Silambam Houston’s Artistic Director Receives Honor

Dr. Rajagopalan as she receives the award, Acharya Kala Bharati, from Padma Bhushan Awardee Alarmél Valli

Silambam Houston’s Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan has received the title of Acharya Kala Bharati

Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan, the executive artistic director of Silambam Houston received the title of Acharya Kala Bharati at the 34th Margazhi Mahotsav on December 16th of 2022.

Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan is a dancer, choreographer, dance educator, arts administrator, arts proponent, vocalist, proficient nattuvangam artist, scientist, and Bharathi Kalai Mandram’s Women’s Achievement awardee, and now she has one more accolade under her belt – the prestigious title of Acharya Kala Bharathi.

This title was awarded to Dr. Rajagopalan in honor of her outstanding service as a Guru in the field of Bharatanatyam at the 34th Margazhi Mahotsav, hosted by Bharat Kalachar and the YGP family of founders. Bharat Kalachar hosts the Margazhi Mahotsav every year in December and recognizes a number of distinguished artists for their work in the field of Indian classical arts. This year, the other recipient of the Acharya Kala Bharati title was Smt. Revathi Ramachandran, the director of the hallowed Kalakshetra foundation.

Now a well-known Guru in the Houston area, Dr. Rajagopalan began her journey as a disciple of the famed Bharatanatyam legend, Dr. Sudharani Raghupathy at Shree Bharatalaya. Since her solo dance debut in 1992, she has performed extensively and to critical acclaim throughout India and the US. She went on to establish Silambam Houston in 2002, a non-profit institution of Indian classical arts, committed to providing exemplary, holistic, and affordable arts education, while also molding students into well-rounded, artistically sensitive, and culturally refined individuals. The Silambam Houston Dance Company is the performance wing of Silambam Houston, which is comprised of professional dancers trained by Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan. She has created productions including Krishna..? (2015), Maya – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016), Kāvya: Poetry in Motion (2017), Chakravyuh: Battle Against The Odds (2021), and the latest production, the Dance of the Cosmos (2022).

Students of Dr. Rajagopalan learn to value tradition as well as innovation, to respect their elders and ancestors, and learn not just the art of Bharatanatyam but everything that surrounds the dance form. From stage and lighting design, Nattuvangam, Layam, and Carnatic music concepts, to the practice of teaching Bharatanatyam or any of the many skills involved in running a performance, her students are exposed to all parts of the artistic experience. She facilitates and involves senior students in arts education programs such as Dance Across India, Storytime with Silambam, and Dancing into STEM in K-12 and community settings. Using modern modalities to create awareness about Indian classical arts throughout the community, she has established that Silambam Houston is prioritizing the diversification of the typical patrons of Indian classical arts, without wavering from the true values which she learned at Shree Bharatalaya. These traditional values are a prominent part of her teaching philosophy and are held equally, if not more important than the techniques of dancing itself. Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan has created a learning environment that goes beyond the physical and emotional movement of dance; she has established an environment that creates sensible and adaptable artists.

It is evident that Acharya Kala Bharathi Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan has taught her students to carry on the traditions that were imparted to her, thus practicing, teaching, and honoring the importance of the Guru-Sishya Parampara.

  • Gayathri Sampathkumar and Tejaswini Mohankumar

Gayathri Sampathkumar and Teja Mohankumar are senior disciples of Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan at Silambam Houston.

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