Savitha Sastry, Bharatanatyam Danseuse
11 December 1969
|Alma mater||Stella Maris College, Chennai|
|Occupation||Bharatanatyam choreographer and dancer|
|Years active||1981 – present|
Savitha Sastry is an Indian dancer and choreographer best known as an exponent of Bharatanatyam. She is the founder-director of Sai Shree Arts, a Dance company known to experiment with the format of traditional Bharatanatyam by using the techniques of Bharatanatyam to showcase theme based productions based on novel stories, not based on Indian mythology or religion. Her innovations have been described as 'path breaking' by critics, and she is considered to be a 'renaissance architect' of the dance form much as Rukmini Devi Arundale was in her times.
Early life and education
Savitha Sastry was born in Hyderabad, and later lived in Mumbai before her family relocated to their home town of Chennai. She started her training in Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Guru Mahalingam Pillai at the Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir in Mumbai, and later with Adyar K Lakshman and the Dhananjayans in Chennai. She did her schooling from the P.S Senior Secondary School in Chennai, and her graduation from the Stella Maris College. In 1986, she featured as the lead dancer in the Tamil film Ananda Tandavam, a production of her Guru Adyar K Lakshman. She pursued her Masters degree in the United States, where she majored in Neuroscience.
Through the 80s, 90s and the first decade of the millennium, Savitha had performed mostly to traditional repertoires of Bharatanatyam. She produced and choreographed a few full length presentations such as Krishna: The Supreme Mystic and Purushartha during this phase. Savitha was credited to have a high degree of technical proficiency to her kinetics of the dance form in being able to deliver it with grace and technique demanded of Bharatanatyam performers. Critic Hamsa Venkat from Sydney reported " Savitha's crisp nritta (pure dance), clean lines and flawless aramandi was a breath of fresh air, and truly inspirational for students of dance.". The Audition Panel of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival described her dancing with the words "Moves like a temple sculpture come to life".
Notable choreographies and productions
By 2009, Savitha departed from performing traditional margams (the traditional order in which classical dance is performed), and started her work on theme based productions. Savitha is noted for the use of contemporary and original story lines in her performances and her portrayal of multiple characters as a solo performer in them, which is a marked departure from the traditional Bharatanatyam theme of the nayika (the heroine) pining for love or pieces based on Bhakti (devotion) alone. Some of her notable productions include Music Within (2010), Soul Cages (2012), "Yudh" (2013)., The Prophet (2013) and most recently, Chains: Love Stories of Shadows (2015).
Savitha has been critically lauded not only for her technique, but also for her innovations with the art form to take it to a wider audience. A profile story in the Times of India reported "(Savitha) has merged contemporary content with the centuries old dance form to create a unique niche"  Noted critic Narayana Vishwanath of Indian Express considers her the one who "holds the distinction of being the dancer to have brought about a revolution in the way Bharatanatyam is presented after Rukmini Devi Arundale". Critic Fozia Yasin of the Asian Age notes that Savitha "aims to bring about a renaissance in the traditional art form by marrying the aesthetics of Bharatanatyam with the power of an intelligent and novel story-line.". Critic Nonika Singh of the Tribune wrote, "Knocking down pigeonholes as she breaks free, she hopes to inspire more and more aspiring dancers to soar along, in the vast expanse of tradition minus the baggage of restrictive thinking!" Critic Yamini Walia of the Afternoon Despatch & Courier reports that "her path breaking work has been recognised as a renaissance by critics and audiences all over the world." 
All her productions have been based on short stories by her husband AK Srikanth, and the soundtrack for the productions have been composed by Rajkumar Bharathi, the great grandson of the veteran poet Subramania Bharathi. These have been performed in several countries, and the productions have met with critical and popular acclaim. Another hallmark of Savitha's presentations is a Q & A session that she and Srikanth have with the audience at the end of the performance where the audience discuss the presentation with the performer and writer. Critic Lakshmi Ramakrishna of the Hindu praised this teamwork with the words "The husband – wife duo has struck a chord with audiences in conveying deeply philosophical thoughts with striking simplicity, élan and elegance" Savitha has been given the epithet of 'Dancing Storyteller' by the popular press following these productions. Their most recent project,'Chains: Love Stories of Shadows' opened at NCPA Mumbai on the 31st of January, 2015.
Director and Choreographer
In order to encourage dancers to attempt theme based dance productions, Savitha has directed and choreographed presentations that act as curtain-raisers for her show. These curtain raisers are performed by advanced students of Bharatanatyam from the cities she performs in. Her first attempt at direction came in 2014, when her production from 2010 'Music Within' was enacted as a group performance in the United States, as a curtain-raiser to her performance in 'The Prophet'. She has also directed and choreographed 'In God's Country' as the curtain raiser to 'Chains: Love Stories of Shadows', which premiered at the Montgomery Theatre in San Jose on May 30th, 2015.
Like all her other projects, 'In God's Country' is also based on an original script by her husband AK Srikanth, and features music composed by Rajkumar Bharathi.
Savitha is married to AK Srikanth, who is her partner in the production company and also her classmate from her high school. The couple jointly produce their shows, and live in Mumbai.
Dance theatre productions
Krishna – The Supreme Mystic (2006)
Music Within (2010). This production was remade as a group presentation, directed by Savitha Sastry (2014)
In God's Country (Directed by Savitha Sastry) (2015)
Featured in the BBC Production: Sex, Death & the Gods (2011)
Savitha is also an A Grade artiste with Doordarshan, the national TV Channel in India.
Ananda Tandavam (1986) – Lead Dancer
Elysian Pursuits (2015) - a three part dance film featuring Savitha's most famous performances, and interviews with the team behind the productions.
- Praveen, Priyanka. (6 August 2012). Breaking free from the mould. Deccan Chronicle.
- Singh, Nonika. (15 July 2012). Like a Free Bird. The Tribune.
- Yasin, Fozia. (27 January 2013). Modern Classics. The Asian Age.
- Vincent, Anusha. (5 March 2013). Natya goes beyond borders. Deccan Chronicle.
- Walia, Yamini. (12 February, 2015). The Classical Storyteller. Afternoon Despatch & Courier.
- Chatterjee, Anannya. (31 January, 2015). Tussle between personal choice and societal expectations is constant. Absolute India.
- Vishwanath, Narayana. (9 March 2015). Telling the tale of Womanhood. Indian Express
- Dhamija, Ashok. (20 January, 2015). Dance Performance by Savitha Sastry. NewsBand Navi Mumbai
- Viswanathan, Lakshmi. (1 December 2003). Inimitable Dance Guru. The Hindu.
- About Savitha. www.savithasastry.com
- Suri, Sathish. (25 September 2011). Narthaki.com.
- Venkat, Hamsa. (11 March 2011). A Queen of Mime. Sydhwaney.com
- Savitha Sastry Webpage
- Das, Priya. (29 November 2010). A Quiet Dance of the Soul. India Currents
- Bal, Harish. (13 October 2011). Festival Rhythms. The Hindu.
- Subramanya, Mysore V. (11 April 2013). Music & Dance Reviews. Deccan Herald.
- Sharma, SD. (2012 July). Savitha Sastry leaves Chandigarh Audience awestruck. Hindustan Times.
- Kumar, Ranee. (10 August 2012). Enchanting Treatment. The Hindu.
- Singh, Ayesha. (9 December 2012). Soul Cages – A renaissance in Bharatanatyam. Sunday Standard.
- Mendoza, Conan. (3 April 2013). The Drama of Dance. Deccan Chronicle.
- Akanksha PV. (26 April 2013). Reviews on YUDH – the dance drama ballet by Savitha Sastry. IndiaStudyChannel.
- Pattabhiraman, Arundhati. (10 March 2013). Creativity Unlimited. Deccan Herald.
- Around Town, (19 November 2013). Indian Express
- (27 February 2015). Savitha to present her latest Bharatnatyam dance drama in the city. Times of India
- Vishwanath, Narayana. (9 March 2015). Telling the tale of Womanhood. Indian Express
- Yasin, Fozia. (27 January 2013). Modern Classics. The Asian Age
- Singh, Nonika. (15 July 2012). Like a Free Bird. The Tribune
- Walia, Yamini. (12 February, 2015). The Classical Storyteller. Afternoon Despatch & Courier
- Ramakrishna, Lakshmi. (27 February, 2015). I salute the power of this dance form. The Hindu
- Agarwal, Kanchan. (23 February 2013). A lifetime of learning. Post Noon.
- National Centre Performing Arts, Mumbai. Yudh – Three perspectives, one truth.
- Sundar, Mrinalini. (29 March 2013). Alternative Storyteller. Indian Express.
- RK. (2013 Feb). Dancing Storyteller. Hans India.
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