Devayani,  Bharat Natyam Dancer,India

Devayani,  Bharat Natyam Dancer,IndiaDevayani was born in Paris and was brought up by her parents in the spirit of the provincial aristocracy of the Chateaux de la Loire. From early childhood, Devayani was enamoured with art, music and poetry. She was inspired by the literature of different cultures and "Ecoles" including French romanticism (Baudelaire, Rimbaud) the poetry of Shelley, the readings of Kant and Nietzsche and the philosophy of Plato. She often attended theatre shows, dance recitals, music concerts and art exhibitions. Sometimes she took her mother alongwith her and described to her her longing for beauty, her incessant search for Art. At that time Devayani did not have an awareness of the mystery of the Devadasis, nor of the secrets of the gurus perpetuating the tradition. During her years of classical studies (Latin, Greek, English and German) at the Lycee Rodin and in the The Sorbonne University she learnt the foundations of ballet, western classical music and Bharata Natyam.

At the age of 17, she had achieved academic distinction and was honoured as a laureate of the National Competition of Philosophy. At the age of 19 she graduated as a licenci is lettres' and followed it with a degree in Master of Arts in which she acquired a distinction. Under the direction of Cambridge University she studied English. She attended courses on History of Art at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. In the New University system, she was the first successful student who submitted a creative work on The Aesthetics of Theatre and Cinema as her thesis for the M.A. degree. This was combined with a short feature film, wherein she performed an expressive dance filmed in the theatre designed by Jean Cocteau on the Cote d' Azur (French Riviera). She created during her academic studies three dance dramas:

The first one : "Le Chant de la Nuit" - "The Night Song" which included a choreography by Milena Salvini on the Indian theme portraying Radha and Krishna's love and was inspired by Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathoustra". The second was a highly romantic sequence, inspired by Baudelaire and Rimbaud "Desenchantement" - "Disenchantment". The third one was in the form of an opera-ballet (so called by the critics and jury). "Le Banc des Fievres" - "The Bench of Fevers", inspired by the surrealist poet Andre Breton, for which she won a prize for research in dramatics at the Brussels Festival of Drama and Poetry.

She was noticed by a Flamenco dancer, Lutys de luz, a soloist of the Ballet Company of the late Marquis de Cuevas and learnt from her the Spanish Classical Dance style. She had her introduction to India and the revelation of Bharata Natyam through the films of Louis Malle while she was still a teenager. Soon after, she started studying Bharata Natyam in Paris, initially under Amala Devi, a soloist of Ram Gopal's troupe and later with Malavika. She came to India on an Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme Fellowship. She received training from Kancheepuram Sri G. Ellappa Mudaliar, one of the late great gurus.

Devayani,  Bharat Natyam Dancer,IndiaAfter her initial training she returned to Paris for a year and taught Bharata Natyam and yoga (which she learnt in Madras) to students from the Sorbonne University. India continued to beckon on her and she returned to continue her training for more than three years with Kalaimamani Sri V.S. Muthuswamy Pillai. By this time Ellapa had passed away. She also went into deeper studies of Abhinaya with Srimati Kalanidhi Narayanan and Karanas with Kumari Swarnamukhi. She has also received training in Kuchipudi style from Vempati Chinna Satyam and in vocal carnatic music from Padmavibushan Dr. Sri Balamuralikrishna and his disciples. She had her debut or Arangetram under the auspices of the Alliance Francaise and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of Madras.

She gave number of dance performances in India, besides playing the lead role in a very successful Telugu film, where she danced a solo of Kuchipudi at the temple at Chidambaram. The title of the film was: "A girl from America!"

During the period of her training she read the poetry of Tagore, Soordas, Kalidas and of Omar Khayam, Djalal Udin Rumi. She also studied Hindu philosophy and Hindu mythology.

Besides India and its neighbouring countries Devayani visited the U.K. and all the European and Scandinavian countries performing and promoting Bharata Natyam and was exposed to a variety of cultures.

Wherever Devayani dances, be it in Delhi, Mumbai, Paris, London, Bonn, Athens or Madrid, Devayani dances to express love, friendship, emotions, her relationship with the divine power, the Universal through this medium of Indian dance which has become hers. To speak with the eyes, the hands, the feet, the whole body, without uttering a word...

The essence of her dance is animated and enriched by her faith in the universality of Bharata Natyam. Her message lies in her belief that Art knows no frontiers, no national boundaries. Harmony, peace and beauty are not the private preserve of a privileged few. Art is the instrument and the pervading force that invests life with beauty, harmony and a better understanding of the universe.

Devayani,  Bharat Natyam Dancer,India