I am going to make my list of teachers and people that I feel have created an impact on my dancing, thought processes, ideologies and physical movement quality. There are obviously people that I will miss out. This doesna��t mean I dona��t think of them and acknowledge them within me. I obviously learned dance from all of my dance teachers, but I am trying to pin down the other things that I learned from them specifically.

My first teacher in bharatanatyam was Guru Padmini Rao. My first 9 years, until my Arangetram were under her. She taught me independence. Made me learn to do my hair and make up by myself before I was 13. Taught me to be resilient and keep the love of dance despite everything. She also made me learn a tremendous amount of theory. This has served as a base even after all these years. My first steps as a performer were under her.


Guru Sundari Santhanam, who I started learning Karanas with when I was 13 or 14 is one of my greatest influencers. I learned that I can never be perfect. She also imbued in me a movement quality that I would never have known otherwise. She tweaked, poked, pushed and corrected me everyday for many years always critical and never satisfied. I was so thankful for this gift of a dissatisfied teacher. It made me feel valued. That she believed I could do more. Her voice rings in my head when I do my Karanas even now. Every correction that she gave me preserved for eternity in my mind. She broke all the ideas of movement that I had and made me start afresh in a manner that I did not know was possible.

I started learning full time with Guru Narmada after my Arangetram while still continuing with Guru Sundari. Guru Narmada, made my bharatanatyam come alive again. She kindled the fire in me, and I feel like my dance burst into the light after I met her. She was the most patient teacher and literally held my hand while I walked into dance. Her kindness, encouragement and ability to watch me repeat the same thing a hundred times is something I am ever grateful for. I learned to move with greater precision, speed and clarity after I met her. But the thing I learned the most from her was to love a�?bharatanatyama��. Something that may have never happened if I didna��t meet her. She gave me everything and made it seem like nothing.

These were my Bharatanatyam teachers. With this was all the other learning that made me into a dancer. Without which, I possibly would not be a dancer today. My ballet teacher, Yana Lewis, came into my dancing life at a time when I was searching for more. She taught me my first steps in ballet and with it taught me to practice incessantly. I was pushed physically like I never had been before. She made my body available to dance. I was made ready to take on the physical challenges of training incessantly. Early mornings, late evening, late nights. She expected the world of me and I tried to give her my best. She also was my first teacher to show me the importance of knowing the anatomy of your body to function as a dancer.


Arun, my yoga teacher for many years taught me about visualisation and alignment and precision in every posture. It has been many years since I attended a class with him, but the things that he corrected on me still ring clear in my mind, serving as information for me to practice yoga everyday with intention and purpose.

After my early years of training, my teachers at the Conservatory catapulted me forward into a whole different arena of physical, spacial and artistic awareness. They taught me how to curve my back, extend, suspend, fall, work in ensemble, feel the breath of dancers around you, find length, the list is endless. They broke my understanding of what I thought I knew and rebuilt it carefully to create a dancer. The 4 years at the Boston conservatory also pushed me physically and emotionally more than I had ever been before. The long hours of training and my constant need to try and get better kept me thirsty for more everyday. I am not going to mention the fact that all these teachers taught me technique, pushed me in their respective areas and made dance! That they definitely did. Ia��m going to mention the values they brought to my dancing that have helped me through my years. Ia��m definitely going to miss some teachers as well. But Ia��d like to say that each of their presence in my life has been invaluable.

Sandy (Sandra stone), taught me about physical strength, she kept my spirits up and made us a�?Movea��, from her sheer passion for dance. Leslie Woodies, taught me to believe in myself. To expect more at each juncture. To visualise success. To find the dance in me at every point. This has taken me a long way. Luis Fuente, made me love ballet. His exuberance, something I constantly tried to live up to. He never gave up on anyone. Denise taught me about the life of a dancer. Leslie Koval and Jim Viera made us move because of their tireless enthuse. I had to dance because of how they moved and danced! I realised the spirit of dance never ceases to exist. Their patience and persistence made me learn things I didna��t know about myself. Jimmya��s systematice approach still helps me train alone in the studio even today. Tommy, taught me to throw myself into movement without inhibition. I learned to find my way even when I felt like I didna��t know what I was doing. I learned about momentum, and the effect it has on movement. Emiko taught me to visualise through movement. This has changed the way I move in general. Donna helped me find balance and ease in ballet. Jennifer Scanlon, changed the way I think about my body. Changed the way I move, sit, stand. I found an openness and ease that I never had before. She brought awareness to my spine, my posture. Aaron, Mary, Yasi & Regina have all played invaluable roles in my growth as a performer. The values were constantly reinforced by every teacher.

I find that my learning in the Conservatory has served my Bharatanatyam practice. It has influenced the way that I think about movement, the way I train and process movement. Although I did not learn any Bharatanatyam in the Conservatory, I learned how to use my body, train incessantly, access my muscles, move, create, and dance! The last person I would like to mention who influenced me greatly is Olivier Besson. I learned in reality how to finally a�?dancea�� with him. I learned to live in the present moment when dancing, to find inspiration from movement, to let myself go and allow the dance to overcome me. I learned to find movement within me. This opened up the world of dance like I had never experienced before. It lifted my judgement of myself and let me move and experience dance to the fullest in the moment.

The other place that has had a substantial impact on my idea of performance was the The New York Film Academy. The teachers there taught me to find emotion within myself, to visualise space, and to become the character before expecting an emotion. The Ivana Chubbuck Studios that I went to subsequently also helped me become a better actor.

These were the teachers that created my foundation. Teachers that spent hours on end trying to bring out the best in me. Teachers that gave their time, effort and energy in trying to make a dancer out of me. I am quite certain that most of them wona��t even realise all that they gave. Other than these teachers there have been a few influencers in my life who have inspired me and guided me in moments of need.

Priyadarshini Govind is one of them. I met her when I was 14 or 15 yrs old and truly lost. I needed to know what to do to become better. I may have attended two workshops with her and met her for short classes about 3 times after. But the things that she told me gave me direction and inspired me. I am forever grateful for her kindness at a time when I needed it most. Prakash Belawadi, a theatre director that I have worked with on several projects in Bangalore is another person who inspires me. He challenges everything that I say and makes me think about my ideas, thoughts and perceptions. I have learned to think logically, practically because of him. His insight into theatre has found its way into my dance.

G Gurumurthy, the mridangist from Bangalore taught me my first ideas of rhythm. He pushed me to be faster, clearer and more precise. I was young and I am thankful for his patience in teaching me. Along with him, I have had another number of mentors, well wishers that have showered advice, kindness and warmth in my dancing journey. Praveen Kumar is one of them. His honest insights, critique and love have been invaluable. Prasanna Kumar, Mahesh Swamy, Balasubramanya Sharma, are the musicians who took me on and helped me grow when I was far too young and quite alone. Even today, my orchestra are the pillars to my dance. N Kesavan, Vivek V Krishna, Nandakumar, are my friends and my teachers all at once. They have helped me become a better dancer.

The list of teachers in reality is endless. The more I think, the more I can add to this list. I just wanted to write about all the people who built the foundation of performing arts for me. I continue to learn each day. I am thankful for all the learning. I learn from my dance colleagues, my students, my children. The learning is incessant and I hope it never stops. I am deeply indebted to everyone who invested time and effort in my dancing. I am thankful for all the love and kindness showered on me through the years. All these people have given me the gift of dance and for that I am forever indebted.



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2 responses to “Homage to my teachers”

  1. Aaron Jensen says:

    This is really lovely, Rukmini. What a beautiful homage, and thank you for thinking of all of us at the Boston Conservatory. Now you are passing on your knowledge to other learners and have become teacher; I am certain your students feel the warmest of feelings for the treasures of knowledge and personal artistry you've passed on to them. Best wishes from Boston, Aaron

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