Priyadarsini Govind’s appointment as the director of Kalakshetra signals a break with a 77-year-old tradition and comes as a breath of fresh air. Dancer Urmila Sathyanarayanan believes that this appointment is a very good choice. "It is something that is totally different. For the first time, the director of Kalakshetra is a much younger person who has a lot of experience. I personally think that such a designation requires someone, who has strength of mind and is open to new ideas. And, Priya is a great choice,” she reiterates.
Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghunathan is quite happy about the appointment too. "Priyadarsini is a leader in her own field and has the capability to handle something as large as Kalakshetra, which is a huge responsibility. She is a combination of an artist and performer as well as an organiser who can delegate duties,” she points out.
Renowned danseuse Malavika Sarukkai concedes that this move was quite unexpected. "Everyone is a bit surprised. I’m sure that the Kalakshetra alumni have much more to say on this. It is a demanding role. Only time will tell as to the contribution, leadership and direction, which Kalakshetra will take. The dance fraternity will have to wait and watch. People will have a lot to say on this, but ultimately, we’re the outsiders. The students and faculty of Kalakshetra are the ones who have seen the changes and have to adapt to them,” she says.
However, Sudha believes that artists have their own way of functioning. "Each artist works in a space of their own. The way they go about things is different. And Priya, being a versatile person, would bring interesting things in the future to Kalakshetra,” she adds. Bala Gopalan, the faculty at Kalakshetra, is only too happy at this appointment. "Priyadarsini is a very capable person and a wonderful dancer. She is sure to steer the direction of Kalakshetra and knows well about the institution. Once she takes up the mantle, she can implement the changes. I am quite happy that she has been appointed as the director,” reiterates Gopalan, on an ebullient note.
Meanwhile, the new director of Kalakshetra is quite honoured to be a part of an iconic institution. "Kalakshetra is a premier institute and it is the place for the arts. I am very proud to be a part of it,” Priyadarsini says. "Kalakshetra already has great artists who have dedicated themselves to dance and to it. It is a huge privilege to be a part of this institution. For me, at this point, it is about integrating into Kalakshetra, which already has excellent staff and infrastructure. My first priority is not change, but integration,” she states.
Malavika avers that the designation requires maturity and experience. "Kalakshetra has so much of history and expectations and it deals with the legacy of Rukmini Devi, who has inspired several generations of dancers. This role requires maturity, experience and vision — because it is not a simple role. It is a very complex one that requires intelligence to lead what has, what is and what will be. A lot is at stake. From a serious dance point of view, it is about what happens to the art itself, to dance and to this legacy — and that requires tremendous bandwidth. At the end of the day, what happens to Kalakshetra and what has it stood for all these years? These are complex questions,” she concludes, pensively.
In line with tradition
Kalakshetra is a renowned centre for dance, not just nationally, but also internationally. The institute attracts students from across the world. Priya has travelled extensively and has seen a lot around the world. She’s an active performer and knows the challenges and all the avenues that need improvement
- Urmila Sathyanarayanan Danseuse
The road ahead
A famous dancer being appointed as head of an iconic cultural institution is a positive sign. This is perhaps the first time that a non-Kalakshetra alumni and someone not familiar with the organic growth of the dance academy has taken the reigns. However, a star performer is often torn between the magnetic pull of the arc lights and the more prosaic grunge of daily administrative responsiblities. Will Govind’s role be as stellar figurehead or will she, as government employee, take vital decisions needed to steer this large ship through the troubled waters of contemporary culture?
- Dr Anita Ratnam, Performer/Scholar