By Nandini Ramani
Gayatri Balagurunathan, recipient of the Yuva Puraskar of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in 2008, has made a noteworthy impact on the Bharatanatyam scene with her refined solo and group presentations. Following in the footsteps of her mother, the late Krishnaveni Lakshmanan of Kalakshetra, this vibrant and dedicated dancer has worked over the years to refine her skills to evolve into a fine artist today.
Gayatri’s art is based on the well-cut grammatical structure as taught to her by her mother and teacher, Krishnaveni, Sarada Hoffman and N.S. Jayalakshmi at Kalakshetra. Her exposure to a variety of artforms at the Kalakshetra campus and later on at the Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad, has given her strength in the intricacies of solo and group concepts in the Bharatanatyam format, apart from folk dances, Kalari and Mohini Attam. However, as her major focus is on Bharatanatyam, Gayatri has equipped herself in the theory and practice of the art. She completed the five-year part-time diploma course at Kalakshetra, with Bharatanatyam and veena as the main subjects, passing out with distinction.
Interacting with this bright-eyed, expressive, warm-hearted dancer, we can feel her artistic pulse throbbing with all these inputs. A well researched approach to the themes she handles in her choreography, be it solo or group, can be seen in her works. They bear a striking note of visual quality and clarity of thought. Quick on the uptake, she has the ability to rise to any occasion with her presence of mind.
Gayatri has exhibited firm adherence over the years to the essential details of perfection in the aspects of nritta and worked on adding a subtle and glowing touch to her abhinaya. Her enthusiasm for work on traditional compositions as well as new concepts, her painstaking efforts to seek guidance, and courtesy are some of her endearing qualities. Though young, she has a mature approach to Bharatanatyam and the dance scene.
On stage, Gayatri is a picture of grace and confidence. In her solo recitals, she has faithfully maintained the discipline and decorum of her alma mater and has not compromised on the values of the traditional format. Gayatri’s thematic productions have been equally successful, bringing to the fore her strength and exposure in this area of dance which she imbibed as she grew up. She boldly takes up artistic challenges and strives to achieve success in them. Her impressive work in Natyarangam’s Kshetra Bharatam festival of Narada Gana Sabha focusing on the city of Chennai involved a great amount of research and committed work. Her sincere, hard work received wide acclaim.
She lost her mother and mentor when she was a budding dancer, but with grit and conviction she has reached her goals and grown into what she is today, relying on her own hard work and determination.
‘Yuva Kala Bharati’ Gayatri is a recipient of several other awards and recognition from many cultural organisations in India and abroad. She is married to Balagurunathan, a graduate of Kalakshetra, a talented artist and teacher who worked at Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad for three years. Together they have taught and presented thematic productions and solos in many cities of India and countries across the globe. Balgurunathan, too was a disciple of Krishnaveni, and was part of the staff of the Singapore Fine Arts Society for several years. He has now settled in Chennai with his dancer-wife. At Krishnanjali, the institution founded in memory of her mother Krishnaveni in Chennai, Gayatri and Bala train a number of students.
(The author, a senior disciple of T. Balasaraswati, dance teacher, writer and critic, is a keen follower of classical dancers young and old)
(Reproduced from Sruti 315, December 2010)