“Dance- My Soul, My Breath” An Interview with Pallavi Krishnan

Pallavi Krishnan is a renowned Mohiniyattam dancer, choreographer and trainer who feels dance should also be a medium to carry a social message-mostly about the injustice prevailing in the society. Most of her Mohiniyattam Thematic choreographies do convey a social message. Pallavi did her graduation in Kathakali from Shantiniketan, West Bengal and her post-graduation in Mohiniyattam from Kerala Kalamandalam, thereby coveting the credit to be the only Indian dancer to be the proud alumnus of two prestigious dance institutes of the country. She has performed her choreographies in many national and international stages; fairin every sense to get a global applause for her herculean efforts.

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A native of West Bengal, Pallavi, has learned with almost all the major dance forms of India. But as to why she chose Mohiniyattam, read further on our interview with the acclaimed dancer.

Mam, you are a native of West Bengal and so the very obvious question, Why Mohiniyattam?

My first dance training was not in Mohiniyattam but in Kathak. I learned Kathak because it was the only dance for which I could get tutorials in the area where we lived while I was a child. There was only one trained Kathak dance teacher who lived near us back then. I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was in my 10th grade. By then I found a Bharatanatyam tutor, who had shifted home to near where we lived. After I didmy graduation in Bioscience, I went to Shantiniketan and joined a 4 graduation year course in dance. My main subject was Kathakali and my two selective were Manipuri and Rabindra Sangeeth. My Kathakali Guru, Kalamandalam Shankar Narayanan, used to take private classes for me in Mohiniyattom and Bharatnatyam too. By then I grew so fond of South Indian dance forms that I just wanted to learn more. And back then it was like I just wanted to get to South India, be it anywherethere and learn the dances, such was my passion for those dance forms….but even then I didn’t know which dance was mine.

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But why Kerala and Kalamandalam ….

Ah! Coming to that, it was my Guru who told me to learn Mohiniyattam. Maybe he felt that my grace and style was better matched to the particular Dance form. And he was right, just as it is with the accurate perception of the right Guru you get. Mohiniyattam became a part of me.

At first it was difficult to convince my parents as I was going to a completely unknown state, to another corner of India, where everything right from food habits was starkly different. However, my Guru intervened and helped me. He convinced my parents and then from then on, thanks to my Guru they were very supportive after that. It was in 1992 that I joined Kalamandalam to learn Mohiniyattam and back then there was no option of choosing electives. I had to learn all the three South Indian dance forms- Mohiniyattam, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, with equal importance to each. While I was in Kalamandalam, I did more of Bharatanatyam performances than the other two dances. And yet again, it was Kalamandalam Leelamma teacher who inspired me to learn more about Mohiniyattam. The dance form just clung to me never leaving me and becoming a part of me like I said before.

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