Anita Ratnam

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Anita Ratnam
Pressegespräch zum Festival Ramayana in Performance im Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum-9095.jpg
Anita Ratnam, 2012 in Cologne
Born (1954-05-21) 21 May 1954 (age 63)
Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Residence Chennai
Nationality Indian
Education Kalakshetra
Occupation dancer, choreographer
Known for Director, Arangham Interactive, Chennai

Anita Ratnam (Tamil: அனிதா ரத்னம்; born 21 May 1954) is an accomplished Indian classical and contemporary dancer and choreographer, whose career spans four decades and in 15 countries. Classically trained in Bharat Natyam, she has also received formal training in Kathakali, Mohiniattam, and T'ai chi and Kalarippayattu, thus creating a unique dance style which she has coined "Neo Bharat Natyam".[1][2][3]

She is the founder-director of Arangham Trust, set up in 1992 in Chennai, here she also founded Arangham Dance Theatre, a performance company in 1993 and in 2000 she created, an Indian dance portal. Over the years, she has received numerous awards and recognition for her work in the performing arts in India and abroad as a choreographer, scholar and cultural activist.[4][5]

Education and training[edit]

Anitha Rathnam had her initial dance training under Bharatanatyam guru, Adyar K. Lakshman[6] and later went to Rukmini Devi Arundale's 'Kalakshetra' for advanced training and earned a Post graduate diploma in Dance. She trained in Bharatanatyam as well as Kathakali and Mohiniattam, the classical dances of Kerala.[7]


Anita Ratnam, Festival "Ramayana in Performance" in the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne, 2012

She did her MA in Theatre and Television from the University of New Orleans, and spent the next ten years as a Television Producer/commentator in the United States with productions including a weekly series on art, travel and culture in India. She set up Arangham Trust, set up in 1992 in Chennai, followed by Arangham Dance Theatre, a performance company in 1993.[8][9]

A modernist, passionately convinced about creating from her immediate environment, Anitha Ratnam has explored various streams of movement and ritual traditions connected with her initial training in classical Bharatanatyam. Ensemble and solo works that echo her strong Indian/Asian aesthetic of silence, meditation, devotion and adoration, Ratnam uses her personal life experience and the full canvas of a woman's world to paint her original dance-scapes.

Anita Ratnam is an emerging icon of modernist thought rooted in her Indian aesthetic and is a multiple award winning artiste in her country as well as a sought after speaker and writer on culture, performance and women's imaging in society.

She founded, a portal for Indian dance; co-founded and curated 'The Other Festival', with Ranvir Shah of Prakriti Foundation - India's first annual contemporary performing arts festival.

Quoting about her inspiration and her works, she says:

"I am in dance because this is my own way of connecting with myself and the world. I consider myself a contemporary classicist.[9]

All my ideas are from traditional sources, but they can also be from readings and from nature: a lotus flower floating in a small brass vessel, a child blowing soap bubbles, even a piece of paper flying in the wind gives me inspiration.

The whole world of ideas and a host of people and their mannerisms can all be suggested by a flicker of an eyelid, a flourish of the hand and the attitude of the body. The ideas come from many sources but I use them and put them together in my own style of dance, movement and theatre techniques.

When people see my work, they can tell that it is Indian in spirit but very contemporary in approach. Folk dancers and drummers who dance every evening after a hard day's work in the fields, traditional temple performers whose lives depend upon serving GOD during important festivals, actors who fuse movement with voice culture, young performers and students all over the world who want to learn new movement and the dynamics of cultural memories embedded into our South Asian bloodstream – these are the artistes who are the focus of my work.

I call myself a cultural activist because I believe in my culture. My culture doesn't mean just the performing arts. To me it stands for finding out about my roots and knowing who I am. And the classical arts are a very vital part of our culture.".[4]

In 2007, she performed her solo operatic performance "7 Graces" at Joyce SoHo, New York in collaboration with Hari Krishnan, a Canada-based dancer-choreographer.[10]

She has also appeared in some Tamil movies over the years, such as Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) and Boys (2003).


  • A Map to the Next World (1997), With Native American poet Joy Harjo
  • Inner World (1998), ; with Pangea World Theatre in Minneapolis
  • Daughters of the Ocean (1999), ; with writer Shobita Punja
  • Dust (2002), with Mark Taylor of Dance Alloy, Pittsburgh, USA.[11]
  • Hyphenated (2002), for Toronto's Lata Pada.
  • Seven Graces (2005), with Canada-based Hari Krishnan
  • Vortext (2006), with Canadian dance artist Peter Chin
  • MA3KA (2009).[12][13]


Anita Ratnam has received several awards and recognition for her work in the performing arts in India and abroad. Some of them are:

Nritya Choodamani(1996) by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai
Kalaimamani (1998) for Dance Research by Govt. of Tamil Nadu
Media Achievement award (1991) by National Organisation of women in New York
Mahatma Gandhi Award for Cultural Harmony (1986) US
Lalithakalaratna (2003) by Sri Lalithakala Academy Foundation Trust (Inc.),Mysore, 2003
Natya Ratna (2003) by Sri Shanmukhananda Sangeeta Sabha, New Delhi


External links[edit]