'It's a political act to decide to be a performing artiste'

Dr. Anita Ratnam is a performer with a career spanning over five decades. She began performing in the 1970's as a Bharatanatyam dancer and over the next 50 years has been able to set up her own dance theatre, curate various festivals, develop her own movement style and has made a significant contribution to the world of performing arts by producing and choreographing a large body of work.

best Contemporary Performer dr anita ratnam

With over two and half decades of experience as choreographer, renowned performer, writer, speaker and cultural mentor Dr. Anita Ratnam has created a multitude of works that have been performed to great acclaim. The active repertoire that has toured in India and internationally, offers a glimpse into the rich and complex choreographies that Anita has been developing over the years along with the Arangham Dance Theatre.

Naachiyaar Next is a re-telling of Dr. Anita Ratnam's production of Naachiyar that premiered in 2003. In keeping with Anita's style, it features unconventional verses from Andal, the 9th century mystic poet of Tamil Nadu who was elevated to goddess status within few centuries of her birth. The work embodies a feminist reading of Andal, whose poems have come to represent female desire, personal Bhakti and daring transgression across the borders of conformity

Credits Credits Concept, Choreography and Sound Design: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Performance: Archana Raja, Shambavi Jagadish, Sushmita Suresh, Simran Sivakumar, Reshma G, Sruthy Anand, Nadhini G S, Madhumita Sriram, Sridhar Vasudevan Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan
Nattuvangam: L Subhasri Ravi
Percussion: N K Kesavan
Flute: R. Athul Kumar
Veena: Anjani S
Vocals: A V R Randhini, A V R Roshni
Lighting:Victor Paulraj
Costumes: Sandhya Raman
Props: Y Mohan 85 minutes

Andal Andal is a multifaceted representation of the Tamil poet-saint Andal that conceptualises her with two contrasting faces. Brought alive by her poetry and the story of her life, the inner Andal is conflicted, depressed, fiery, and spirited whereas the outer Andal is obedient, calm and dutiful. First performed by Dr. Anita Ratnam and Pritha Ratnam in 2011, Andal Andal will henceforth be performed by a new duo.

Credits Performance: Dr. Anita Ratnam and Pritha Ratnam
Direction and Choreography: Hari Krishnan and Dr. Anita Ratnam
Music: Sudha Raghuraman
Costumes: Sandhya Raman
Sets and visual design: Rex
Lighting: Victor Paulraj
Vocals: Sharanya Krishnan, Anusha Pradeep
Nattuvangam:L Subhasri
Vocal: A V R Randhini, A V R Roshni
Flute: G Raghuraman
Mridangam: N K Kesavan

While Sita has been revered as a paragon of virtue, patience, and resilience, A Million Sitas seeks to explore the multifarious identities and perspectives of characters in the Ramayana with a political lens. Dr. Anita Ratnam uses costume, sound and her signature movement style to retell the stories of Sita and four other female characters in the Ramayana - Mandodhari, Manthara, Surpanakha, and Ahalya, characters that are often overlooked despite their significant contribution to the epic.

Credits Choreography: Hari Krishnan in collaboration with Dr. Anita Ratnam
Performance: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Vocals: Lakshmi and Subhiksha Rangarajan
Violin: Viji Krishnan
Multi percussion: NK Kesavan
Music Consultants: Anil Srinivasan and Vedanth Bharadwaj
Costume and Visual Design: Rex
Research and Text:Dr. Anita Ratnam and Rex
Lighting Design: Victor Paulraj

Ma3Ka is a performance that embodies a renewed feminist ideal through the personas of Hindu goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Meenakshi, who are known for their knowledge, fertility, and strength. The piece is a combination of devotion and resistance, and it effectively achieves both goals with its authentic autobiographical approach. Anita's personal storytelling and her unique movement style, which she has honed over many years, infuse the various aspects of the feminine divine with a personal touch. This results in a multifaceted expression of womanhood that is both powerful and deeply personal.

Credits Concept, Choreography and Sound Design: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Choreography, Direction: Hari Krishnan
Visual Design: Rex
Set and Lighting Design: Mithran Devanesen
Music Director: Anil Srinivasan
Spoken word / Narration: Revathy Sankkaran
Violinist: Viji Krishnan
Mridangist and Composer of jathis for Meenakshi: K.S.R. Anirudha
Assistant Music Director and Sound Engineer: Vedanth Bharadwaj
Karnatic vocalist: Subhiksha Rangarajan
Multi percussions for prologue and Lakshmi: Darbuka' Siva
Aniruddhan Vasudevan: Darbuka' Siva
Asma Menon: Painter and Artiste

Faces brings us closer to familiar cultural icons using emotions and sentiments as an anchor, the performance uses different ragas and moods to reflect a specific emotional state. Dr. Anita Ratnam uses sound, light and costume to tell a range of stories that relate to different aspects of human emotions and experience. The performance features various dance styles, including Bharatanatyam, Anita's signature movement style, and with music and visuals, the performance becomes a multi-sensory experience

Credits Concept, Choreography and Sound Design: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Director/Dramaturgy: Aparna
Music Arrangement/Direction: Anil Srinivasan
Associate Music Director: Vedanth Bharadwaj
Songs: O. S. Arun, Sikkil Gurucharan, Revathy Sankkaran, Subhiksha Rangarajan
Voices: Aniruddhan Vasudevan, L Subhasri, Dr. Anita Ratnam S
Set Design: Dipankar Mukherjee, Pangea World Theater, Minneapolis
Costume Design: Sandhya Raman
Costume Assistant: Alexander, Ranjana Tailors
Lights: Aiyappan

Neelam is a selection of compositions drawn from ritual and temple texts in praise of lord Vishnu as interpreted by Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Anita Ratnam in a new light. The soundscape is inspired by the meditative corridors of Vishnu temples and the costume and visual design reflect the androgynous qualities of Vishnu and Lakshmi. The performance is woven around Nambi and Sri, Andal and Madhusudhana, Krishna and Radha and finally Rama and Sita

Credits Concept, Choreography and Sound Design: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Choreographic consultant: Hari Krishnan (inDance, Canada)
Music design: Anil Srinivasan, KSR Aniruddha
Voice: Sikkil Gurucharan, O S Arun
Sacred chant: Pradeep Chakravarthy & Revathy Sankkaran
Costume & visual design: Rex
Lighting design: Victor Paulraj
75 minutes

A solo operatic collaboration between Dr. Anita Ratnam and Hari Krishnan (inDANCE, Canada), 7 Graces develops Anita's perspectives on Goddess worship and the intersection of Indian feminism. The nonlinear minimalistic work uses mythology as metaphor and draws from a rich kinetic landscape that includes Bharatanatyam, Chinese Wu-Shu martial arts, Modern Dance, Tibetan Buddhist liturgical dance and Zen Buddhism.

Credits Produced by: Dr. Anita Ratnam for Arangham Trust
Performance co-choreography: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Choreography/Direction: Hari Krishnan
Research: Arvind Iyer
Sound Design: Suresh Gopalan, Anil Srinivasan, Hari Krishnan & Dr. Anita Ratnam
Studio: Charsur Digital Work Station, Chennai
Lighting Design: Mithran Devanesan
Lighting Assistant: Victor Paulraj
Costume Design: Sandhya Raman
Costume/Visual consultant: Rex
Set Design: Aishwarya Pathy
Tara Painting Execution: Siva
Jati recitation: L. Subhashri
Vocals: Shubashree Ramachanndran
Piano: Anil Srinivasan
Mridangam: K.S.R. Anirudha
Thudumbu drums: D. Prakash & Anand Sami
60 minutes

Dr. Anita Ratnam has consistently viewed her work as a creative playground, allowing her to delve into various roles and aspects of the arts. She has taken an active role in supporting artists by producing their work, providing opportunities, and nurturing their creative abilities. Through her efforts, she has empowered and encouraged talented individuals to showcase their artistic potential.

Contemporary Performer anita ratnam

1970-1980 After a Master's in Theatre and Television from the University of New Orleans, USA (1977 - 1979), Anita enjoyed a successful ten-year tenure from 1981-1990 as an award-winning television producer in New York. Besides securing Emmy (1987) and Ace (1986) award nominations for her media work in the USA, she has even been honoured as "Outstanding TV Ambassador" (1988) for enhancing American awareness of India. The weekly TV show saw Anita wearing many hats as writer, producer, reporter, researcher and anchor, which gave her a sense of responsibility towards the words and images being broadcast as well as the skills that she uses today to produce various series, festivals and programmes.

1990 - 2000 In 1990, Anita returned to India and briefly joined a Bombay-based television company called Plus Channel as the South-Indian bureau chief, but felt that dance was something that she knew best. In 1992, she founded Arangham Trust, a cultural foundation that seeks to explore, enrich and promote the performing and visual arts of India. A year later she founded Arangham Dance Theatre (ADT) which became the space for her to bring her ideas and experiences actively into the theatre. ADT creates full-length classical and contemporary dance theatre productions, cross-cultural experimentations and exclusive programmes for corporates, NGOs as well as for young audiences. Rooted in tradition, the repertoire uses classical, contemporary, folk motifs and movements, masks, veils and simple props, to showcase the variety and depth of Indian dance.

In August 1995, “Purush - Dancer, Actor, Hero” was conceived as a multi-cultural two-day festival. It was structured as an evening of classical dance featuring some of India's brilliant male dancers along with artistes from New York's Battery Dance Company; and a second all-day workshop with lecture demonstrations, performances, an art exhibition and a film show that embraced the role of the male in visual and performing arts. From 1998 to 2006, Arangham Trust and Dr. Anita Ratnam co-produced The Other Festival, an international contemporary arts festival in Chennai.

2020 Onwards When the pandemic hit India in March 2020, Narthaki, the online portal for every kind of dance resource, became a beacon that kept the fire of creative passion alive for dancers the world over. The first of the pandemic series to be launched was 'Boxed', a series of two-minute dance films made by contemporary and classical dancers across the world, that examined what it felt like to be locked-down and isolated. With the success of 'Boxed' went on to generate another video series called 'Taalam Talkies' - that looks at classical dance in South Indian cinema by profiling renowned Bharatanatyam dancers who have had a strong presence on the silver screen. Narthaki during Navaratri also launched 'Devi Diaries', a celebration of the feminine and divine in the everyday. Other series that have been released on the Narthaki platform are 'Andal's Garden', a series of curated performances celebrating the spirit and poetry of Andal, as well as 'A-Nidra' a series launched during Shivaratri in celebration of Lord Shiva.

Dr. Anita Ratnam believes that collaboration is the core of her art. For her, the artistic journey is about reaching a point of balance and harmony in which all faculties are alive and fully expressed. Anita's cross-cultural collaborations add new and nuanced layers to her work, contributed by poets, choreographers, composers, musicians, and performers. She constantly seeks to cross intellectual frontiers and geographic ones in every collaboration, always asking herself, "What can I learn? How can I grow?”.

collaborate with performing artist anita ratnam

Over the years, Anita has collaborated with several prominent artists from around the world. For instance, in 1996, she worked with Sanskrit scholar Devesh Soneji and artist Hari Krishnan to create "Movements Monuments”. In 1997, she collaborated with Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice, USA, on "A Map to the Next World," and with the modern dancer Alexandra Romanova, Germany, on "Pratirupa." In 1998, she played the title role in "Kannagi" at the Singapore Festival of Arts, and was invited to choreograph an act in "The Inner World" for the Pangea World Theatre, Minneapolis, USA. In 2005, Anita worked again with Hari Krishnan on her new solo choreography, "7 Graces: The Many Hues of Goddess Tara.”.
One of Anita's most significant collaborations was with Mark Taylor, Artistic Director of Dance Alloy, Pittsburgh, USA. After a multi-year exchange between the two choreographers and their companies, Anita and Taylor premiered their work "Dust" in May 2001, with original music by composer Alice Shields. They had another two performances at the Byham Theater between September 13-15, 2001, followed by a performance at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in February 2002.

collaborate with contemporary dancer anita ratnam
collaborate with Contemporary Dance Theatre Performer Anita Ratnam

Her collaboration with Joy Harjo began with Harjo's searing, honest voice about injustice to her First Nation community and Anita's search for a vocabulary to address modern-day issues like drug abuse and alcoholism. Joy's suggestion that they begin from a place of exotic misunderstanding led to the creation of "A Map to the Next World," a work that combined Carnatic music with Joy's spoken poetry set to a saxophone, guitar, and drum. A Map to the Next World emerged section by section, with the title from one of Joy's poems and ending with a note of hope for the world.