Valli is a celebrated Bharata Natyam dancer and
choreographer, internationally acclaimed for her
ability to turn a traditional grammar into a
subtle, deeply internalized, personal dance
poetry. Her dance, while rooted in the classical
tradition, has been lauded as an undeniable
language of self-expression that is dynamic and
continuously evolving, able to connect with
audiences across the board, from the specialist to
Having trained under legendary gurus, Pandanallur Sri Chokkalingam Pillai and his son Sri Subbaraya Pillai, she has evolved a distinctive style of dance that has been described as, "classical and yet contemporary, precise and poetic... both a stylised idiom and an idiolect, blurring the boundaries between tradition and the individual talent, inheritance and invention."
In recognition of Alarmél Valli's contribution to dance, in 2004, she was awarded one of India's highest civilian honours - the 'Padma Bhushan', conferred by the President of India. In the same year, the Government of France conferred on her the Chevalier of Arts and Lettres. Amongst numerous awards received, are the President's award of "Padmasri", the Tamilnadu State Government award of Kalaimamani, the 'Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris' from the City of Paris, the Award of the Sangeet Natak Akademy- the apex body for music, dance and drama in India, and the 'Natya Kala Acharya' from The Music Academy, Chennai.
In 2004, The Films Division of India commissioned a film on Alarmél Valli for the Indian National Archives called 'Pravahi', which was directed by Arun Khopkar. The BBC also made a film on her for the Omnibus series. In 2012, 'Lasya Kavya - The World of Alarmél Valli', a film on her by Sankalp Meshram, won the National Award for Best Film on Art and Culture.
Alarmél Valli's work has been featured at landmark theatres and festivals in India and abroad. Some of the international cultural venues at which she has performed include - the Bolshoi Theatre, the Theatre De La Ville, the Avignon Festival, the Lyon Biennale, the Vienna International Dance Festival, The Munich Opera Festival, The Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the New York International Festival of Arts,The Kennedy Centre, the Min-On Festival in Japan, the Venice Biennale, The Madrid Festival, the Helsinki Biennale, the Frankfurt Alte Oper, The Israel Festival and The Salzburg Festival.
In 1986, Valli founded the Dipasikha Dance Foundation and Educational Trust. Through lecture demonstrations, master classes, workshops and seminars in India and abroad, Valli shares her thoughts on Bharatanatyam, as a dynamic, contemporary dance language. A few of the forums in which she has worked, include Spic Macay in India, the Societe Italiana del Flauto Dolce, The Philharmonic society in Rome, the International Sommertanzwochen in Vienna, The Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society and Universities across the US.
Aspects of Alarmél Valli's dance style
Poetry and musicality of movement are core elements in Alarmél Valli's approach to dance. Her early training in music under the renowned musician, T. Muktha, helped shape her ideal of an intensely musical dance style and honed her approach to dance, as a harmonious extension of verbal melody. It is a tradition that deepened her awareness of the seamless connection - between word, meaning and music and also inspires her, as she often says, to 'write' with her body, 'sing' with her art.
Alarmél Valli's understanding of dance was also enriched by her study of Odissi, under eminent Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and his disciple, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena. Her extensive research on Sangam poems, for over two decades, has resulted in a significant repertoire of dance poems. Authored between 100 BC and 250 AD, the Tamil poetry of the Sangam age ranks among the oldest and most sophisticated body of classical, pre-Aryan, secular poetry in India. In her interpretation and choreography of poetry, Alarmél Valli explores subtexts and works with musicians to give the texts a visual and melodic dimension.
Noted poet and writer Arundathi Subramaniam says of her work, " Her art may invoke the mystical, but it never mystifies. It understands abstraction, but is never abstruse. It is capable of soaring, but it never loses its vital connectedness with the earth."
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