“My father used to tell me, that if we learn something, especially art, you need to touch the soul of those who watch you perform” says Shrimati Subathra Sudarshan who began learning Bharatanaatyam at the age of five. Born in Sri Lanka, she is now a versatile Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and choreographer based in the US. She is the founder and artistic director of both Bharathakala Natya Academy and Third Eye Dancers. For her Bharatanatyam is a way of connecting and communicating with people. Through this dance form she believes she is always in touch with her roots and free to express herself without any restrictions, given that the steps, hand gestures and emotions are what make this dance form unique. As such, each performance by Third Eye Dancers is for a purpose beyond showcasing talent. Her students learn about the importance of giving and has a special connection to each production performed on stage.
Though Bharatanatyam generally portrays Indian epic and mythical stories, Subathra has gone out and explored into Western folklore and fables. With a daring and free personality, she has merged ballet and Broadway musicals into Bharatanatyam as well, and has staged ‘Snow White’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Living Tree’, not forgetting stories close to her heart such as Sangamithra, Subramaniam, Rama and Sita. “This is why I love Bharatanatyam” she says. “Our medium is wonderful because we display many expressions and emotions. We did Maleficent, then we performed characters such as the Genie, Madusa and Ursula on stage and the audience could not believe it” she smiles.
The audiences at her concerts are from various backgrounds enjoying the rhythm of of the swaying forms. Though Bharatanatyam is perceived to be a dance closely associated with Hindu culture, through her work she has transformed it to an art that is accessible to audiences from different cultures. While the dance costumes and techniques are purely traditional, the stories she narrates vary from the East to the West. Striving to keep this dance form alive in the modern world she has cleverly choreographed her productions with her students in an innovative manner. Subathra ensures that funds collected from each production is used for a good cause.
Subathra has achieved much and has also been a guest on numerous talk shows in India. She strongly believes that who she is today is only because of her Gurus, local teacher Shanthi Rajendran in Sri Lanka and the legendary Padhmabhushan Dhananjayans. With the blessings of her teachers and support of her family, Subathra continues in her charitable and passionate journey. With future plans underway in Sri Lanka she hopes to continue to dance her way through to the hearts and minds of her audiences.