It is stuff that makes up legends. And renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer and scholar, Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant enthralled audiences last week in the national capital. Along with excellent choreography, artistic brilliance and visually stunning aesthetics the Padma Shree awardee gave a rendition of ‘Tales from the Bull and the Tiger’ which has been praised as a riveting dance production this month ( December 16, 2019) at Kamani Auditorium in the national capital.
“Every Indian dancer seeks God’s blessings. We place Him at the core of our being, seeking His benediction in life and in dance,” says Ananda, a winner of the Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi award and an acclaimed TED speaker. “My years of yearning to encapsulate Him in a dance production led to the Tales from the Bull and the Tiger.” The latest path-breaking dance production, the 26th in the series from the repertoire of Shankarananda Kalakshetra, is performed by a vibrant ensemble cast of 20 dancers, with brilliant Bengaluru dancer Mithun Shyam as Guest artist in the lead along with Ananda. It has musical soundscape by Sathiraju Venumadhav, costume design by Ganesh Nallari, lights by Gyandev Singh, and digital design by Gunjan Ashtaputre.
Trained at Chennai’s most premier and sought after institutions, Kalakshetra, she completed a six year course, which most abandoned in year three or four. In the course of her training, at Kalakshetra and after, Ananda got acquainted with not only Bharatanatyam, but also Carnatic music, Veena, Choreography, Nattuvangam, Philosophy. She also had the honour of learning Kuchipudi from Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry, a legend in the field of dance.
But the real test of her being was not as a danseuse, but when she was diagnosed with cancer. But instead of cowering down she told herself that she will face it headlong and will ride it out. ‘’I will never ask why me,’’ she quipped. Heavily celebrated as a fiercely passionate dancer, the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, was awarded for her versatile contribution to the field of dance. Her life was at its peak, and she had everything to lose when the news came. Today, she prefers to regard herself not as a cancer survivor, but as "cancer conqueror". Let's learn a little more about this brilliant woman who danced her way through cancer and beat it valiantly.
In its 40 years of existence, Shankarananda Kalakshetra has emerged as a pre-eminent national institution for performing arts, taking Indian art to audiences across the globe. Its artistic body of work spans mythologies, historical chronicles, gender issues, poetry, abstraction, philosophy and humour, even as it continues to train young aspirants in Bharatanatyam in Hyderabad. It is also a pioneer of arts in the digital space by creating a first-of-its-kind Bharanatyam practice app, named ‘Natyarambha’ (www.natyarambha.com ), which was launched in 2017 and is now followed across the world.