From a young onlooker

July 1, 2003

We had a casual holiday visit to Atlanta on our way to the Yogaville. Our old students from Bharatakalanjali, Krishna, Subadra and Uma, on our arrival said they had arranged a small reception the next day July 1st. This was without our permission. Any way we did not want to disappoint them.

The so-called small reception turned out to be a big gathering of nearly 300 people in a shopping center hall. Surprisingly the crowd was expecting us to do a lecture cum demonstration. No preparations.

The best thing was the local Bharatanaatyam teachers had brought their siblings and they danced in our honor. They were very happy and enthusiastic in showing us their student’s performance.

After that the crowd expecting us to dance, we did not want to disappoint them, so Shanta sang and I danced “Varugalaamo Ayya” and small Nritta piece. After the performance a little boy of 10 walked up to me and announced innocently to the astonishment of every one standing around, “ can I say something, you are the best Bharatanaatyam dancer I have ever seen, if I can dance like you I also want to learn Bharatanaatyam.” I was so taken aback as if a million-dollar prize had been awarded on me. I told him to write and give me his comment. In a small piece of paper collected from the floor, he wrote thus:

Dear Mr.Dhananjayan, I loved your performance, it was great. Out of all the people I have seen dance you’re the best.
- Vignesh Kalidas

I cherish the little piece of paper the little boy gave me, like a big International Award citation.

Fond memories from students

Angelika Sriram (Anjali) (Germany)
Aparna Raghavan (Switzerland)
Aparna Ramaswamy (USA)
Gayatri Krishnamurthy (Australia)
Jothi Raghavan (USA)
Harinakshi (Dolly) Desai (Gujarat)
Nirmala John (Sri Lanka)
Premila Ramesh (Sultanate of Oman)
Priya Mohan (USA)
Reshma Ananthakrishnan (USA)
Rincy (Renuka) (London)
Selvarani Crystal Pillai (SA)
Sheila Christian Rubin (USA)
Shobana Balchandra (one of the Trio Sisters) (Chennai)
Sruti Ranjani Nataraja (USA)
Subathra Sudarshan (USA)
Uma Pulendran (USA)

I have learnt dance from many teachers, but none of them is so meticulous. The Dhananjayans are exacting teachers.
- V A K Ranga Rao

I owe my present position in the field of art to the Dhananjayans. Meeting them was the turning point in my life. They have always encouraged my mission of dissemination of arts in teaching and community work. To them I just cannot say ‘Thank You’ adequately.
- V R Devika

I was first student of Bharata Kalanjali. My first class was in their drawing room. Master and Akka simultaneously took classes then. There was no time limit. Classes went on and on. We thoroughly enjoyed those beautiful days. Master used to get angry very easily, largely because he's a perfectionist. But I see that he's sort of mellowed down...They used to treat me like their own daughter, even feed me...For my arangetram, all the items were new, 'Natyanjali', 'Shanmuga Shabdam'...the latter was choreographed in just one evening. It is a great experience to watch master choreograph a piece.
- Sumathi Sriram

Here there is sharing of knowledge. When I learnt from Arunachalam Pillai who belonged to the nattuvanar community, I felt that they had this deep sense of insecurity that the art would be snatched from them and they will have no control over it. As a result of this, we were never allowed to record--written or taped--any item taught to us. But here, the Dhananjayans don't hold back on anything. Another aspect is their emphasis on detail, even in the rolling of a mat, caring for costumes...yet there is sufficient freedom...
- Sreelatha Vinod

They have influenced every stage in my life and have extended their love and support throughout, and my gratitude for them knows no bounds.
- Anita Shanmuganathan

Of my twelve years in India more than half had been spent within Bharata Kalanjali and I learned so many things about life, art and work from the mundane to the sublime…The Dhananjayans have been part of the link that takes me back again and again.
The world has grown smaller in recent years. The frequent exchanges of visits and ideas draw us even closer in a friendship more permanent than the limits of space and time.
- Katherine Siebel Kunhiraman, USA

The lessons I have learnt from them have been many – like the lesson of hard work, the lesson of feeling secure in one’s own capacity to do this, the lesson of not being threatened by others’ opportunities and successes, the lesson of giving one’s best at any point of time.
- Pushkala Gopal

Over the years, the unstinting support I have received from the Dhananjayans in adding to my repertoire, liaising with musicians, the invaluable advice and all sorts of help they extend to me and my pupils regularly, makes me feel that Mudralaya in London is a sapling from the Bharata Kalanjali tree borne away by the wind, as its destiny is to carry forth the work of the parent in another place. May the parents flourish and the saplings multiply!
- Unnikrishnan

As I get to know them more, my love, respect and admiration for them keeps growing. Close proximity in resident camps made them teachers, parents, friends and counselors to the whole camp. In addition to being my guru, akka is also my guide, friend and philosopher.
- Padmarani Rasiah, USA

I just read your interview in Narthaki and found it rejuvenating. I remember seeing Aikya Bharatam and that looks like a dream. Your story as a dancer is fascinating and reinforces the worth of dedication and hard work. I have always looked upon you as my "MANSEEKA GURUS" and will look up to you to lead me in my artistic journey. I am proud to say that I have lived and seen your dance and enjoyed every bit of your artistic presentations both as a rasika and dancer.
- Sujatha Srinivasan

It is not the dance technique, but sincerity of mind towards the Supreme that is embodied in Bharata Kalanjali.
- Daya Tomiko, Japan

As gurus, they taught us to put our body and mind to complete discipline for many years to achieve that moment of total abandon where the dancer is lost and only the dance remains.
- The Trio Sisters (Radhika, Gayathri, Shobana)

Students not only emerge as excellent dancers from Bharata Kalanjali but also are greatly influenced by the way of the Dhananjayans’ life style and aspire to become good human beings. They are a couple of a kind untouched by the politics involved in the art world of India.
- Sukanya Ravi Shankar

The Gurukulam system of training is an ancient one not easily available in our times. I teach dance in England. I came all this way to live with my Gurus and train intensively, which is an opportunity not to be wasted. Here you learn dance with a combination of music and yoga. I’d love to come back. It’s an amazing experience.
- Thanuja Shankar 1997, UK (about the Yogaville camp)

I would like to thank you very much for giving to many of us such a fine and beautiful presentation of Bharatanatyam. This was the first time I have seen a recital by yourselves. Many people have told me of your wonderful presentations, but in real life there are no words in English to describe what we see. I’m sure there is in the beautiful language of Sanskrit.
What a feast of Bharatanatyam we have had. No doubt you will agree that we all owe a lot to that lovely lady of Kalakshetra, Smt. Rukmini Devi and her efforts over many years to bring the beauty of the classical arts of India to all of us.
All countries’ ambassadors should be artists such as yourselves, who convey to us the warmth, purity and truth that lies in the heart of all beings. Then perhaps we would not have so much trouble in the world.
As you are your disciples’ Guru, so you are your audiences’ Guru for you execute the word Guru to its fullest. That is, you drive away the darkness for us, giving us enlightenment. It is like being on a train going through a tunnel for the light at the end appears at first as a mere speck becoming larger quite rapidly till we seem to explode out into the brightness of daylight.
The word in Tamil for goodbye or I take leave is “poi varugiraen”, which I believe literally means, “I go, I come”, so please do not take too long in coming back.
- John Morrison
Middlesex, England, 4th May 1964

My Gurus gave very generously...They were very demanding as teachers...the excellent training has made me learn how to learn...
- Nirupama Nityanandan

Bharata Kalanjali remains etched in my memory as a Holy Temple in which I not only imbibed the infinite power of the mystic dance form that has become a part of me but also had the revered opportunity of being with divine people whom I can never forget.
- Nirmala, Nirmalanjali, Colombo

Precision is the basis of their teaching. To them I owe not only my clarity but also my creativity in composing. I love and respect them deeply.
- Shantala (Lida), Greece

Our gurus are respected for imparting the highest values of life, apart from dancing. Nothing is left to chance and no one is taken for granted. Every student is cherished in his or her own right.
- Divya Devaguptapu

Their method of imparting knowledge to the students and guidance is simply unmatched. Watching them perform is breathtaking.
- Meena Telikicherla, USA

To my Gurus...Dancing bells adorn their feet as
though they are there;
before I look again - father and mother
they stand beside me,
I adore them with all the strength in my heart
for, what I am, what you see today,
is what they have generously given
I owe it to them, I know
and here is my dedication......
-R. Shoba

Not only are the Dhananjayans fine artists, they are simply beautiful human beings, inside and out. All the praise in the world will never be enough to describe what they mean to me. They have not only been my teachers, but my best friends, and a brother and sister to me. They are kind, humble, generous, hospitable, understanding and never say an unkind word about anyone.
- Gloria Mandelik, Madrid, Spain

I was constantly filled with inspiration by watching them work and perform, by talking to them and simply by being in their presence.
- Nina Rajarani, London

The most unique quality of this world-renowned pair is their desire to teach each student to the best of their ability with steady and patient nurturing. I feel I speak for many students who are being brought up in a western society, yet living in eastern homes – Anna and Akka are a breath of fresh air. They don’t try to mould us into traditional children, but instead, accept us as individuals, as they reveal to us the finer qualities of being Asian.
- Gopitha Tharmalingam

Bharata Kalanjali is like a gurukulam. If you want to experience the feeling of a true guru-shishya relationship, this is the place. We learn not only dance but also choreography.
- Aravind Chakravarthy

I've been here for 8 years now. All who come here not only learn dance but also develop character. After every dance class, theory is also taught.
- Karthik Mahadevan

We learn dance and also how to impart that knowledge. We also learn about our culture. I have learnt much here and wish to learn more.
- Umesh, Davangere, Karnataka

I have learnt from Calcutta Kalamandalam. I came to Bharata Kalanjali to learn the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanaatyam. I like the atmosphere and the teaching here.
- Sutapa

I've been in Bharata Kalanjali for 12 years. I came here after learning dance in Trivandrum. Since then I've been a student, teacher under the Dhananjayans. I've done many major roles in productions done by Bharata Kalanjali, the first of them notably 'Ghanashyam'. Also 'Ramanaatakam', 'Sanghamitra' and 'Mahaabhaaratam'. I've worked abroad with the Dhananjayans and others in Greece, USA and other places.
- Suresh

I've been in Bharata Kalanjali for the past 10 years. It has not only been a dance school for me but a home away from home. All my values have been imbibed from the Dhananjayans. I've changed as a person...My first production was 'Tasherdesh', then 'Dhanvantri', 'Rasamudra'...
- Sandhya Mohan

I've been in Bharata Kalanjali for 10 years. I feel good being here. I've learnt a lot from Bharata Kalanjali...not only dancing but many disciplines. Our gurus treat us like friends...
- Lalitha

I've been here for the past 7 years. I take great pride and pleasure in saying that the Dhananjayans are my gurus...they not only teach dance, but slokas, they tell us the mythological stories...
- Subhashini

I've been a student here for the past 10 years. I'm really fortunate to have such great gurus as my teachers and very privileged to be part of Bharata Kalanjali...they are very open to other dance forms and imbibing certain aspects of those..equal emphasis is laid on improving the students in talam, kalari, yoga, music etc.
- Annapoorni

I've been here for the last 9 years. They emphasise a lot on perfection. I' ve learnt a lot about discipline...apart from the items, we also learn a lot of theory...
- Tulsi Naresh

You will both be in my memories for life; I wanted to tell you that you have both had such an impact on me. You inspire me to continue my study of dance, and to also pursue a deeper knowledge of both dance and music.
- Geeti Shirazi Mahajan

From participants of the dance camp at Austin.
Thank you for helping me with my dance moves. I will never forget it.
- Preethi
Thank you so much for coming to Austin for this dance camp. I feel so privileged to be able to attend this camp and learn from such renowned artists. Thank you.
- Krithi
Thank you. My dancing has gotten better thanks to you.
- Divya B
Thank you so much for teaching us (and tolerating us). My time at camp was great! Thank you!
- Anu
Thanks Akka & Anna for all the years of guidance and advice. You are the best.
- Lakshmi
Thanks a lot for all the valuable things that you have taught me!
- Priya R
Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity.
- Divya Madhusudhan
Thank you for everything you have ever taught me, not just dance, but discipline and self-control…
- Neeti
Wow! This was fun. Do it again please…
- Swetha
Thank you so much for teaching me dance and making my stay so great.
- Shilpa Botla
Thanks for a really great time at camp.
- Ashley Bose
It was such a great experience dancing with you. I hope I get to do this again soon. Thank you for everything.
- Sharmada
As usual, it was wonderful working with you both. I can’t wait to do this again. Thank you!
- Pallavi
We have written a poem for Anna and Akka
Who helped us with our thayyas and thakkas
We want to thank them with all our heart
For guiding us through this beautiful art
They have put this form in a new light
By putting each one of the aspects in our sight
Their patience has led us to improvement
By correcting each one of our movements.
We thank them again for all of their dedication
And bringing to this Austin Dance camp so much love and affection.
-- From the participants

Thank you for so generously sharing your wisdom, knowledge, and artistry with me. It was an honor to be your student.
My best times at camp were those spent in your company and I will hold these memories close to my heart.
I am deeply inspired by both of you, and the way your lives seem to emanate the richness of Bharatanaatyam on so many levels.
- Andrea Zuchese (Aruna)

To my dearest Master and Akka,
The gift of love and knowledge is truly a priceless fortune; my life has been gifted by your generous love and knowledge.
I treasure every moment that I have spent with you and keep it very close to heart. Thank you for being such a positive influence in my life.
- Verushka Kamendran

Dear Master and Akka,
I am very grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to learn at your academy. It was a great joy – a wonderful experience. Thank you ever so much.
- Syantani

A meaning of life – to profoundly and positively touch the lives of others. I hope that I will be able to achieve the same one day. Whether it be the attention that you pay in class, the devotion and haunting beauty / serenity of bhajans, or simply the positive energy that you emanate, I will remember it all until I return. For all of this, I must thank you sincerely, Anna and Akka.
- Niharika Bansal, Maryland.

A true meaning of the word artiste in the dance field should include the characteristics of a dancer, choreographer, teacher, connoisseur, scholar and crusader for the arts. In my opinion, I feel that the Dhananjayans possess these qualities and more. I have been an admirer of their dancing as a couple and their capacity to put together group productions. Their ability to choreograph interesting patterns and formations in-group, to sustain the interest of the viewer in a dance drama or group presentation is superior to anyone else.
They have always paid attention to production values and details without which a presentation cannot be a success. They are scholars of the art. But what has earned my respect for them is their capacity to appreciate talent when they see it and promote it even if it is outside their school, and their enduring efforts at reforming the dance field, which is subject to extreme corruption. They have never hesitated to speak up when they felt something was wrong. They have also never hesitated to help out younger artists whenever they could. Such generosity and conviction comes from deep-rooted security of oneself as an artist and human being.
- Vidya Sreedhar (USA)

For you are a very rare person and special teacher, guide, parent, etc., Akka, and I thank you for being a wonderful part of my world. Before I met you, dance was not a big deal to me, but now it is. You are the best teacher, and whoever learns from you is lucky.
- Sumana Chintapalli, Texas

Appreciation from Friends, Associates & Well Wishers