|City||Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India|
Kalakshetra was established in 1936 after the extraordinary success of Rukmini Devi's first performance of Bharata Natyam at the Theosophical Society, in Adyar, a suburb of Madras, in the South of India. The founding members, Rukmini Devi, her husband George Arundale, and their associates at the Theosophical Society, were deeply committed to Theosophy and an arts academy was an extension
of this commitment. The academy was also symbolic of the struggle
for India's independence; it was to culturally revive a country that was losing its identity under British rule.
The name Kalakshetra was suggested by Pandit S. Subramania Sastri, a Sanskrit scholar and member of the academy. His granddaughter S. Sarada was one of the first students. She along with Radha, Rukmini Devi's niece, Leelavati, A. Sarada, and Anandi, granddaughter of Kalki Krishnamurti, were among the first to join Kalakshetra, then located
in the Theosophical Society's grounds. D. Pashupati, Raman and Lakshmanan began studying music, and soon more students followed. Many renowned nattuvanars and dancers of that period taught at the institute. Among them were Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Rukmini Devi's first teacher, Muthukumara Pillai, and Chokkalingam Pillai. Karaikkal Saradambal Ammal, known for her nritta, polished the technique of the early students. Dandayudapani Pillai later joined the staff, as did Mylapore Gowri Ammal. These early teachers bequeathed many compositions and stylistic inputs to the institute which remain embedded in the Kalakshetra style today. Ambu Pannikar, the great Kathakali ashaan who spent the last six years of his life at Kalakshetra, taught Rukmini Devi several Kathakali movements and set pieces that were used to great effect in her dance dramas. After his death, another doyen - Chandu Pannikar came to the college, bringing along with him young boys, Dhananjayan, Balagopalan, and later, his own son Janardhanan. These three, along with the older Kunhiraman, Ambu Pannikar's son, became the early male dancers of the institute, participating in the new dramas that Rukmini Devi choreographed. They became known for their heroic roles in Kalakshetra's dance dramas.
Rukmini Devi personally trained the early dance students, who then took on the responsibility of teaching new students. She held a special morning class where she taught ballet exercises. She refined and classified the adavus, the basic steps of the dance, making them efficient and beautiful, and systematized a teaching methodology for the dance form she inherited. In these early days, the staff at Kalakshetra was motivated by a great spirit of service, and worked tirelessly to bring the vision of Kalakshetra to life. Among them was Sankara Menon, who was the principal of the Besant Theosophical High School. He helped Rukmini Devi in every aspect of administrating the institute, gave talks to students on Hindu philosophy, and later succeeded her as director.
Kalakshetra became the first dance institute to establish a meaningful theoretical syllabus for dancers. Kamala Rani, also one of the early students, established herself as a brilliant nattuvanar, breaking barriers for women in field. S. Sarada researched the texts for Rukmini Devi's dance Rukmini Devi's first love was music. To her, the dance simply gave visual shape to the music. She was in a sense, a pioneer in that she was the first dancer to invite, not one, but several great musicians to Kalakshetra. They not only came, but contributed selflessly and very substantially to her work, as much due to the special respect she had for them, as for the wonderful atmosphere that she had created about her in this new ashram for India's arts. Papanasam Sivan, who taught music at the Besant School, Tiger Varadachariar became Principal of Kalakshetra in 1944, when the Sangita Sironmani course was begun in the institute. Madurai Subramani Aiyar, the violin vidwan, Tiger's brother Veena Krishnamachariar and T.K. Ramaswami Aiyengar all taught the Sangita Sironmani course. Eminent musicians such as Veena Sambasiva Aiyar, Budalur Krishnamurti Shastrigal, the master of the Gottuvadyam, and M. D. Ramanathan, who had been Tiger's student at the institute, all served as Principals in successive years. Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma was a professor.Music students focus primarily on the practical, with a special focus on Raga Alapana, Pallavis, Padams, and other advanced studies. During this period, they have to write a dissertation, attend workshops and concerts of eminent artists and do field trips that may be related to their particular paper. Dance students learn two new margams in the two year program. They study advanced theory, and have field trips with a view to writing a thesis. They also have the opportunity to perform in the dance-dramas and other productions of the Kalakshetra repertory.
Phone: +91-44-24524057, +91-44-24520836
Email : [email protected]
Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai offers various graduate courses as well as Post Graduate courses.
List of facilities available at Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai for students.
Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai