While most performance artists have shifted gears to adapt to ever-evolving, westernized trends that cater to the general masses, there remain a handful of those who strive to keep the culture of Indian performance arts alive. One such notable personality is Rekha Raju, a nationally acclaimed veteran of classical dance in India.
Recognized as a doyenne of Mohiniyattam, a traditional female classical dance form of Kerala, Rekha is known to have contributed to the growth of India's culture through her artistic pursuits. Over the years, the unparalleled performer, choreographer, and exceptional teacher has represented the Mohiniyattam dance culture in numerous national and international dance festivals, crafting a new course of glory and pride for India.
Having been put into the careful guiding hands of Dance Guru Padmini Ramachandran at the age of just 3, Rekha first started learning the art of Bharatnatyam. Eventually, she was able to dip her feet into the deep dance culture of Mohiniyattam.
Known for its purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses, Mohiniyattam is a graceful performance art that is one of the eight Indian classical dance forms. It was at a very young age that Rekha was able to master the art form at an astounding pace and soon began performing within just six months of her admission!
"Working hard towards something you love gives birth to passion. Unfortunately, not many have the courage to commit to what they really love. Ever since the first step I took in learning the art of Mohiniyattam, I knew I had found my calling and purpose." said Rekha Raju, speaking on the genesis of her love for the craft.
As she grew older, so did her passion for Mohiniyattam. She later went on to dedicate the majority of her life to mastering the dance form and even started training students at her guru's academy at the age of just 13! 3 years later, at the age of only 16, she was able to launch her very own dance institution – 'Nrithya Dhama Temple of Fine Arts' which is still active to this day. Over the years, she has taught the nuances of Mohiniyattam to thousands of students, national and international, breaking the conventional boundaries and taking the dance form to a worldwide platform.
Training tridents of all cadre, whether poor or rich, rural or urban, Rekha aims to cater to all students who seek to understand and learn the art, all under one roof. Over the years, her teachings have inspired students from all over India. They have also reached students across the globe, including Sri Lanka, Austria, the UK, the US, Australia, China, and more.
"The soul of Mohiniyattam is protected through its students and disciples. Although it has come a long way from exclusively being performed in temples and palaces, there is still a large majority of people who are oblivious to the captivating grace of the art. Through my institute, I only hope to inspire newer generations to recognize the depth and raw beauty of Mohiniyattam, so they may help spread the word of our culture across India and the world." she says.
Treading a suave path down with an unprecedented elegance, her remarkable journey of over 25 years as a dancer has not gone unnoticed. She has been on the receiving end of numerous national awards over the years, some of which include the Yuva Kala Bharathi award, the prestigious Krishna Gana Sabha Endowment award, Natya Mayura Tharakai award, among others.
However, it is not just dancing that Rekha Raju has committed to. Over the years, she has been a socially responsible artiste, serving as an arts ambassador that is committed to uplifting marginalized communities through fine arts. She has worked with multiple NGOs to impart knowledge on India's ancient art forms and help people find the rhythm of life through dance.
She seeks to uplift transgender communities, working with the 'Manahprasada’ platform on an art initiative for a cause that will raise funds and benefit thousands of transgender people across India.
Rekha has also been associated with ‘Sanskar Bharti’, an organization that works to promote Indian art and culture and direct the attention of the country's population towards fine arts. Only recently, she was among numerous legendary performance artists, including Shankar Mahadevan, Manoj Tiwari, Sonu Nigam, and Anupam Kher, as part of an initiative to uplift the financial stability of local Indian artists.
“We are all born with a purpose, and I was fortunate enough to discover mine at a very young age. Through my journey, I aim to instil in others the learnings that were instilled in me. Hopefully, as we move forward, more of the Mohiniyattam dance form will be known to the people of our country and the world. Through educating, entertaining, and inspiring newer generations, I aim to be one among the few who strive to keep the Mohiniyattam dance culture alive in India.”
To know more about Rekha Raju at: http://rekharaju.com/