The youngest dancer to be presented a Padma Bhushan is in Hyderabad today. That's not, however, the highest honor on her list.
Parampara, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Maddula Laxminarayana, the first exponent of Vilasini Natyam, is organising the the 2nd Maddula Laxminarayana Memorial Vilasini Natyam concert by Padma Bhushan Swapnasundari, this Wednesday.
Today, Swapnasundari will be presenting the Vilasini Natyam dance recital at the Ravindra Bharati auditorium. Swapnasundari was trained in Kuchipudi under renowned masters Pasumarthi Seetharamaiah and Vempati Chinna Satyam. Her gurus in Bharata Natyam include K N Dakshinamurthy, Adyar K Lakshmanan and B Kalyana Sundaram. She received specialized training in abhinaya from the veteran performer and teacher Kalanidhi Narayanan, who is recognized for her mastery over the histrionic aspect, or the characteristic stylized mime, of Indian classical dance.
Apart from her sound knowledge of Carnatic music, Swapnasundari has also specialized in the art of singing padams with Shrimati Mukta. This training enables her to lend a distinct character to her rendering through dance of traditional padams.
Swapna's painstaking research into the temple dance traditions indigenous to the region of Andhra Pradesh has resulted in the unearthing and reconstruction of a nearly defunct dance genre, Vilasini Natyam. She had received guidance in this art from Maddula Lakshminarayana. As the founder-director of the Kuchipudi Dance Centre in New Delhi, she has trained a number of students and produced several ballets.
The Delhi Government's Sahitya Kala Parishad Award and the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from the Government of India are among the many honors that have been conferred upon Swapnasundari for her contribution to the arts. She is perhaps the youngest dancer who was presented with the national title of Padma Bhushan in recognition of her research into ancient dance forms and in the revival of the long lost dance art form, Vilasini Natyam.
Maddula Laxminarayana was born in 1926 into a traditional dancing family of village Pasalapoodi (East Godavari). She received Aata Abhyaasam (dance training) from her grandmother Maddula Venkatarathnam and Paata Abhyaasam (training in singing) from Pulle Subba Rao. She also studied Telugu and Sanskrit. She was dedicated to the Shivaalayam at Visveswara Agrahaaram, Perur, at the age of l3.
She studied Aata-Bhaagavatham (dance-opera) librettos from Brahmin scholar Gaddam Subbarayudu Sastri. Living at Manepalli (Razole Taluk) on the lands inherited from the temples which her family served, Laxminarayana pursued her art until temple-dancing was banned. In 1968 she obtained the mandatory special permission from the district authorities, which limited performances to Aata Bhagavathams.
From 1994, she coached her first and only disciple Swapnasundari in this traditional dance-system. Simultaneously, she, along with fifteen artists of her professional group, assisted scholar Dr Arudra to establish Vilasini Natyam and formulate a teaching syllabus.
Maddula Laxminarayana was an acknowledged master whose art has been partly documented for the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. This concert pays tribute to her in the month of her birth.