Acclaimed dancer Shyamala Surendran’s Dharani School of Performing Arts will host some magnificent dance performances to mark its 32nd anniversary, this month
For over three decades the Dharani School of Performing Arts in Kochi has enthralled art lovers, patrons and students with the purest form of performing arts. The dance pedagogy at Dharani has strived to steer clear of the ‘art-for-sale-to-the-highest-bidder format. Central to upholding this ideology is the founder and trustee of Dharani, Shyamala Surendran.
Though a septuagenarian, the energetic Shyamala has proven that age is just a number through her vivacious performance as she teaches her students the nuances of the ashta nayikas, or while teaching korvais and jathis composed centuries ago. In its 32nd year, the Dharani School of Performing Arts is organising Kalotsav for art lovers of Kochi, from October 31 to November 3, with performances by Sankaran Namboodiri and Dr Jyotsna Jagannathan among others.
There will also be a stellar production to be staged by Sampradaya Dance School in collaboration with performers from Canada, India and Bali. The production titled Pralaya will discuss the end of a yuga, through an exposition of Mahabharata.
Dr. Sandhya Jayakumar, joint convener of the Kalotsav and a student of Dharani, says, “I was a dancer long back and am now relearning dance at Dharani. As a student, I understand how much aunty (Shyamala as she is fondly called by her students) is passionate about the dance form. Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam are taught here and what is interesting is that whoever learns dance is also required to learn music. There are about 200 students here in the age group 7-60.”
Starting Dharani or even the journey of learning dance was not easy for Shyamala. It was years after her marriage to Captain Surendran, at the age of 34, that she decided to pursue her passion of dance. She learned Bharatanatyam under the famed Padma Bhushan Awardees V.P. Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan and her abhinaya was perfected under the tutelage of Abhinaya Saraswathi and Padma Bhushan awardee late Kalanidhi Narayanan. She won the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award for her contributions to Mohiniyattam.
Dharani has refrained from participating in the culture of competitiveness perpetuated in Kerala. “Dance is an upasana, and thus cannot be commodified or encapsulated for quick consumption,” says Shyamala. In every class, she reinforces that “the dancer becomes the dance, it is the upasana to the dance form that blurs the line between the performer and the performance.” The audience in turn experiences that blissful rendition of the divine union.
In a transformative step as well as to drive home the message of women empowerment, Shyamala has transformed the committee to an all-women one. The baton is being passed from her able hands to the school trust and her students.
Dharani has hosted performances of some of the most celebrated artistes from across India – Vyjayanthimala Bali, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Leela Samson, Malavika Sarukkai, T.M.Krishna, Shobana, Manju Warrier, Priyadarshini Govind, Kavalam Srikumar, Raja Rama Varma, Srivalsan Menon, and many others....