T. Balasaraswati :
T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984) was one of the legendary exponents of Bharatanatyam, who captured the imagination of the people with her command over both ‘nritta’ (technique) and ‘abhinaya’ (expression). She is considered as one of the greatest exponents of ‘padam’ and is best remembered for her rendition of the ‘padam’ known as ‘Krishna ne begane baro’. She has been conferred with several honours and awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1955), Padma Bhushan (1977) and Sangita Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy.
Birju Maharaj :
Pandit Birju Maharaj (b.1937) is perhaps the foremost exponent of Kathak dancing in India, who belongs to the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana. He hails from a family of well-known Kathak dancers, which includes his father Achchan Maharaj and his uncle Shambhu Maharaj. He received the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi award at the age of twenty eight. He also has to his credit Padma Vibhushan (1986), Kalidas Samman and Lata Mangeshkar Puraskaar (2002). He operates a dance school in Delhi called ‘Kalashram’ .
Indrani Rehman :
Indrani Rehman (1930-1999) was a renowned danseuse who carried the glory of Indian classical dances to all parts of the world through her varied performances and her mastery over several dance styles such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi. She played and important role in the revival and popularization of Odissi. She was awarded Padma Shri (1969) and Sahitya Kala Parishad (1973).
Narasimhachari and Vasantha Lakshmi:
Narasimhachari is a rare combination of a music composer, choreographer, singer, ‘nattuvanar’, mridangam player, concert musician and dancer. Under the rigorous training of his father Sri Satyanarayanachari, Narasimhachari made his debut in Kuchipudi at the tender age of five. His wife Vasanthalakshmi, who is specialised in ‘nattuvangam’, writes the lyrics for their compositions. The couple has produced over twenty one dance-dramas including ‘Kambaramayanam’, ‘Sivaleela’, ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Challenge of Growth’.
Mallika Sarabhai (b.1953) is a renowned exponent of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi and an internationally known choreographer, who has to her credit compositions like ‘Draupadi’, ‘Sita’s Daughters’, ‘Itan Kahani’, ‘Aspiration’, ‘Ganga’ and ‘Mean Streets on Earth’. She played the role of Draupadi in Peter Brooke’s film ‘Mahabharata’. She anchored television programmes like ‘Turning Point’ and ‘Eye Witness’. She has also made noteworthy contribution in the fields of television, theatre, cinema, writing and publishing. She has received several honours and awards including Crystal Award by World Economic Forum (2008), Kala Shiromani Puraskar (2004), Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, French Government (2002), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2000), ‘Chevalier des Palmes Academiques’, French Government (1999) and Film Critics Award for Best Actress for the film ‘Muthi Bhar Chawal’(1974).
Sanjukhta Panigrahi (1994-1997) was the noted Odissi danseuse who started performing Odissi at the age of six under the guidance of Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra. She is credited with the resurrection of Odissi and its popularisation globally. She founded the ‘Kalinga Kalakshetra’ with the objective of imparting training in Odissi dance and promoting performing arts. Sanjukta experimented with several non-traditional lyrics in Odissi such as the Surdas Padmavalli, Tagore songs, Bhagwad Geeta and Tulsi Ramayan. She was awarded Padma Shri (1975) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1976).
Sitara Devi (b.1920) was a legendary danseuse, who was known the world over as the ‘Kathak Queen’. She started performing on stage as a professional solo dancer at the tender age of ten. Sitara later became a dancer with the Sagar Studios and soon rose to fame with films like ‘Allehlal’, ‘Nagina’, ‘Roti’ and ‘Vatan’. After watching her performance Rabindranath Tagore gave her the title ‘Nritya Samragini’. Sitara Devi has been honoured with several awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1969), Padma Shri (1973), Kalidas Samman (1995) and Nritya Nipuna. She, however, refused to accept the Padma Bhushan.
Sonal Mansingh (b.1944) is a renowned social activist, choreographer and dancer. She is a leading exponent of Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Chhau and other forms of Indian dances. Her choreographic works cover a wide range of themes ranging from Indian mythology to contemporary issues. Her renowned choreographic works include, ‘Indradhanush’, ‘Manavatta’, ‘Mera Bharat’, ‘Draupadi’, ‘Gita Govinda’, ‘Sabras’, ‘Chaturang’ and ‘Samanavaya’. In 1977, she founded the ‘Centre for Indian Classical Dances’ in New Delhi. She is a recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award, Padma Bhushan and Indira Priya Darshini Award.
Uday Shankar (1900-1977), the elder brother of the sitar virtuoso Pandit Ravi Shankar, is counted among the most accomplished dancers and choreographers of India. He was instrumental in introducing Indian dance and music to Western audiences. Some of Uday Shankar’s famous ballets include, ‘Shiva-Parvati’, ‘Rhythm of Life’ (1938) and ‘Labour and Machinery’ (1939). He set up the ‘Uday Shankar India Culture Centre’ at Almore in 1939.