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Obeisance to the Guru – A Tribute to Dr. Kanak Rele

The Mohiniattam danseuse, Dr. Kanak Rele, expired yesterday. This is post is  Obeisance to the Guru – A Tribute to Dr. Kanak Rele.


Obeisance to the Guru – A Tribute to Dr. Kanak Rele

I knew Dr. Kanak Rele as my Bharatanatyam guru, Dr. Sunanda Nair’s guru. This was until I came into journalism and had the honor of meeting her for an interview, for a print magazine. Though I was new to journalism; being trained in Bharatanatyam, I had a fair knowledge of what to ask.

Dr. Kanak Rele turned out to be a very amicable person and made me very comfortable while the interaction was taking place. She also welcomed Mom, who had been helping me as my photographer in the beginning of my freelance career, very cordially.

Later, when my own Guru shifted to the US with her husband and our residential address also changed, I contacted Rele Ma’am to enlighten me on how to complete my course. She said, she would think of something for me. But for some reason the plan fell through partly because her Nalanda Institute has no branches close to my place. I lost the chance to learn under her tutelage.

More recently, I think it was about 10 years back, I had the good fortune to interact with her via a telecon, for another interview. This major article was on new technology being used for teaching dance and the unscrupulous nature of some teachers.

Here, she openly stated that she was skeptical about online teaching because due to the limitations of visuals of the devices. She insisted that unless the Guru stands up in front of the students and performs, the learning cannot achieve the right amount of expertise.

In the days when people, uninitiated in the art of dance, appreciate odd body movements made in the name of dance, Dr. Kanak Rele contributed a lot in bringing hitherto lesser known dance forms to the forefront and promoted them through her institute.

When a childhood episode of polio didn’t deter her from performing and promoting Mohiniattam with élan, the other supposedly famous dancers, who do not have any physical limitations, need to take note of it and not sit back on their laurels, without improving their technique.

Today, I want to only tell Rele Ma’am that I learnt quite a few aspects of dance in the short interactions that I had with her. And I am thankful to her for inspiring me and several others like me. Om Shanti!


About Gayatri T Rao

A double post-graduate (MSc. - Botany and MA - English Literature) Gayatri T Rao is a Senior Multimedia Journalist with vast experience in writing on varied topics.

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