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Known as the icon of Bharatnatyam, Rukmini Devi Arundale changed the way people in India perceived dance in the twentieth century.
Truly, she was an iconoclast, who readily courted social censure to pursue her love for court dance or sadir attam, as it was then called.
Held to be the ignoble bastion of the devadasis, dance was taboo especially to an upper class, orthodox Brahmin like her. But inspired by Anna Pavlova, the renowned Russian danseuse, Rukmini Devi revived this ancient dance form by pioneering several aesthetic innovations in its presentation – music, costumes, dance, story, lighting, sets – and sublimating its predominantly erotic flavor. The shunned sadir attam soon became India’s celebrated dance form, Bharatanatyam.
Today, Rukmini Devi is remembered not only for her brilliantly choreographed dance-dramas based on the epics, but also for the boost she gave to the crafts and textile industry in India. The legacy of Rukmini Devi Arundale thrives on in her institution – Kalakshetra (founded in 1936, Chennai) – the school for classical arts and alma mater to stalwarts of Indian classical dance.
Why we find her inspiring:
– Because she was a multi-faceted genius and an aesthete non-pareil
– Because she singly brought about a cultural renaissance in India
– Because she chose to follow her dreams rather than the diktats of her society
– Because, but for her vision extraordinaire, Bharatanatyam would have remained in the annals of oblivion.
Pic credit: http://tamilnation.co
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