Career: Bharatnatyam dancer
Chitra Visweswaran is amongst the leading classical dancers of India. Apart from being a marvelous dancer, she is a brilliant choreographer and an amazing teacher. She started her own dance institution with the help of her husband R. Viswesaran, called ‘Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts’ in Chennai, in 1975. She has provided immense support and encouragement to the Indian classical dances across the world. Chitra has given astonishing dance performances in almost all the major dance festivals of India and has participated in foreign shows regularly. Chitra has made great contribution to the field of dance through her experimentation and innovations in the Bharatnatyam. Read the biography of Chitra Vishweswaran cum life history of such a talented persona.
Chitra Padmanabhan had an inherent talent of dancing right from her childhood, which she gained from her mother Smt. Rukmini Padmanabhan who herself was an outstanding classical dancer, while her father Shri N. Padmanabhan was a railway engineer. Chitra started dance at a very tender age of three and the first teacher was her mother. She got married to an artist R. Viswesaran, who is a composer, vocalist and a Santoor player. He is the nephew of the famous Carnatic musician, G.N. Balasubramanian and adherent of Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Chitra, at the age of ten, started taking her lessons in Bharatnatyam from one of the devdasis of Tiruvidaimardur, Smt T. A. Rajalakshmi, who was in Calcutta (Kolkata) and there she took the training for about ten years. Along with this, she also learnt Manipuri and Kathak. At the age of 11, Chitra choreographed her dance under the guidance of Rajalaksmi. Later on, she took training of Western Classical Ballet in London. She gave her first dance performance (Arangetram) in ten months of the learning, which was a great achievement. Besides taking lessons of Bharatnatyam in Calcutta, she was also studying in Uday Shankar School of Dance. In 1970, Chitra completed her graduation in B.A. (Hons.) in English from Calcutta University. She was honored with the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatnatyam from the Government of India. At that time, only two scholarships were awarded all over the country and she was one of the recipients.
After getting the scholarship, Chitra took training from the great and notable Bharatnatyam dancer and teacher Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, in Chennai. She received an excellent training from all her Gurus and it helped in expanding her artistic visualization. Chitra started working on her own after completing her scholarship. She, with her immense knowledge of dancing, became a great Indian classical dancer and a teacher. Today, with the strong research, practice, experiments and innovations, she has a unique collection of arts and has contributed her conceptions to the Indian traditional dance form. Chitra in her own style has produced and choreographed many dance dramas such as ‘Devi Ashta Rasa Malika’, ‘Panchali’ which is based on Subramania Bharathi’s Panchali Sabadam, ‘Raghuvamsa Thilakam’, ‘Ayothi Mannan’, ‘Dwarakanatham Bhaje’, ‘Dasavatharam’ and ‘Nritya Srinkhala’. These dance dramas were very much appreciated by the people.
Contribution to Dance
Chitra Viswesaran has played a very crucial role in the development of Indian classical dance. She with her excellent creative mind made new improvements in the classical dance form. Today, many dance universities and institutions have documented them, along with her lectures, for reference. She opened an institution known as ‘Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA)’, in Chennai, where she gives the lessons on different forms of Indian classical dances.
Awards and Accolades
She has been honored with many awards such as Nritya Choodamani Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (1980), the title of ‘Kalaimamani’ by Government of Tamil Nadu (1982), Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1987), Padma Shri Award (1992) and the title of ‘Mahila Shiromani’ and ‘Stree Ratna’. She was the first dancer to be invited to occupy the Rabindranath Tagore Chair of Fine Arts in the University of Madras. Along with this, she also got the honor of being the member of the General Council and Executive Board of the Central Sangeet Natak Academy.
At present, Chitra Viswesaran is involved with RASA, Chennai, which is an institute that uses dance and music therapy for special children with learning disabilities.
1975: Started her institution ‘Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA)’
1980: Received Nritya Choodamani Award
1982: Got the title of Kalaimamani
1987: Central Sangeet Academy Award
1992: Honored with the Padma Shri