ARTIST DIRECTOR / CHOREOGRAPHER
Anandavalli is an internationally-renowned dancer, choreographer and teacher of Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi, with a carer spanning over 48 years. She began her training at the age of seven and was discovered by the late Professor P.Sambamoorthy, one of the greatest authorities on Indian music and dance, who later recorded that Anandavalli ‘was born with bells on her feet’. Her mother Lingambikai, daughter of the late Professor C. Suntharalingam, accepted the responsibility of cultivating the natural ability of this child prodigy.
Anandavalli had her Arangetram at age nine under the tutelage of Vishwa Kala Bharathi Neila Sathyalingam, and the legendary Mylapore Gowrie Ammal. Anandavalli’s education blossomed under the training of Adyar K. Lakshmanan and Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam - by the age of twelve she had toured Germany, Paris and London. For her debut at the Victorian Albert Museum Lecture Theatre, the inimitable Ram Gopal presented her as ‘the young dance phenomenon.’ Her talent was spotted by the well known international ballet choreographer, John Cranko, whose untimely demise prevented her grand solo presentation at the Stuttgart State, Little Theatre. Her repertoire was further enhanced under the guidance of the renowned gurus, Vazhuvor Ramaiya Pillai, Vazhuvoor R. Samarraj and Udupi Laxminarayan. Anandavalli owes a great debt of gratitude to her gurus, who have nurtured her as a dancer and choreographer, unstintingly sharing their accumulated knowledge of these ancient art forms. Now a citizen of Australia, Anandavalli continues to return to India to work with them and it is their generosity that has inspired her work in Australia.
Since moving to Australia in 1984 Anandavalli maintained her international profile performing in Karachi, Singapore, the Philippines, Honk Kong, India and London. In 1989 she presented her first National Tour of Australia, which included performances in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. At the Sydney performance of this tour, Anandavalli was honoured and presented on stage with Australian Citizenship in recognition of her contribution to the arts in Australia.
In addition to her own solo career, in 1985, Anandavalli established the Lingalayam Dance Academy in Sydney. Today the Academy has a roll-call of over a hundred students, having presented 22 Arangetrams to date. These debuts have highlighted the quality of dancing, commitment, and love for dance that Anandavalli has instilled in her students. In 1996, she founded the Lingalayam Dance Company, establishing a firm professional base for the accomplished graduates of the Academy. Anandavalli established Lingalayam as an all-female, professional, Indian dance company, with at least one performance season each year, in addition to smaller works, invitations and tours, throughout the year. Under her direction, the Lingalayam Dance Company has emerged as arguably the most prolific Indian dance company in Australia.
"It is unfortunately rare to see truly mature dancers (Anandavalli is in her fifth decade) on Australian stages. The depth of understanding and interpretation was powerful and affecting.”
- Deborah Jones, The Australian
Anandavalli’s opus includes an impressive repertoire of over 50 original dance dramas and ballets (conception, choreography and artistic direction). She has choreographed all of the Lingalayam Dance Academy and Company productions.
Anandavalli favours strong, feminist themes - unusual in the classical arts. Although drawing from traditional Indian texts, myths and folklore for content, Anandavalli transposes these stories to tackle issues relevant to contemporary society. Of particular note are Nithya Sumangali: The Temple Dancer (1999), The Serpent Woman (2000), The Courtesan’ Daughter (2001), Sthree (a dance chronicling the struggles and triumphs of womanhood, 2002), Earth and Fire (depicting the lives of the female protagonists from the Indian epics, the Ramayanam and Mahabharatam, 2003) and Kuruntokai: The Interior Landscape in 2006.
"It was exciting and reassuring to see how much of her interpretive power, as well as technique, she as passed on to the next generation of dancers."
- Jill Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald, August 2003
In 2002 Anandavalli was awarded a Fellowship by the Dance Board of the Australia Council for the Arts (the Federal Government arts body), granted only once in an artist’s lifetime. The Fellowship provided her with financial support for a two-year program of advanced research and study both in India and Australia. During this time, Anandavalli primarily conducted focussed study into the composition of rhythmical configurations for Bharatha Natyam from her Guru Udupi Laxminarayan; and further research into the ancient scripts, music and epics of South India under the guidance of two eminent scholars, the late T.S Parthasarathy and VAK Ranga Rao. Under the same fellowship Anandavalli undertook formal training in classical Indian Carnatic music from one of the leading teachers in this field – Bhagavatulu Seetarama Sarma, as well as an apprenticeship in lighting design with one of Australia’s foremost lighting designers, John Rayment.
Sadly, her solo show, presented in December 2003, represented Anandavalli’s retirement from dancing - though not from dance. She continues as artistic director, choreographer and producer for the Lingalayam Dance Company, exploring new directions and developments for the company and collaborating with some of the finest national and international artists. She is often invited to present guest lectures and workshops on dance and movement at the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and the Australian College of Physical Education.
In December 2007 Anandavalli was awarded the title of “Kala Seva Bharathi” from the Bharat Kalachar institution in Chennai (South India) during the annual Music & Dance Festival, in recognition of her services to the arts, especially to fostering Bharatha Natyam in Australia.
"At a time when brash, bold and bright Bollywood appears to dominate world awareness of Indian culture, the eloquent grace of the Lingalayam Dance Company is a refreshing reminder of the spiritual and artistic dignity and charm of Indian dance. Anandavalli imbues her company with a deep love and respect for traditional classicism, that, ironically, through a highly stylised art form, manages to achieve a deep emotional truth."
- Peter Wilkins, Canberra Times, August 2006