V.P. Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan are performing their last tour with one of their senior disciples, Padmarani Rasiah Cantu. The renowned dancers/teachers who have enthralled audiences worldwide for over five decades, will present “Bhakthi Margam.” The program celebrates a quote from Hindu scriptures, “Natyam Bhakthi vivardhanam.” V.P. Dhananjayan elaborates, “We believe that naatya enhances the devotional aspect of human life. We have chosen pieces from our choreographic repertoire to elaborate this overall theme.”
As fellow students at Kalakshetra in the 1950s and ’60s, the two dancers imbibed the best the institution had to offer. Rukmani Devi Arundale, now considered a visionary in the field of Indian arts education, had started Kalakshetra to teach Indian classical dance forms with an inter-disciplinary focus.
After finishing their education at Kalakshetra, they started Bharata Kalanjali in Chennai. Through their institution, they have trained hundreds of students in the Kalakshetra style. Their careers have moved in tandem with the explosion of bharatanatyam on the world stage, and they are very familiar with the Indian classical dance scene in America today, thanks to their annual trips to the East Coast where they have conducted workshops and seminars.
The couple have also been recognized for their successful choreographic ventures, which have been innovative within the classical idiom. V.P. Dhananjayan says, “We have always struck a judicious balance between tradition and innovation, and this is the secret of our success.” Shanta Dhananjayan adds, “Many a time we have come up with similar ideas. After we decide on a basic structure for the piece and after he has visualized the piece, then, I take over, teach the artistes and attend to all the details to make it perfect.”
When they dance on stage, this meeting of minds is evident in every piece that they perform. I have watched V.P. Dhananjayan perform with deep pathos the role of Dasharatha as he hears Kaikeyi’s demands. I have also watched them perform with natural ebullience the Atana raga varnam together celebrating the life of Lord Krishna. Every time I’ve watched them on stage, each piece has taken on a new luster, proving that their passion for the art only keeps growing with each passing year.
The Dhananjayans have an excellent team of musicians accompanying them. Babu Parameswaran provides vocal support, while Eswar Ramakrishnan will play the violin. Nellai D. Kannan, widely recognized as the top mridangist in the field of bharatanatyam today, will be providing percussive support.