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A Dancing star glistens in South Island

Residents of Dunedin, teachers, learners and followers of Bharata Natyam can expect a professional performance of high quality in Dunedin on October 20.

Swaroopa Unni and students of her Natyaloka School of Indian Classical Dance will present the programme called ‘Maaya,’ at Teachers College Auditorium located at Union Street East at 6 pm.

The programme will also mark the second anniversary of her dance school.

Despite its title, the event will showcase the real achievements of a professionally qualified dancer and her students, demonstrating the well-founded adage that sincerity of effort will always be rewarded with success aplenty.

While a review of the performance will hopefully find its place in these columns in due course, we were impressed by the passion and perseverance of Swaroopa, who has, in a short span of three years since her migration to New Zealand, created a place of distinction in the world of Indian fine arts.

Her move to the southernmost part of the world, orchestrated by the appointment of her husband Siddarth Nambiar currently Researcher and Scriptwriter at the Natural History New Zealand in 2010, was propitious, for it began to provide a resplendent and hitherto unavailable opportunity for aspiring dancers in Dunedin to learn Bharata Natyam and Mohini Attam.

Artistic family

Born into a family of eminent artistes, Swaroopa showed proclivities towards Indian dances from an early age. Her aunt Sridevi Unni, and cousins Mohini Unni and the late Monisha Unni are known for their accomplishments as dancers and as Malayalam actresses.

Impressive qualifications

Last fortnight Swaroopa became a doctoral candidate at the Department of Dance Studies (School of Physical Education) at the University of Otago. While we await to carry the news of the acceptance of her thesis followed by conferment of her doctorate, we record with interest her distinguished scholastic and achievements since she graduated from the University of Calicut in Kerala in 2003.

Since then, she has obtained a postgraduate (Masters) degree in Mass Communication from Bharathiar University in Coimbatore and undertook a Qualitative Market Research titled, ‘Study on Popularity of Malayalam Channels in Trivandrum City.’ She was graded as a Senior Artist at the Nrityalaya School for Classical Dance and Music, Calicut, Abhinava Dance Company, Bangalore and Senior Artist & Principal Dancer, Monisha Arts, Bangalore.

She has been an instructor and guest artiste for all Dance Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) related workshops and community classes and has also volunteered as a dance tutor at several schools and holiday programmes.

Early years

Swaroopa commenced her dancing career under the tutelage of Kalamandalam Vinodini at the tender age of four at Swathi Kala Kendra and later under Kalamandalam Saraswathy at the Nirthyalaya School of Indian Classical Dance and Music (both located at Calicut). Following her Arangetram when she was nine years old, she learnt Kuchipudi and Mohini Attam under Kalamandalam Saraswathy leading to Rangapravesham and Arangetam in the two dance styles.

Swaroopa said that she was happy to become an integral part of Nrithyalaya.

“I had the privilege of being trained by N Srikanth Natarajan and Aswathy Srikanth in Indian Classical Dance and Music. I had the opportunity of performing at a number of cities and centres throughout India, understanding nuances of the various forms of Indian art better, and more importantly, the moods of audiences and interacting with them,” she said.

Awards & Citations

Even in her formative years, her talents were recognised and rewarded at performances big and small, at school, university, sub-district, district and state levels. She won several prizes, trophies, awards and citations.

Her passion for dancing is manifest in her impressive dancing career, while her achievements have found recognition with several awards and citations that she has received over the years.

Cultural bridge

Swaroopa is one of the few artistes would be considered an effective cultural bridge connecting the South and North of India. She pursued an intensive, four-year training programme in Kathak under Nirupama and Rajendra of the famous Abhinava Dance Company based in Bangalore.

Photo :

1. Swaroopa as Bharata Natyam Dancer

2. Mohini Attam is popular in Kerala

3. Performers at forthcoming ‘Maaya’

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