Sreelatha Vinod’s Life Lessons Through Natya – A Reflection

Sreelatha Vinod Embraces Bharatanatyam, Her Journey and Growth in Dance

At a time when most Indian children were being steered towards learning classical dance or music, Sreelatha Vinod’s parents encouraged her to pursue a passion for dance. The opportunity arose when they discovered Natya Vihar, a prestigious dance school in their neighborhood, founded by none other than the father of renowned actor Hemamalini. Under the guidance of the esteemed dance guru Tanjai Arunachalam Pillai, Sreelatha embarked on her journey into Bharatnatyam, culminating in an early arangetram that marked the beginning of her dedication and talent.

Sreelatha fondly remembers her early dance classes as a time filled with anticipation and learning. Her guru, Tanjai Arunachalam Pillai, imparted the technicalities and nuances of Bharatnatyam, shaping her into a dedicated and disciplined dancer. An early highlight in her career came when she was awarded a medal by the legendary Sivaji Ganesan at just five years old, a cherished memory that underscored her passion for dance.

However, her journey took an unexpected turn when her beloved guru fell ill, leading to a shift in her training. The dedicated Arunachalam Pillai, foreseeing a need to unify dancers and gurus, initiated the formation of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India) before his passing, laying the groundwork for the future of Bharatanatyam.

Sreelatha’s training continued under the mentorship of her second gurus, the renowned Dhananjeyans, a transition that proved challenging as she navigated the need to unlearn and relearn techniques while adapting to a different teaching style. Despite missing the individual attention she had previously enjoyed, Sreelatha found herself under the tutelage of the sought-after performing gurus, Radhika Shurajit, who played an integral role in her growth as a dancer.

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The journey with the Dhananjeyans presented Sreelatha with valuable lessons and opportunities, including the discovery of her choreographic talents and the chance to work alongside Pt. Ravi Shankar. Through humility and dedication, she earned the respect and recognition of her gurus, establishing herself as a gifted choreographer and a Kalaimamani awardee.

As Sreelatha continued her journey, she embraced the teachings of her two sets of gurus, the visionary perspective of Dhananjeyan and the meticulous attention to detail instilled by Shantha, shaping her both as a performer and a mentor. Her commitment to the art led to the establishment of the Anthara Centre for Performing Arts and Prayatnam, reflecting her dedication to nurturing the next generation of dancers and preserving the cultural legacy of Bharatanatyam.

Today, Sreelatha’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of dance and the unwavering dedication of gurus who shape the next generation of artists. Through her experiences and the guidance of her gurus, she continues to inspire and empower aspiring dancers, bridging the worlds of history and dance through her passion and commitment to Bharatanatyam.

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