Thursday, 12 October 2017

Chitra Visweswaran

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Chitra Visweswaran is a famous Bharatanatyam exponent, reputed guru and an excellent choreographer. Born on 12 October 1950, Chitra was initiated into dance by her mother Rukmani Padmanabhan, and then put through her paces in Western classical ballet in London. At the age of ten, she came under the tutelage of the well known devadasi dancer Tiruvidaimarudur T.A. Rajalakshmi. Chitra performed her Bharatanatyam arangetram on 12 April 1962. An eclectic background covering Manipuri, Kathak, Rabindra nritya and sangeet, Carnatic music and theatre, launched Chitra on a voyage of discovery at a very young age in Calcutta.

In 1970, after graduating in English Honours from Calcutta University, Chitra received the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatanatyam from the Government of India. She relocated to Madras and spent her scholarship period of four years learning from the doyen Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. After some years Chitra chartered her own course, imbuing her knowledge of the cognate forms of arts with a scholastic approach and developing an individualistic philosophy of movement.

Her holistic vision of dance and her husband R. Visweswaran’s pursuit of music ensured a continuum through the Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA), which the couple established at Chennai in 1975. Together, they created several solo pieces, thematic presentations and group productions. Backed by research towards the extension of the Bharatanatyam repertoire, Chitra has  created a voluminous body of work, covering several margams, thematic solo, group /dance theatre productions, which reflect her individuality and are a synergy of tradition and innovation. She recently penned the lyrics and composed the music for Sri Pothai Kuravanji.

Chitra Visweswaran was among the first to perform extensively abroad, and in the process,  she equipped herself and her students in acoustics and lighting design. She has performed solo and presented her work at several prestigious venues and festivals including the United Nations, the Festivals of India abroad, and at the golden jubilee celebrations of India’s Independence held in different parts of the world. She was the first Indian dancer to appear on Portugal TV and more recently, the first Bharatanatyam choreographer to be commissioned to present choreographies by the Opera of France at Lille and Paris.

Her performances have been archived by Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and NCPA, Mumbai. Her dance has been telecast by important television channels including BBC, Singapore Broadcasting Company, Sydney Television, French Television, Doordarshan and Roopavahini. She has presented several papers, lecdems and workshops on dance, and  has collaborated with doyens in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak. She has served as board member, Kalakshetra Foundation, and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. She graced the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Fine Arts as a Professor Emeritus in the University of Madras. She served as  Member, General Council and Executive Board of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, and as Member Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram. Chitra Visweswaran is the Managing Trustee of CAPA, and Dean of Lalitha Kala Mandir, the fine arts wing of Sri Muthukrishna Swami Mission. She is now the President of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India).

Chitra is the recipient of several prestigious awards and honours including the Nritya Choodamani (1980), Kalaimamani (1983), the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Padma Shri (1992), Honorary Citizen of the City of Bourges, Viswa Kala Bharathi, and Natya Kala Acharya from The Music Academy (2014).

Chitra is a voracious reader and has delved deep into literature, the fine arts,  theatre, history, religion and philosophy. She is an aesthete and a connoisseur for whom Bharatanatyam is not only a passion but a spiritual experience.

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