Anita Ratnam is one of India’s most famous classical dancer and choreographer. In addition to mastering the Bharatnatyam art form, Ratnam has also gained proficiency in Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Tai Chi and Kalarippayattu. This has lead to her creation of a unique dance style, which she has popularly called “Neo Bharat Natyam”. Apart from being a classical dancer, Ratnam has presented her multi-dimensional talents being a trans-cultural collaborator, TV personality, speaker, author and cultural activist. Till date, she has given over 1000 performances in 15 countries. For her exceptional skills and talents, she has been conferred upon with numerous awards and recognition for her work in performing arts in India and abroad as a choreographer, scholar and cultural activist. To know more about her life and profile, read on this biography.
Anita Ratnam was born in Chennai, on May 21, 1954. She took her first dance training under Adyar k. Lakshmanan and later on she went to ‘Kalashetra’ of Rukmini Devi Arundale to get a post graduate diploma in Indian classical dance. After completing her Master’s degree in Theatre and Television from the University of New Orleans in U.S.A., Ratnam worked for ten years in United States as a TV producer/commentator which included a weekly series on art, travel and culture of India and also TV series of the highly praised ‘Festivals Of India’. She was nominated for Emmy and Ace awards as an appreciation for her great work which she did while living in United States. Her creations reveal an exclusive combination of classical and contemporary dance forms. Ratnam has traveled abroad to perform and also to conduct trainings, choreograph shows, to attend dance and theatre seminars and to give lectures on classical dance.
Ratnam has coalitions with many Indian and international dance theatre companies. With them, she has done several unique works such as ‘A Map to the World’ (1997) with American poet Joy Harjo, ‘The Inner World’ (1998) with Pangea World Theatre of Minneapolis, ‘Daughters of the Ocean’ (1999) with Shobita Punja, the writer, ‘Dust’ (2001) with Mark Taylor Of dance Alloy in Pittsburgh, United States and ‘Vortext’ (2002) with Peter Chin, a Canadian dance artist. In the year 2002, Ratnam was invited as anspectator to the Post Modern Dance Festival at Leipzig, Germany. In 2007, she presented her solo operatic performance ‘7 Graces’ at Joyce Soho, New York in alliance with Hari Krishnan, a Canada-based dancer and choreographer. Ratnam also worked in couple of Tamil films; her first film being ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain’ (2000), directed by Rajiv Menon. This movie was a famous family drama in which she played the role of an antagonist. She also did the movie named ‘Boys’ (2003).
Contribution in Dance
Anita Ratnam established ‘Arangham Trust’ in 1992, in Chennai, followed by ‘Arangham Dance Theatre’ in the year 1993. She set up this trust and dance theatre to enhance and support the cultural heritage of visual arts in India. Apart from this, Ratnam set up a portal for classical Indian dance called ‘www.narthaki.com’. She is also the co-founder and promoter of India’s contemporary dance festival ‘The Other Festival’, which is held every year in Chennai, in December. Anita Ratnam is the editor and publisher of ‘Narthaki’, an encyclopedia of Indian dance.She also wrote a book on tradition of drama in India and Greece ‘Natya Brahman’.
Some of the Indian institutions associated with Anita Ratnam are Sree Bharathalaya (Chennai), Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai), RASA (Chennai), Prakriti Foundation (Chennai), Alliance Francaise de ( Madras). Apart from this, she is also linked with some foreign institutions such as Dance Alloy (Pittsburgh, USA), Pangea World Theatre (Minneapolis, USA), Everett Dance Theatre (Rhode Island, USA), Lotus Music & Dance (New York, USA) and Anjali School of Performing Arts (Houston, USA).