together. Since then, every year IDA has been conducting its festival for 2 days with more than 100 dancers sharing and performing together. All the shows have been extremely popular and successful and have always had overflowing audiences.
It began as an informal coming together of dancers under the inspiration of one dynamic dance lover, Leela Sekhar, who was ever young in spirit and enthusiasm. She used to sing padams for the legendary Balasaraswati. If that is not a feather in anyone's cap, what is?! Leela and her family, particularly her husband Sekhar have always respected and appreciated classicism. The legacy continues as her son, daughter and daughter-in-law (P.C.Ramakrishna, Uma Ganesan and Hyma Ramakrishna) are known for their appreciation and aesthetic approach to classical dance, music and theatre.

Leela Sekhar

IDA festival 1986 - Virali Malai Kuravayi

Every year, artists were invited to perform in a celebration of dance at IDA. Gradually it became a prestigious forum for talented dancers from all over the country. What has been refreshing in IDA is the atmosphere created by Leela Sekhar. It has been one of camaraderie, where excellence mingled with fresh talent, and where challenges of an artistic nature were met with the assurance that an audience was there to support it. Honouring the memory of legends, and felicitating worthy artists grew out of Leela's keen sense of commitment to dance. What is unique about IDA is that it is not commercial in nature, yet it is always able to draw the best talents.

To project the various styles and innumerable efforts of choreography, IDA has been an unbeatable forum. Bestowing care and affection, Leela Sekhar has been a catalyst for this institution. No artist would have the heart to say 'no' to her requests. Such were her powers of persuasion. Ever the "girl guide," Leela Sekhar believed in serving the cause of dance.

Leela Sekhar passed away on the 18th of January 2014. She was 93. It is indeed a great loss to the entire dance community and all the dancers who have been with Leela maami from the inception of IDA in 1986. Those who performed for the inauguration are getting together and presenting a homage Nrutya -Shraddhanjali, at Narada Gana Sabha auditorium, Chennai. The tribute will be performed by Chitra Visweswaran, the Dhananjayans, the Charis, Padma Subrahmanyam, Lakshmi Vishwanathan and Sudharani Raghupathy.

I was fortunate to know Leela Sekhar for a brief period. I am saddened by the loss of such a great dance enthusiast. May her soul rest in peace and her untiring efforts continue in the coming years under the able guidance of dance gurus/leaders. I wish IDA and 'Nrutya Shraddanjali' continued success.
- Chandrika Chandran (Feb 4, 2014)

The 1990 World dance day celebrations at Bangalore was a huge event. I was extremely fortunate to get the opportunity to collaborate with Leela maami and get the who's who of Indian dance to Bangalore. The sainik welfare dept. head Col. Subba Rao was a great supporter and he encouraged me to put up this huge event. We also honored many gurus included many many young dancers for whom it was a lifetime opportunity to be on the same stage as many of these legends. Hats off to Leela maami - the dynamic lady.
- Usha RK (Feb 4, 2014)

The Mylapore Trio and members of Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Foundation salute and pay obeisance to Leela Sekhar, who left us for her heavenly abode on 18th January 2014. We dedicated the final day of our 8th year 'Visesha Kala Utsav' on Jan 26, 2014 to her by observing 2 minutes silence.

In 2009, the Trio crowned Leela Sekhar with the title 'Acharya Devo Bhava' and presented the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding career and dedicated service in various fields, like music, dance, drama, art, craft, education, guides and social service.

Leela was the daughter of a great social worker S. Manjubashini, the founder of Bala Mandir and wife of Late P.C. Sekhar - Founder, Secretary and Correspondent of P.S. Senior Secondary School. She was trained in classical music at a very young age by Jayammal, the mother of the legendary dancer Balasaraswathi. She rendered concerts on AIR as a graded artist along with her sister Sarojini for 10 years. In 1964, she accompanied Balasaraswathi on her tour to USA, as a singer and music teacher and later sang for Bala's dance performances at the Music Academy, Madras and in other cities too. During her sojourn in Calcutta for nearly 20 years, she founded the Ladies Theatre Group, for which she penned, directed and staged plays in Tamil, English and Bengali with great success. She also exhibited her acting skills in her own plays. She was a regular writer to the magazine 'Lime Light.'

She was a Girl Guide from an early age and with her continued interest in guiding, she became a District Commissioner in the Bengal Girl Guides Association for nearly a decade. She also kept alive the 60 years long interest by serving as the District Commissioner Guides for the South Madras region. In recognition of her unparalleled service as a Girl Guide par excellence, Leela was elected as the Vice President of the Bharat Scouts and Guides, South Madras, which was indeed a tribute to her 70 long years of guiding experience.

By virtue of being an erudite and talented musician, she served on the panel of judges for Carnatic Music at the Calcutta Radio Station for 5 years and later served a similar 3 year term in the AIR Madras. She was a music critic under the pen name 'Listener' for the 'The Madras Mail' for over a decade. In 1985, she became the Honorary Council Member of the South Indian chapter of the International Dance Alliance and later, its Chairperson. Since then she had been promoting dance by organizing the 'Dance Week' every year in Chennai, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Delhi and Jaipur.

Leela rendered commendable service for the cause of the needy and the down trodden, by working in various capacities - as the Honorary Treasurer of the Bala Mandir, Executive Member of the Indian Council of Child Welfare and on the Board of Voluntary Health Services, Chennai. She also rendered laudable service to the cause of education by being the Vice President of the Thirumalachariar Education Society and Honorary Secretary and Correspondent of the N.K.T National Boys High School.

Leela was an excellent artist highly skilled in both arts and crafts. She was blessed to have been associated with legendary national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and others. She was a symbol of honesty and integrity, an epitome of duty and discipline, a personification of perfection, quintessence of knowledge, repository of tradition and culture, an embodiment of love and service, who dedicatedly served the society at large as a friend, philosopher and guide. She was an inspiration and role model to the younger generation and a torch bearer to many a social cause.
- Amarnath, Surendranath and Aparna (Feb 7, 2014)

Leela maami was very affectionate and simple. Her erudition was impeccable and she appreciated innovations, but not at the cost of our traditional training.I remember she insisted I have lunch with her at her place while discussing a programme. I was invited to perform solo on two occasions for IDA,Chennai, at Music Academy in the 1990s and again, three years ago at Narada Gana Sabha hall. I offer my salutations with prayers.
- Dr.Padmaja Suresh, Aatmalaya, Bangalore (March 11, 2014)

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