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Legendary Dancers of the Pandanallur Tradition

These are the leading dancers in the Pandanallur tradition.


Thangachi Ammal

Very little is known about this great Lady from the ancestral dance caste, a deva dasi, who was known as the best early dancer to have been trained by Minakshisundaram Pillai.   She is said to have done most of her performing before the 1930s.


Pandanallur Jayalakshmi

If there is one dancer who captured all the majesty of the Pandanallur style, then it is Pandanallur Jayalakshmi.  This great dancer from the ancestral dance caste was a disciple of Minakshisundaram Pillai and was by far the most talented of all the dancers he taught.  She had a glorious career as a professional dancer and to this day her name remains synonymous with the word Pandanallur.  She was famous for her dazzling technique and even more renowned for the great pathos and understatement of her abinaya.  Subbaraya Pillai watched her being taught by Minakshisundaram Pillai during his apprenticeship and accompanied her in performance during his youth.


Mambalam Geetha

After Minakshisundaram Pillai, it was his son-in-law Chokalingam Pillai who became the next doyen of the Pandanallur style and his best student was Mambalam Geetha.  This great dancer maintained the purity of the Pandanallur style.   She was known for her brilliant technique as well as her great portrayals of the dramatic roles in the Tanjore Quartet varnams.   She is said to have performed actively in the 50s and 60s.


Alarmel Valli

Alarmel Valli was the leading exponent of the Pandanallur style during the first part of her career, from the late 60s to the early 80s, when she danced under Subbaraya Pillai's nattuvangam direction.  After that she began to perform her own choreography.  She trained under Chokkalingam Pillai until he stopped teaching in 1966 and thereafter trained under Subbaraya Pillai.  She is renowned for the perfection of her dance.


Leena Sulochana

Leena Sulochana has best maintained both the purity and brilliance of the Pandanallur style: having never gone to any other nattuvanar, she has kept intact the great pandanallur choreography as well as the clear technique.   She performed actively in the 70s and 80s   In Subbaraya Pillai's estimation, this dancer from Kerala is among his most gifted students and he speaks with admiration of the grandeur of her abinaya, especially in the varnam "Mogamana".    She performed actively in the 80s.




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