Today is our beloved Guru, world-renowned Choreographer, Kathak maestro Dr.Maya Rao Ji’s (May Didi) birthday. On this auspicious occasion, I am happy to share with you all, an article that I wrote, which got published in prestigious #Dance#India monthly.
She moved to Jaipur in 1951,in search of Kathak. She also started teaching English at the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ Public School for next two years. She then moved to Sri Lanka and studied Kandyan dance with legendary dancer, Chitrasena. Subsequently, in 1955, she received the prestigious Government of India scholarship and trained under noted Guru, Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra, New Delhi. She was the first student of the Kendra and Pt Shambhu Maharaj was the first Guru. She was the only student he ever danced with in all his life. In 1960, she was selected for the USSR Cultural Scholarship in Choreography to study for her Master’s in Choreography. Upon her return from Russia in 1964, with the help of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, then Vice Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi, she started the Natya Institute of Choreography in Delhi under the aegis of the Bharatiya Natya Sangh.
Thereafter, she was based in Delhi for several years before she moved NIKC to Bangalore on invitation from the then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, which opened on 12 July 1987. Already known for her abhinaya anga, she has to her credit several notable dance ballets production, such as Venkateshwara Vilasam, Kathak through the Ages, Art and Life, Surdas, Barsha Mangal, Tarana, Ramayana Darshanam, Hoysala Vaibhava, The Vision of Amir Khusrau, Tulsi Ke Ram, and Urubhanga by Bhasa, besides Krishnadevaraya, Vijayanagara Vaibhava, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar‘s Kaamana Billu and works of noted Kannada writer Kuvempu.
She became the chairperson of Karnataka Sangeet Nritya Academy, state academy for music and dance, and during her tenure from 1987 to 1990, she started National Performing Arts Festivals at heritage monuments of the state, like Somanathapura, Pattadakal and Halebidu. She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Creative dance/Choreography, given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama in 1989. She was awarded Rajyotsava Award, second highest civilian honour of the Karnataka state in 1986, and the Shantala Award for the year 1999, by Government of Karnataka. In 2013, she received the ‘Tagore Ratna’ award, given Sangeet Natak Akademi, also in the same year she received the lifetime achievement award for her contribution to dance and choreography at the Epic Women conference. Over the years, she has trained over 3,000 students, notably, Nirupama Rajendra, Syed Sallauddin Pasha, Satya Narayana Charka, Shambhu Hegde, Shivananda Hegde, and Nandini Mehta.