Yogaville Summer Gurukulam Camps

The Dhananjayans have been conducting the summer Gurukulam camps at the Satchidananda Ashram, Yogaville, Virgina, USA, continuously from 1988. The camp is usually held in the July-August time of the year enabling dancers from the USA and other parts of the world to take part. This camp, a concentrated course developed by the Natya Adyayana Gurukulam, in the beautiful Virginia countryside, has helped spread awareness of Indian culture and values to American born Indian children, and other students of different parts of the globe, to understand the values of Indian art and culture, and of course, philosophy and significance of our Indian mythology and the characters in the epics. It is an intensive, fulltime residential course devoted entirely to the fine arts. Theory of Bharatanaatyam is taught along with its origin, development and philosophic content. Carnatic music and study of Samskritam go hand-in-hand with the dance lessons. Yoga is taught and practiced to improve stamina. So is meditation to improve concentration.

95 year young dynamic lady Rukmini Rasiah has taken it to this 25th year of Fine Arts Society’s Gurukulam summer camp at Yogaville, Virgnia, USA.  Meticulously following the three ‘D’ success formula enunciated by  the founder of Yogaville - Swami Satchidananda Maharaj (Discipline, Devotion and Dedication) this has been a trend setting community service movement started 25 years ago involving the living legends of Bharatanatyam - The Dhananjayans ably assisted by their ardent disciple Padmarani Rasiah Cantu.

For the rest of the year, at the Fine Arts society, Yogaville, one of the Dhananjayans’ top senior disciples Padmarani Rasaih Cantu, trains pupils from Buckingham and the surrounding counties. Padmarani Cantu is the full-time instructor in the Fine Arts society of Yogaville.

The children who attend this summer camp come from all over the globe, but a majority from the US. Camps for American children means fun and it took a while for the camp participants to realize that this was a camp with a difference. With love and patience, the Dhananjayans have won over the confidence of these initially confused children who were torn between obeying their parents’ dictate to learn Indian values and following the American way of life.

The children who attend the camp spread the education they receive at the camp to their friends, who in turn, speak to their friends and so on, the chain reaction increasing the popularity of the Yogaville camp year by year. Some teachers also attend the camp as a refresher course for themselves, reflected in the remarkably high standard of instruction in their dance schools.

No distinction is made for students of different schools of Bharatanaatyam. For the Dhananjayans, there are only two styles - the good and the bad.

Being silver jubilee year, it was a great event at the Yogaville community where students past and present from all around the globe congregated to celebrate, living and learning  in the company of their masters Shanta and Dhananjayan fondly addressed as Akka & Anna.

This year, from July 6 -31, 2013 in two sessions of this unique living Gurukulam, the Dhananjayans say they will ‘call it a day’ after all these years of highly successful summer camps, teaching Bharatanatyam and its allied subjects in a foreign land in an atmosphere of “Home away from home.” It is one of its kind as far as Bhaarateeya Kala and Samskaara (Art and culture of India) is concerned.

24th Natya Adyayana Gurukulam Conducted by the Fine Arts Society of Yogaville, Satchidananda Ashram, Virginia, USA.
All level camp: July 6th to July 22nd 2013
Intermediate and Advanced level camp: July 22nd to July 31st 2013
* Naatya Adhyayana Instructors:  The Dhananjayans, Padmarani Rasiah Cantu
* Assistant teacher:  Kannan Rasiah
* Yoga Instructors:  Swami Gurucharanananda Mataji, Swami Priyaananda Mataji
Contact:  /

Photos - Yogaville Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam Gurupoornima celebrations on July 20, 2013

Yogaville, Satchidananda Ashram FINE ARTS SOCIETY  celebrated it's silver jubilee on July 21st 2013.
Report  ;  Photos

Photos of the 2nd camp

The Yogaville Experience
- Krithika Shurajit,, 11 October 2013

The 23rd Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summar camp at Yogaville Virginia, USA - 2011
July 2 - Aug 2, 2011
23rd year Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam , FAS Yogaville virginia, USA
(Yogaville camp 2011) A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
The 23rd annual Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam camp conducted by The Dhananjayans in Yogaville, Virginia USA was held between July 2nd to 23rd (1st camp) and July 24th to 2nd August ( 2nd camp).
One of its kind in the world. Unique learning experience directly from the legendary dancing couple of India - The Dhananjayans assisted by Padmarani Rasiah Cantu. Training courses included Naatya, (practical & theory) Nattuvangam, Sangeetam, Bhajan, Yoga, cultural discourses, lectures on philosophy and integrated art education.

Unique opportunity to learn our special NRITYOPAHAARAM (Mohanakrishna padavarnam in Mohana Raagam) with unusual episode from Krishna stories in Sanchari, a very special and difficult item to learn - taught only to those advance students joining the second camp after assessing the good standard of the student..."

For more details contact:
FAS: 434 969 3210 ; email:
Padma Rasiah Cantu: 804 262 6281 ; email:

Report ; Photos

The 22nd Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summar camp at Yogaville Virginia, USA - 2010

The 21st Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summar camp at Yogaville Virginia, USA - 2009
The 2009 Gurukulam camp was held from July 8th to August 3rd 2009
1st camp - (All level)
July 8th - July 25th (18 days)
2nd camp - (Intermediate & Senior)
July 25th - August 3rd - (10 days)

Photos by Vijay

The 20th Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summar camp at Yogaville Virginia, USA - 2008

Details (loads in a new window)

The 19th Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summar camp at Yogaville Virginia, USA - 2007
Details ; Photo Album

Dhananjayan relates an incident that perhaps best underlines the purposeful motive behind the program.

“We were enrolling the participants when a brother and sister came in. The girl looked in astonishment at me and remarked, ‘You are the Guru? You look so primitive!’”

“She was about 13, wearing brief shorts and a brief t-shirt and in her perception, wearing a dhoti and kurta was primitive to her. On the formal camp inauguration the next day, we had a full-fledged pooja with mantrams, followed by a talk with the parents.

I called this girl and asked her what her definition of primitive was. In typical American accent, she said half clad, tribal, crude and so on. I asked her how civilization started. She said people started wearing bark, then leaves, then skin and finally covered themselves completely in clothes. With a smile, I asked her how she would describe her extremely brief attire of the earlier day. When she realized the import of her careless remark of the earlier day, she burst into tears and ran away from class! It was not our intention to humiliate anyone; it was just that she realized how the description of primitive had bounced back on her.”

“She realized how mistaken she was in her values and changed her outlook on life. She is now a doctor and proud of her Indian heritage. Kids who used to hate India started coming to India. Some even worked with Mother Theresa with the Calcutta street children.”

In this dance camp, the Dhananjayans have followed the same system of learning as in Kalakshetra—the gurukulam. Prompted by the rootless ness in the Indian community in America, they wanted to contribute to the propagation of Indian culture in the minds of the younger generation.

“When we performed in Yogaville in 1988, I felt that this ashram was an ideal place for learning—just like Kalakshetra. The weekend workshop format was inadequate for learning Bharatanaatyam, so we decided to extend it over a whole month. This way, we can do justice to the art form, and also introduce the idea of a different approach to learning—the gurukulam, of students living with their teachers.”

The Dhananjayans had to adapt their teaching methods to accommodate the children there, as they found that the expectations and behaviour of the children there were very different from those in India.

“We had many discussions about the way of life in India. I hope it has corrected their misconceptions about Indians as superstitious and orthodox, and made them feel proud of their cultural background.”

To children like them everywhere, Dhananjayan, as a teacher, has this to say:
“Do not feel inferior in a Western society. Do not lose your own identity. You can be justifiably proud of your own culture. You have the potential to be a beautiful dancer, a beautiful person.”

To the parents, he adds:
“Parents think that just by learning Bharatanaatyam or Kathak, or Indian classical music, their children will become more Indian…It is not so. They must create an environment in the home to encourage Indian values. Parents must themselves feel proud of being Indian.”

For course dates or for general information, please contact:
Natya-Adyayana-Gurukulam Camp
Fine Arts Society
Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville
Buckingham, Virginia 23921
Ph: (804) - 969 – 3210
Email: or or
Calls: 9am – 12 noon, 4pm – 6pm only.

A few words from students who have participated over the years—
“The camp is unique; not only in its setting but the gifted gurus who guide students at different levels to make that transition to better dancers…The lessons learnt will be with me for a long time.”
- Prashanti Selvaratnam, New Zealand, 1998
“I am very grateful that living in America, kids like me have the opportunity to learn dance like it is taught in India. I know that camp has made a profound impact on my life in many inexpressible ways.”
- Divya Shenoy, 1998
“This is the third camp I have attended…To be guided, taught by and to be in the company of our gurus in such a close gathering is a unique experience…”
- Radha Dutta (Bharatha Natyam teacher in Maryland), 1998
“I was pleasantly surprised to experience a gurukulam environment in this day and age. I will always treasure this time; not only for the knowledge I gained but also for the wonderful people I met, all in the most beautiful setting. I sincerely wish the camp many more years of success.”
- Manisha Thaker, UK, 1998
“We have enjoyed camp and have improved on our posture and steps – all in all our dancing has been fine tuned. Camp is an all round training, lots of fun and very challenging. We would love to come again.”
- Hari & Eshwara Jayarajan, Australia, 1997
“Thanks for a wonderful month! It was very educational. I learnt to love, share, care and cooperate. It was an interesting experience.”
- Puja Pandya, 1993
“I have attended the camp for 4 years. I have learnt not only Bharatanaatyam, but also how to get along with and help others. I learned to be more independent, organized and disciplined in my daily life. I had fun and learnt a lot at the same time. I hope the camp will continue for many years to come and I look forward to coming as many times as possible.”
- Anuradha Subramaniam, 1993

- Photo Album