|Born||1951 (age 62–63)
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
|Occupation||Chairperson: central board of film certification (2011– )
director: kalakshetra (2005– )
Chairperson: Sangeet Natak Akademi (2010-2014)
dancer, choreographer, instructor
|Current group||Spanda (1995–present)|
Leela Samson (born 1951) is a Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, instructor and writer. As a soloist she is known for her technical virtuosity and has taught Bharatanatyam at Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi for many years; presently she is the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (1 April 2011); and the director of Kalakshetra (April 2005).
Among the many honours conferred on her, Samson was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the President of India in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the art of Bharata Natyam as well as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Bharatanatyam (1999–2000), given by Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Early life and training
Leela was born in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. She is the daughter of Vice-Admiral (Ret) Benjamin Abraham Samson, from the Jewish Bene-Israelite community of India, and Laila, a South Indian woman. After doing her BA, she learnt Bharatanatyam at the Kalakshetra under the founder Rukmini Devi Arundale.
Starting her career as a Bharatanatyam soloist, Samson taught at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi and Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi. Over the years she has performed across India and abroad including Europe, Africa and the Americas.
In 1995, Leela Samson formed Spanda, a dance group to review the traditional vocabulary of Bharatanatyam. Two documentary films – Sanchari and The Flowering Tree – have been made on her works. Amongst her notable disciples included Joyce Paul Poursabahian and Justin McCarthy, who now teaches at Sri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra. She has taught and mentored a galaxy of noted performers including the late Kamaljit Bhasin Maalik (Meeto), Jin Shan Shan (Eesha), Navtej Singh Johar and Anusha Subramanyam.
In August 2010, she was appointed chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's national academy for music, dance and drama for five years. Before that she had was a member of the Academy for many years. She resigned from the post in October 2014.
She authored a widely acclaimed biography of Rukmini Devi Arundale. She was appointed chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification in March 2011, succeeding the noted actor Sharmila Tagore who had held the position for two terms.
Samson has received the Padma Shri (1990), the Sanskriti, Nritya Choodamani, Kalaimamani (2005) given by Government of Tamil Nadu, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999–2000) for contributions to Bharatanatyam.
- Samson, Leela (1987). Rhythm in Joy: Classical Indian Dance Traditions. New Delhi: Lustre Press.
- Samson, Leela (2010). Rukmini Devi: A Life, Delhi: Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-670-08264-3.
- "Press Release". Sangeet Natak Academi. 10 August 2010.
- "Borders no Bar". Indian Express. 13 June 2009.
- "New censor board chief Leela Samson promises balanced approach". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2 April 2011.
- "Leela Samson takes over as Kalakshetra director". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 18 April 2005.
- Artiste's Profile: Leela Samson, Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), Government of India.
- Noted students of Kalakshetra
- Leela Samson Profile artindia.net.
- "I'll try through my dance to find myself again". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 30 April 2012.
- "Leela Samson to quit as Kalakshetra director". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 28 April 2012.
- "Leela Samson to be Sangeet Natak Academy chairperson". The Times of India. 1 July 2010.
- "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
- Kalaimamani Awards for 123 persons announced The Hindu, 15 February 2006.
- "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees". Sangeet Natak Akademi Official website.
- www.outlookindia.com "First Light: Embodies the spirit of Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam in content, style and visual appeal"