Our People: Kalaichchelvi Uthayakumaran
Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular classical and traditional dances of India, originating from Tamil Nadu.
This dance form denotes various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of ‘Sadir,’ the art of temple dancers called ‘Devadasis.’
Bharata Natyam is known for its grace, purity, tenderness and poses.
Lord Shiva is looked upon as the God of this dance form.
Today, Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.
There are three main elements of Bharata Natyam, namely ‘Nritta’ (rhythmic dance movements), ‘Natya’ (dance combined with a dramatic aspect) and ‘Nritya’ (amalgamation of Nritta and Natya).
Carnatic music is composed for dance items, which integrate rhythmic patterns (talas) and melodies (ragas).
Bharata Natyam is a sacred ritual that brings ‘rasanubhava’ (catharsis, or spiritual uplift) to the rasika (audience) and the dancer.
Every movement of this dance form is unique and dynamic, with its own originality.
Every movement in it is rhythmic, caused as the result of simultaneous stamping of the feet, jump, pirouettes, and positions where the knees touch the floor forming a sophisticated pattern.
While most learn Bharata Natyam as a hobby, very few make it their career and a lifestyle, as it is extremely demanding and complex in terms of dedication and daily practice.
To continue this fine ancient art especially in a Western society is an immense challenge which Kalaichchelvi Uthayakumaran (Selvi), a Bharata Natyam teacher based in Auckland, New Zealand has successfully encountered for decades.
Selvi has been teaching this great art in New Zealand since 1993.
Narthana Aalayam School of Indian Classical Dance, of which she is the Director and Principal is known for its well-structured training programme and demands exacting standards of discipline and performance from students of varied ethnicity.
Throughout this period, she has trained several students and has presented 34 Arangetrams. She started her dancing career at the age of five under two eminent Gurus.
She studied the basics of Bharatha Natyam from Gowsaliya Anantharajah, completed her Arangetram and learnt ‘Nattuvangam’ from Krishanthy Raveendra, revered as an exponent in this dance form.
Selvi aims to go beyond providing instructions in dance and music, and assists in broader human development to ensure that her students are not only competent dancers but also cultured individuals.
Her passion, love and drive towards Bharata Natyam influence her students to continue learning, teaching and developing this art.
As well as being a Guru, she is a role model, mentor and advisor, who is aware of the potential in all her students.
She is able to bring out and highlight the strengths of each student, which enable them to perform to their highest ability.
Selvi is a prominent reason why the fine art of Bharata Natyam is highly active and recognised in the New Zealand society.
Her efforts to educate this art will always be valued as she is a heroic icon to the Indian society in New Zealand.
Riti Sharma is a disciple of Kalaichchelvi Uthayakumaran, learning Bharata Natyam for 11 years. She presented her Arangetram on September 13, 2014 at Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls Grammar School (reviewed in our October 15, 2014 issue).