Archive for the ‘Rukmini Devi Arundale’ Category

Kalakshetra premises

Kalakshetra premises

Due to semester examinations and summer vacation Kalakshetra – College of Fine Arts and Museum will be closed for visitors from 23rd March 2009 – 30th June 2009. Visitors are requested to contact College office after 1st July 2009 for further information.

The Kalakshetra performance is a hallmark of excellence, marked by simplicity, elegance, and formal rigor. The thorough education here aims to create the consummate performer, one who is adept in his or her art and has an understanding of the theoretical, literary and musical basis of the art form.

Kalakshetra offers a range of options for the needs of every individual interested in learning music, dance or art, from its schools to its college, to the flexible evening course options. Interested persons should read about the different divisions at Kalakshetra for learning: the College of Fine Arts, the Besant Theosophical High School, the Arundale School, and the courses available in bharata natyam, carnatic music and the visual arts.

Students at Kalakshetra

Students at Kalakshetra

The intent of the institute is to create a consummate performer, one who is an adept dancer, and has a thorough understanding of the theoretical, literary and musical basis of the traditional margam. Therefore, language, music and theory are subjects that support the main subject of study. Each dance student must study vocal music or an instrument as a subsidiary subject. Dance students are encouraged to also study mridangam (a percussion instrument which accompanies the dance) in order to strengthen their understanding of tala or rhythm. Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, the languages most commonly found in the poetry of Carnatic music are part of the syllabus.

The Kalakshetra dancer is renowned for his/her impeccable form. One of Rukmini Devi’s most far-sighted changes to the dance was in the teaching of the basic steps or adavus of Bharata Natyam. She classified and broke down the various adavus, and refined many of the movements, giving them geometric precision with a touch of grace. Students are taught the adavus based on her systematized method for their first and most of their second years. Students are taught exercises and yoga, which aid and diversify the range of movement.

Items are gradually introduced into the curriculum from the second year onwards, and students begin learning abhinaya pieces from their third year. Students graduate from the four year diploma course with a strong theoretical, musical and language foundation which allows them to understand and incorporate new items into their repertoire, and, with continued practice and performance, to gain further insights into the dance form.

Students at Kalakshetra

Students at Kalakshetra

The intent of the institute is to equip students to become performers with strong foundations and the capacity for development on their own. The Kalakshetra diploma in music is unique in requiring 5 years of training, with 3 hours of main music class daily, more than any other comparable program. In spirit, the program emulates the gurukul system. Classes are small and individualized and the students’ progress is based on their strengths and on the discretion of the teachers. The teacher-student ratio is about one-to-four, with the teacher concentrating on the strengths and weaknesses of every student.

Teachers cover rare ragas and rare kritis wherever it will aid the student. They also cover works by all of the major composers, including compositions by those great gurus who worked at Kalakshetra, like Tiger Varadachariar, Mysore Vasudevachariar, Budalur Krishnamurthi Sastri, and M.D. Ramanathan, who all shaped the way music is taught here.

Voice culture is an important aspect of vocal music teaching, with regular sruti exercises, aakaram, and regular repetition of basic exercises in many raagas. This helps students to produce correct notes at quick speeds.

Every vocal student must take an instrument as a subsidiary subject, apart from other subjects like the theory of music, study of the lives of great musicians, and shastras related to music. They also do field trips to Thiruvaiyaru and other places of interest for carnatic music. Yoga is commonly taught to all students in Kalakshetra and two out of three languages are compulsory-Sanskrit, Telegu, and Tamizh.
If a student takes an instrument like veena, violin, or mridangam as their main subject, then vocal music becomes their subsidiary subject. Apart from this, they follow the same syllabus as the vocal student. It is also possible to take dance or art as a second subsidiary subject.

Drama, which is part of the legacy of Smt. Rukmini Devi, our founder, is seen and can be appreciated around the year in the many festivals and performances held in the institute. Kalakshetra has a repertory company that performs extensively through the year. Dance and music students of the institute have the benefit of listening to the music of great stalwarts and seeing the choreography of Rukmini Devi who was perhaps the greatest choreographer of the previous century.

Art, dance and music, although of different disciplines, address the same sensibility; therefore, it is necessary that they all grow together in a cohesive environment of learning. The natural beauty and richness of the Kalakshetra campus is just the ideal setting for this Art, dance and music, although of different disciplines, address the same sensibility; therefore, it is necessary that they all grow together in a cohesive environment of learning. The natural beauty and richness of the Kalakshetra campus is just the ideal setting for this cohesive growth

The art centre provides students four-year diploma courses as well as short-term and part-time courses in the areas of visual arts including: art (painting), ceramics/pottery, sculpture and woodwork, design (basic visual design, textile, kalamkari, etc), and graphic art.

Courses of Study include a four-year diploma course (graduation program – residential), one-year short-term course (residential or day scholars), 1, 3, or 6 month short-term courses (day scholars), and part-time courses in the evening (day scholars).

For further detail, please contact the Registrar or Principal of Kalakshetra at 2452 1169 or email the Advisor of Fine Arts at artcentre@kalakshetra.in.

Rukmini Devi Arundale

Rukmini Devi Arundale

Post Diploma Study in Music and Dance

Kalakshetra offers graduates who secure a First Class diploma the opportunity to apply for a further two-year post-graduate course in either music or dance.

Music students focus primarily on the practical, with a special focus on Raga Alapana, Pallavis, Padams, and other advanced studies. During this period, they have to write a dissertation, attend workshops and concerts of eminent artists and do field trips that may be related to their particular paper.

Dance students learn two new margams in the two year program. They study advanced theory, and have field trips with a view to writing a thesis. They also have the opportunity to perform in the dance-dramas and other productions of the Kalakshetra repertory.

Diploma/Post Diploma: Admissions
Interested applicants should read the following information on the applications and admissions process for the diploma course in Kalakshetra in music and dance, as well as other information available on this site about the College of Fine Arts and the Kalakshetra Foundation. The information provided will enable them to understand the range of resources available to every student.

Students between the ages of 15 and 25 who have passed the 10th standard are eligible for admission to the college. The prospectus and application form will be available on the web and in the College office in February of each year. The age restriction can be waived in the case of foreign applicants, after due consideration by a selection committee. The final decision will be taken by the Director.

Prospective students must submit their completed application with testimonials before May 18th. Applicants who are selected for the interview will receive an interview letter giving them the exact date and location of the interview. Interviews are held in the second week of June, a week before the college reopens. The interview is mandatory for all prospective students. Foreign nationals who require a student visa may be exempt from this rule at the discretion of the Director. For all others no changes to the interview date will be entertained. Students must pay for their own travel to and from the interview. Successful candidates must be prepared to join the institute within a week of the declaration of results which are made immediately after all interviews are completed.

The college opens in the third week of June and selected candidates must be prepared to join within a week. Students are selected on the basis of a practical aptitude test and an interview. The school seeks talented students who intend to become professional artists, and who will give the practice of their chosen art primary importance in their lives.

The first year is a probationary year for all students. Students must complete the entire course (four years in the case of Bharata Natyam and Visual Art and five years in the case of classical Carnatic music) in order to earn the diploma. In very special cases, direct admission to a higher class may be considered according to the training and qualifications of a student. However, a student will, regardless of this special consideration, have to undergo training for at least three years in order to qualify for a diploma in dance or art, and four years for a diploma in music.

International Students
Foreign students may apply using the Foreign Students Application Form. Visa and passport details have to be supplied to the College at the time of application. Students who wish to apply from foreign countries in advance or who apply through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in their own countries must do so well in advance so that their applications can be processed in time for the new course. Such candidates must send their application form, school and college certificates, curricula vitae and a DVD of their work. Such candidates will be duly informed through email of the results.

Those foreign nationals who wish to take the interview in person will go through the same selection procedures as students from India. Those selected for entry into the college will be permitted to begin study only after obtaining the appropriate student visa.

Applicants selected for the interview under a tourist visa must obtain relevant information in their respective country of the rules that apply to the transfer of a visa from tourist status to student status. If students are selected for admission, Kalakshetra will issue a letter confirming their selection. This letter may be used to obtain a student visa, according to visa procedures which vary from country to country. For more information on visas, please contact the Indian consulate in your country.

Rukmini Devi and George Arundale, Finland, 1936

Rukmini Devi and George Arundale, Finland, 1936

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has entered into agreements with certain countries, with a view to promoting cultural exchange between India and these countries. Students interested in learning in institutions and universities within India are given a scholarship for study, which cover tuition, lodging, board, and reimbursement of medical expenses. Prospective applicants to Kalakshetra from these countries must apply through the Indian Consulate in their country and indicate their preference for Kalakshetra in their application forms. The ICCR will forward their application to us for processing. As a government institute, Kalakshetra makes every effort to honor the Indian government’s commitments to other nations. However, Kalakshetra reserves the right to screen all applicants. For more information, please contact the relevant Indian Consulate.

A scholarship fund exists for students of Kalakshetra created from donations and endowments made to the institute. A limited number of scholarships are available to students whose parents or guardians are not in a position to pay their fees and who display a degree of talent and aptitude. The case of each applicant will be considered and decided by a scholarship committee. The scholarship covers the tuition fees alone, and for very deserving students, the hostel fees as well for an entire academic year. Scholarships are merit-based, and will only be made available to students with demonstrated financial need after their first year during which a student’s abilities can be judged.

Kalakshetra grants full scholarships to qualified candidates from any of the Northeast states of India.

Full time course fee details for 2009-10 at the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts of Kalakshetra

Kalakshetra’s Hostel (Besant Cultural Centre Hostel Fees


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Vidya Dinakaran

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Bharata Natyam is one of India’s oldest and gracious dance forms.

Bharatha Natyam is one of the seven classical dance forms of India,chiefly associated with the South of India ie Tamil Nadu.The name of sage Bharatha or form its origin in the Bharatha Desha.Bharatha Natyam is also iterpreted as Bhaaram Tharayithi Bharatham -the true dispeller of grief and anguish.Baratha Natyam is also that which encompasses Bhaavam (emotional content),Raga (melody) and Thaalam(rhythm).

For long this dance was also referred to as Sadir or Dasiattam, drawing from an ancient tradition of girls who chose to be wedded to God and spend their lifetime in his servitude. Such ladies were called Devadasis (servants of God) or Nitya Sumangalis (one who would remain auspicious and happily wedded forever) . Such dasis performed music and dance dedicated to the temple during all auspicious festivals, also fanned the deity with chamara and held the lamp or the kumbharthi in sacred processions. They initially held esteemed place in society and were well cared for by the temple and the local ruler.

The literary content of Bharata Natyam was initially inspired by the devoted outpourings of Nayanmars (Shaivaite saints) and Alwars (Vaishnavaite saints), whose influence grew around the tenth century.

The saint poets of later medieval period and early modern period of Indian history, further enhanced the literary content of Bharata Natyam repertorie.

The earliest task of redefining and formalising the repertorie of Dasiattam was carried by four brothers from Tanjore, popularly referred to as the Tanjore quartet (Chinnaiyah, Ponnaiyah, Vadivelu and Sivanandan), to whom we owe the modern day repertorie.

Due to the circumstantial deterioration of the Devadasi system around the beginning of the twentieth century, this practice was banned by a Government Legislation. It was at this time that in 1931, the Madras Music Academy took up the losing cause of this tradition along with Shri E. Krishnaiyer. The first momentous stem was the rechristening of Sadirattam as Bharata Natyam, to present the art in new light.

Enlightened members of society such as Shri E. Krishnaiyer and Smt. Rukmani Devi took to reforming the status of the dance form by introducing further stylization and logical technique in its practice.

Smt Rukmani Devi’s sojourn in this dance formblossomed only in her thirties making her the first Brahmin woman to pursue dance in the latter twentieth century. She was instrumental in later forming the Mecca of Bharata Natyam in Madras – Kalakshetra. She was also one whose aesthetics greatly enhanced the costume and overall representation as dance as we see it today.

This particular dance form was more earth based as seen from its very grounded strong movements from the Ayatha Mandala or the demi plea – araimandi position. The repetorie of a performance is known to consist of Alarippu (drawing from the Telugu phrase of Alarimppu, meaning adorned with flowers), which is the first step of the dancer into blossomig into a full-fledged artiste.

The next item is the Jathiswaram, where pure dance sequences or jathis are strung together to a garland of Swaras, forming simple but interesting rythmic and physical patterns.

The Shabdam introduces the aspect of emotional content onto the hitherto and where danceuse, in small amounts along with the regular Nritta or pure sequences. This intermingling of pure dance and drama (Natya) is called Nritya.

The dancer’s test of stamina and understanding of physical media and its literary content is the Varnam (originally called Vannam or colour). The longest item of the repetorie, the Varnam, adequately exploits the dancers’ experience in the art with its extensive dramatic sequences and challenging sequences and challenging complex rhythmic footwork.

Next follow Padams (derived from the term Padagalu, meaning precious gems). The Padams allow the artiste to explore great depths of emotion surging forth as Bhakti or devotion and Sringaara or love for the God.

Following the Padams, we ocassionaly encounter lighter items like Javalis or intense Ashtapadis that are more inclined to Sringara or the sentiment of love and that which explore in detail the multifacets of fleeting emotions that result from the main feeling of love.

Thus these items are replete with Sancharis, which are extrapolations or extensions of a central idea, seen by way of a multitude of stories, either mythical or puranic.

The repetorie then concludes with a Thillana (derived from Tiralaanadu or that which is fast), that comprises Nritta sequences again, complex footwork and the pure joy of dance.

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Rukmini_Devi Arundale

Rukmini Devi Arundale

Kalakshetra was established in 1936 after the extraordinary success of Rukmini Devi’s first performance of Bharata Natyam at the Theosophical Society, in Adyar, a suburb of Madras, in the South of India. The founding members, Rukmini Devi, her husband George Arundale, and their associates at the Theosophical Society, were deeply committed to Theosophy and an arts academy was an extension
of this commitment. The academy was also symbolic of the struggle for India’s independence; it was to culturally revive a country that was losing its identity under British rule.

The name Kalakshetra was suggested by Pandit S. Subramania Sastri, a Sanskrit scholar and member of the academy. His granddaughter S. Sarada was one of the first students. She, along with Radha, Rukmini Devi’s niece, Leelavati, A. Sarada, and Anandi, granddaughter of Kalki Krishnamurti, were among the first to join Kalakshetra, then located in the Theosophical Society’s grounds. D. Pashupati, Raman and Lakshmanan began studying music, and soon more students followed.

Rukmini Devi with George Arundale in Finland in 1936

Rukmini Devi and George Arundale, Finland, 1936

Many renowned nattuvanars and dancers of that period taught at the institute. Among them were Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Rukmini Devi’s first teacher, Muthukumara Pillai, and Chokkalingam Pillai. Karaikkal Saradambal Ammal, known for her nritta, polished the technique of the early students. Dandayudapani Pillai later joined the staff, as did Mylapore Gowri Ammal. These early teachers bequeathed many compositions and stylistic inputs to the institute which remain embedded in the Kalakshetra style today. Ambu Pannikar, the great Kathakali ashaan who spent the last six years of his life at Kalakshetra, taught Rukmini Devi several Kathakali movements and set pieces that were used to great effect in her dance dramas. After his death, another doyen – Chandu Pannikar came to the college, bringing along with him young boys, Dhananjayan, Balagopalan, and later, his own son Janardhanan. These three, along with the older Kunhiraman, Ambu Pannikar’s son, became the early male dancers of the institute, participating in the new dramas that Rukmini Devi choreographed. They became known
for their heroic roles in Kalakshetra’s dance dramas.

Rukmini Devi personally trained the early dance students, who then took on the responsibility of teaching new students. She held a special morning class where she taught ballet exercises.

She refined and classified the adavus, the basic steps of the dance, making them efficient and beautiful, and systematized a teaching methodology for the dance form she inherited.

In these early days, the staff at Kalakshetra was motivated by a great spirit of service, and worked tirelessly to bring the vision of Kalakshetra to life. Among them was Sankara Menon, who was the principal of the Besant Theosophical High School. He helped Rukmini Devi in every aspect of administrating the institute, gave talks to students on Hindu philosophy, and later succeeded her as director.

Kalakshetra became the first dance institute to establish a meaningful theoretical syllabus for dancers. Kamala Rani, also one of the early students, established herself as a brilliant nattuvanar, breaking barriers for women in field. S. Sarada researched the texts for Rukmini Devi’s dance dramas, sang for classes and performances, and took detailed notations of Rukmini Devi’s choreography. D. Padmasini, who hailed from a Theosophical family, joined Kalakshetra as a music teacher at BTHS. She worked as the doctor in the hostel dispensary, became Superintendent of the hostels, and sang for dance dramas. She and her brother, M.D.Mani supervised the difficult move of Kalakshetra, the Besant School and the hostels from Adyar to Tiruvanmiyur, two miles down on the south coast of Madras. They worked along with the students to plan the new campus and to plant trees on the new campus. Kamala Trilokekar managed the Montessori school and the Arundale Teacher Training Center, both affiliated to Kalakshetra.

Rukmini Devi’s first love was music. To her, the dance simply gave visual shape to the music. She was in a sense, a pioneer in that she was the first dancer to invite, not one, but several great musicians to Kalakshetra. They not only came, but contributed selflessly and very substantially to her work, as much due to the special respect she had for them, as for the wonderful atmosphere that she had created about her in this new ashram for India’s arts. Papanasam Sivan, who taught music at the Besant School, was renowned for his devotional singing. He sang for Rukmini Devi’s
dance performances, helping to break caste barriers for dance accompanists, while she gave legitimacy to a dance form which had lost respect in the society of the time. Kalidasa Nilakanta Aiyar, an expert on tala, helped to set the teermanams correctly in the older dance pieces.

Tiger Varadachariar became Principal of Kalakshetra in 1944, when the Sangita Sironmani course was begun in the institute. Madurai Subramani Aiyar, the violin vidwan, Tiger’s brother Veena Krishnamachariar and T.K. Ramaswami Aiyengar all taught the Sangita Sironmani course. Eminent musicians such as Veena Sambasiva Aiyar, Budalur Krishnamurti Shastrigal, the master of the Gottuvadyam, and M. D. Ramanathan, who had been Tiger’s student at the institute, all served as Principals in successive years. Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma was a professor.

Kalakshetra’s reputation rests on its dance dramas, meticulously crafted ensemble pieces choreographed by Rukmini Devi. The music for the dance dramas is the living legacy of the musicians who came to the institute. Rukmini Devi choreographed her first drama Kuttrala Kuravanji, to the music of Veena Krishnamachariar. Its success inspired her to choreograph Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhavam in 1947, for which Tiger Vardachariar composed the music. Papanasam Sivan scored Andal Charitram, Gita Govindam, Abhignana Shakuntalam, Kannapar Kuravanji and others. Mysore Vasudevachariar came to Kalakshetra in 1953 with his grandson Rajaram. He composed the music for the six- part Valmiki Ramayana until his death, after which Rajaram took over. For Rukmini Devi, these musicians provided the backbone on which she built her productions.

Over the years, encouraged by her husband, Dr. George Arundale, Rukmini Devi had acquired land in the village of Tiruvanmiyur, a short distance away from the Theosophical Society. In 1951, a sapling of the
great banyan tree in the Theosophical Society’s grounds was planted at Tiruvanmiyur. The new campus was consolidated in the years that followed until it covered one hundred acres beside the sea. Gradually, other trees were planted on the sandy stretches of land. Kalakshetra moved to its new  campus in the 1960s. Rukmini Devi and her associates undertook the Herculean task of finding the funds and the energy to build up the institute once again. They built roads, planted trees, found committed architects, engineers and building material during a period of shortages, to create a sylvan oasis of art and education which has provided an inspiring education to all those, fortunate enough to study here. The campus continues to elicit the admiration of all, who come to visit or attend performances here.

Rukmini Devi had long nurtured a dream to build an auditorium for dance and music which would be aesthetic, Indian in spirit, and that would provide an ideal setting for her choreographic work. Her dream was realized when the Bharata Kalakshetra auditorium, built in the Koothambalam style from Kerala, was inaugurated in 1985.

The founder of Kalakshetra, Rukmini Devi died in 1986. After her, Sri K. Sankara Menon became the director. In 1993, Kalakshetra was taken over by the government. In the hope that its groundbreaking work in the revival of the arts in India would continue, the Indian government deemed it an institute of national importance by an act of parliament and has since given the College its support. After Sankara Menon’s death, Sri S. Rajaram took over as director. Since April of 2005, Leela Samson, a leading practitioner of the Kalakshetra style, has been heading the institute.

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