At the forefront of the new generation of Bharatanatyam dancers, "Nadanamamani" Dr. Janaki Rangarajan represents the future of the ancient art form. Since the age of 4, Janaki has been passionate about communicating through dance. Her unique dance style is a sincere result of her undying passion, self-motivation and dedication towards Bharatanatyam. Her refreshing approach to Bharatanatyam has won her many accolades and praise from dance lovers around the world. Being a firm believer in maintaining the integrity of tradition, Janaki explores her creativity without compromising on the classicism of the dance form.

Janaki's journey in Bharatanatyam commenced at the age of four under the tutelage of Smt. Madhavi Chandrasekhar in Trichy, India. At the age of seven, Janaki came under the guidance of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam in Chennai, India with whom she studied for the next 15 years. For more than 25 years, Janaki has been on her own, showcasing new productions (both traditional and "avant garde") and creating a unique voice and style in Bharatanatyam.

Janaki's immaculate and graceful movements and her subtle yet communicative expressions have won the admiration of laymen and connoisseurs alike. Critics around the world have given her rave reviews and described Janaki as an "absolutely brilliant performer", "one of the best today," "stunning" and "exemplary". The New York Times hailed her performance as a "spellbinder."

Janaki's performances have taken her across the globe. She tours with new choreographic works and conducts workshops. In addition to being an accomplished dancer, Janaki is a gifted dance choreographer. She has received many accolades of national and international acclaim which recognize her excellence as a performer and choreographer.

Janaki is the co-founder of Kalashraya, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of Indian classical arts. One of Janaki's passions is supporting organizations that dedicate themselves to the protection and education of children in India.

As a teacher, Janaki devotes time and energy into developing a new generation of dancers who are dedicated to Bharatanatyam. For more information about Janaki's dance school "Nrityaniketan," please click here.

Janaki trained in Carnatic (South Indian) vocal music and Veena (South Indian string instrument) music under the tutelage of Smt. Kamala Viswanathan and has received advanced vocal training with Sri. D.K. Nagarajan, younger brother of Smt. D.K. Pattamal and Sri. D.K. Jayaraman.

Janaki is a member of the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI). She is a member of the Indian Dance Educators Association (IDEA) and held the office of Secretary for a term. Janaki was the Chairperson of the Young Upcoming Artists Forum (YUAF) and, during her tenure, spearheaded a successful dance festival showcasing various classical Indian dance forms. Janaki has also been invited to judge dance competitions.

Some of the highlights in Janaki's dancing career include:

  • Arangetram in 1993 (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai)

  • Passing "Nritya Pravesika" (middle level certification course)

  • Passing "Nritya Visaradha" (senior level certification course)

  • Passing "Nritya Salini" (ultimate level certification course with distinction)

  • Receiving "Vasanthalakshmi-Narasimhachari Talent Promotion Award" from Natyarangam of Narada Gana Sabha

  • Receiving the title "Sathya Nirthya Sundaram" from Bharathanjali Trust

  • Receiving the title of "Singar Mani" from Sur Singar Samsad

  • 2008 MetroDC Dance Awards Nominee

  • 2009 MetroDC Dance Awards Nominee - Outstanding Individual Performer and Emerging Choreographer (Finalist) categories

  • Selected as an "Empanelled Artiste" of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations

  • Selected to be an "Empanelled Artiste" of the Creative Arts Programs of the Arts Council of Fairfax County

  • Receiving “2010 Strauss Fellowship for Choreography” from Arts council of Fairfax County

  • 2010 MetroDC Dance Awards Nominee - Outstanding Individual Performance (Finalist) and Emerging Choreographer (Finalist) categories

  • Receiving "Nadanamamani - Shriram Award of Excellence" from Kartik Fine Arts, India

  • Receiving "NCA Excellence Award" from Nungambakkam Cultural Academy Trust, India

  • Receiving "Nrithya Shiromani" title in Cuttack, Orissa

  • 2012 MetroDC Dance Awards - Emerging Performer (Winner), Outstanding Individual Performance (Finalist) and Emerging Choreographer (Finalist) categories

Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam is a legendary Bharatanatyam dancer and the director of Nrithyodaya, the dance school founded in 1942 by her father, Sri. K. Subrahmanyam, in Chennai.

Encouraged by her father, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam started learning under Kausalya who was a young teacher at Nrithyodaya. Later, she came under the wings of Guru Sri. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and had her Arangetram in 1956. Recognizing her talent, her father helped her further her capabilities. From Sri. Dandayuthapani Pillai, she learnt adavus, from Gowri Ammal she learnt Abhinaya. From various devadasis, she learnt 150 different adavus. Thus began her research.

Dr. Subrahmanyam has a Bachelor's degree in Music, a Master's in Ethno Musicology and a Ph.D. in dance from Annamalai University. As a research scholar she did her thesis on "Karanas in Indian dance and sculpture" and focused on the concept that the 108 Karanas (which are the basic units of dance) are actually movements and not just static poses.

After extensive research, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam theorized that the Karanas as depicted on temple facades were not merely static postures but were actually complete movements. What we see on the temple facades are more like photographs capturing each Karana at a particular point in the movement. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam has devoted many years to combining Sage Bharata's description of the Sthana, Chari and Nrtta Hasta that make up each Karana to recreate the complete movement of each of the 108 Karanas as described in the Natyasastra.
| Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai
Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai was a unique teacher. He trained his students with dedication and instilled into them the need to give of their best to Bharatanatyam. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai was born into a Isai Vellalar family, the traditional breeding ground of dancers and musicians. Ramiah Pillai was a dance master cast in the traditional mould. He was born in the village Vazhuvoor, a few miles from Mayapuram.

The temple at Vazhuvoor village is dedicated to Lord Siva, under the name of Gyannasabeshan, and to this day, the students of Vazhuvoor school, pay obeisance to the deity Gyannasabeshan in the form of Thodayamangalam at the beginning of each dance recital. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai trained numerous dance teachers, and numerous outstanding dancers of today.

He also composed a number of Kuravanjis, and was the first one to use snake dance, which was very much popularised by Smt. Kamala Lakshmanan. He used mainly Tamil compositions, and Varnams by Sri. Papanasam Sivan and Swathi Tirunal. He himself composed many Shabdam, Keerthanams, Padams, and Thillanas.

"The Nrtta aspect of Bharatanatyam shone in vibrant vitality throughout Ramiah Pillai's teaching career. He gave equal importance to Abinaya; but his style demanded a certain lilt which was at once dynamic and graceful. He was the first one to introduce striking poses in Bharatanatyam. "This sculpturesque quality became his hallmark and to this he added facile movements to make his dancers look like elegant ballerinas," - Lakshmi Viswanathan.

It is this unique portrayal that lends charm to the Bharatanatyam presented by Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai's school and makes Vazhuvoor tradition a unique one. Generally there is a popular belief that there are four different styles in Bharatanatyam. Among them, the Vazhuvoor style gained worldwide recognition.

He became an outstanding choreographer and dance director. He founded Vazhuvoorar Classical Bharatha Natya Art Centre at Mylapore, and organised Vazhuvoorar Art Festival in Chennai during the December season. In the closing years of his life he wrote a book 'Theiveka Aadal Kalai' on dance.

- Subashini Pathmanathan (a student of late Padmashree Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai)