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Best of both styles

A well-known Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, Shylaja has preserved the beauty and nuances of both art forms over the years. A profile of the artiste.


"BHARATANATYAM AND Kuchipudi are my twin passions, existing within me like flesh and blood. I cannot choose between the two," says Shylaja, a well-known dancer, proficient in both styles.

She has a sound grounding in Bharatanatyam, having trained under K.J. Sarasa, while the legendary Vempati Chinna Satyam is her mentor as far as Kuchipudi goes.

The artistic path that Shylaja has chosen is marked by steady progress , resulting from hard work and devotion to her art. Shylaja's approach has been methodical. She trained in Bharatanatyam for nearly 18 years before trying to master the vibrant techniques of Kuchipudi.

"I never mix the two dance forms. I am careful in maintaining the line of demarcation, be it in nritta or abhinaya."

Experience and knowledge have lent a distinct stamp to her performances.

What inspired Shylaja to take up Kuchipudi after having been a Bharatanatyam artiste for a considerable number of years? "Watching a performance of Shobha Naidu kindled my interest to pursue this style of dance. My rangapravesam was held in 1984, after three years of rigorous training under my guru, Vempati Chinna Satyam, who guided me with great care." Shylaja considers it as a "positive transfer" of learning while continuing with another style of dance.

In a career spanning nearly three decades, she has performed almost in all major sabhas in Chennai and other cities. She has also been featured in the festivals organised by various States and the Central Government — Silk Festival at Kanchipuram, Mamallapuram festival, Saaral Vizha at Kutralam, cultural exchange programmes at Nagpur and many more. Besides, she also took part in the Festival of India at the USSR and Germany; performed and held workshops at Mauritius. Her recital at the Spring Festival and workshop in Nuremburg (Germany) was well appreciated.

"Receiving the Best Dancer Award during the December Festival at The Music Academy in 1998 was a proud moment of my life. More so, as the award was instituted that year," says Shylaja. Her other awards include Best Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi Dancer from the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Best Teacher Award from the Indian Fine Arts Society, Yuva Kala Bharati from Bharat Kalachar and Abhinaya Arasi from Pollachi Tamizh Sangam. Shylaja is probably one of the few artistes who is comfortable performing in both styles. She has to her credit many thematic presentations such as "Pibare Rama Rasam", "Madhura Bhakti", "Satyam Sivam Sundaram", "Murali Gana Ravali" (based on compositions by Dr. Balamurali Krishna), and the recent, "Jaya Jaya Padmanabha" (Swati Tirunal's compositions).

A graduate in Psychology, Shylaja runs a dance school Saila Sudha, which provides the right ambience for young dancers to learn the art with commitment and passion.

NANDINI RAMANI

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