Two Indian Classical Dancers. Two Child Prodigies. One Inspirational Journey
When Ramaa Bharadvaj, a notable classical dancer, renowned for her mastery over dance forms such as Bharat Natyam and Kuchipudi, was asked for the wisest piece of advice she could give to newbie dancers, she replied:
“My friend Nala Najan once told me: “Don’t let anyone quote the Natya Sastra to you or tell you how you should dance or what you should dance about. It is you the dancer who creates the dance. The Gods might have inspired it, but you are the living tradition. Without the human body, there would be no dance, no Sastra. You are the Natya Sastra. You are Siva. Remember that always.”
Bharadvaj was born into a lower-middle-class Brahman family in Madras, India. She was the daughter of an accountant and a homemaker. Her uncle, a renowned Sanskrit scholar, introduced Ramaa to a leading Bharata Natyam teacher when she was 3. And a year later, she began her training.
She performed her Arangetram at the age of 6. And two years later, she also received a state scholarship to tour South India–the youngest recipient of the award to date.
For nine years, she studied Kuchipudi with Kamala, a legendary dancer, and teacher. She had established her mastery over the dance form by the time she was 19.
She is the recipient of numerous grants from the California Arts Council and is currently on the dance faculty at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. In 2002, Ramaa Bharadvaj became the recipient of the prestigious Lester Horton Dance Awards.
She also featured on the cover of the June 2000 issue of Dance Magazine with her daughter Shweta Bharadvaj. And they are the first Indians in 45 years to have received such an honor.
Shweta Bharadvaj is herself an exemplary artist. She gave her first performance at the age of 4 and performed Arangetram at the age of 7! The Mother-Daughter duo, exemplary Indian classical dancers, often perform together on various dance platforms across the globe.
Visually enriching and thought-provoking, their performances tend to stay with the audience forever. ‘JWALA-Flame’, one of the performances was relayed nationally on the PBS. Apart from beautifully symbolizing how the second generation Indians growing up in the United States cope with their cross-cultural identities, it also showcases how they are carrying on their tradition in a foreign land.
Such women, classical dancers are truly an inspiration, not only because of the reverence have they showed to their passion, but also due to their innate ability to follow it. Two Indian classical dancers, two child prodigies, two dance forms, and one passion: India salutes these two beautiful gifted women.
‘JWALA- Flame’ performance