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In this podcast, we look at how bharatanatyam has evolved within its traditional framework and examine how choreography has transformed to find relevance in a modern world. Diving into Leela Samson’s journey in dance including her work as a mentor, we find out what her practice means to her and shed light on how a dancer can make the transition to becoming a choreographer.
Leela Samson was inspired to become a dancer at nine after her father sent her to Kalakshetra to learn Indian classical dance and music under famed choreographer Rukmini Devi Arundale. From 1975 to 2005, Leela taught at the Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra institution in Delhi. She also choreographed Spanda, a body of work known for taking bharatanatyam in such bold inventive directions, it still enthralls audiences with its blend of tradition and innovation 20 years later.
As a soloist, Leela’s seemingly understated delineation conceals an inspired source that makes her a virtuoso performer as well as a sensitive interpreter of bharatanatyam’s nuances. Reputed for her abhinaya (the art of expression in Indian dance) and impeccable form in nritta, Leela has performed extensively at prominent dance festivals in India and other parts of the world.
Director of Kalakshetra from 2005 to 2012, Leela took steps to broaden the academic paths of dancers who graduate from the arts and cultural academy. She also spearheaded the digital transformation of the campus while consolidating the many institutions that came under Kalakshetra’s banner. Today, Leela is still doing what she loves best – to dance, teach, and explore the relationship between the dancer and the socio-political forces that shapes artistic practices. She continues to perform as a soloist while traveling with the Spanda Dance Company for their showcases at home and abroad.
Himanshu Verma is the founder of Connected To India, an online portal that uncovers and shares stories of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and the Indian diaspora.
Experience the diversity
Immerse yourself in Indian arts and culture during the festive period of Deepavali, with Esplanade's annual Indian festival of arts.