Ketaki Narain

Bharatanatyam Dancer


A note on Bharatanatyam


Bharatanatyam perhaps the oldest among the contemporary dance styles of India, dates back to the 2nd century AD. It developed in the south, primarily in Tamil Nadu. Like most art forms in India, Bharatanatyam has a deep spiritual base. Acknowledged as a form of yoga and of realizing Godhood, the dance originally blossomed within the temple walls, where the Devadasi’s (the servants of God or temple dancers) dedicated their lives to dance and to God. Passages of time saw this art form emerging from the temple confines and embrace the greater freedom of the stage.

What distinguishes Bharatanatyam from all the other Indian Classical dance forms is it’s clear lines, almost geometric; its agility and lightness together with forceful footsteps, its strength, crispness and most importantly its majesty.

The technique of Bharatanatyam, as of all the other Indian Classical dance styles rests squarely on the two pillars of "nritta" (pure dance) and "nritya" (expressional dance). In "nritta" or abstract dance, the emphasis is on pure dance movements, on movements for their own sake, creating patterns in space and time, mostly along straight lines, triangles, circles and semicircles; without any specific intention of projecting any emotion. While in ‘nritya" or expressional dance the dancer conveys the meanings of a lyrical passage set to music, through stylised hand gestures, facial expressions and bodily movements.

For its content and theme this dance form draws heavily on episodes from ancient Indian scriptures on Indian mythology and verses composed by eminent scholars of Sanskrit, Tamil and Telegu, which transform mundane acts and feelings into the extra-mundane deeds of celestial beings, all by the alchemy of beautiful words.


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Biographical Information


Ketaki’s involvement with Bharatanatyam spans almost two decades. After fourteen years under the tutelage of Mrs. Sonal Mansingh, she has undergone intense training in expressional dance (abhinaya) with the leading Guru, Mrs. Kalanidhi Narayanan.

It was during the important part of her training career that Ketaki notched up a wealth of experience dancing in solo, duets and dance dramas in over two dozen cities and towns of India and abroad in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Laos PDR; and since her successful "arangetram" (debut) in February 1992 she has caught the eye of discerning audiences and won the approval of dance critics all of whom have praised the clear cut precision of her style, the deft and clear delineation of her movements, precise rhythm and her subtle and memorable abhinaya.

Ketaki has been performing regularly, initially with Mrs. Sonal Mansingh and then on her own. Among other performances, Ketaki was selected to perform at the 7th Annual Youth Festival, organised by the Sahitya Kala Parishad Delhi ( a Government agency promoting the arts) in 1993. She also danced for the delegates of the International Cancer Congress and was invited by the Department of Culture, Ministry of Human Resources Development to perform for the delegates of the IIIrd World Archaeological Congress, both in 1994. Ketaki was invited to perform for the Ambassador and his guests, at the Embassy of the Czech Republic and for the Chairman of the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW).

In March 1996, Ketaki dedicated her performance at the Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, to the Children of Palna (a home for abandoned children) and in November of the same year she was invited to perform at the prestigious Kalidasa Samaroh in Ujjain for which she had choreographed and performed a piece based on Kalidasa’s poem "Kumarasambhava".

In February 1997 Ketaki was invited by the Haryana Tourism to perform at the Surajkund Cultural Festival, where the Governor of Punjab, Lt. Gen. Chibber was the chief guest. Towards the end of the same month Ketaki went to Vientiane, Laos PDR. as a part of a cultural delegation, sent by the Government of India to participate in a week long cultural festival to celebrate 50 years of India’s independence. This festival also included a special performance at The renowned Odeon Rama Theatre. Ketaki also danced for the International School in Vientiane and for Laos Television.

In March of the same year Ketaki was invited by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to perform for His Highness Gaj Singh and his guests at the Town Hall in Jodhpur. Later in the year she danced for the delegates of the International Seminar on Nuclear Energy, was invited by The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to perform for the Indo - Japan Business Co-operation Committee, and was invited by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to perform for the International Seminar on Fluid Lubricants in Delhi. Ketaki conducted an extensive lecture demonstration for the trainees of the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training and the Franco Asian Cultural Exchange Society.

In August 1998 Ketaki was invited by the Chandigarh Administration, Lalit Kala Academy and North Zone Cultural Centre to perform during the closing ceremony of the celebrations to mark 50 years of India’s independence at the Tagore hall in Chandigarh. Later this year Ketaki conducted a lecture demonstration for the Global League of Women, and danced at the Cultural Festival organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation to coincide with the India International Trade Fair (IITF ’98).

Ketaki’s teaching career began with taking initiatory classes at the Centre for Indian Classical Dances and she has since then, undertaken the training of young aspirants at her own dance school, which was established in 1994. Ketaki is also on the panel of artists selected by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the premier organisation, which is responsible for showcasing Indian culture in other countries.

Induced into Bharatanatyam at the age of eight, Ketaki has made it an integral part of her life. She has successfully combined her devotion and dedication to dance with an academic career and holds a post graduate degree in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.

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"A clean cut precision, deft and clearly delineated movements, and precise rhythms have come to be the hallmarks of Ketaki's performances. No small achievement for a young dancer whose dedication to her art have never been in question. Ketaki's years of training and close proximity to senior dancers of international fame have not been lost as she seems to have imbibed from them, almost like a process of osmosis, the grace and richness of this elegant dance form. Her relentless pursuit of excellence in her dance shows promise that she may, one day, aspire to heights of national acclaim." The Statesman, New Delhi

" Performed by charming Ketaki Narain, the enchanting evening flung open many vistas of a highly chiseled form of dance." The Tribune, Chandigarh

" …in both the varnam, excellently balanced between tightly etched jatis and fresh interpretative skills, above all in the padam, … Ketaki arrived on the high ground of the art of dance." The Hindustan Times, New Delhi

" Ketaki dances with a certain dynamic vivacity which is pleasing to witness". The Statesman, New Delhi

" Ketaki won tremendous applause of the audience with her graceful movements, perfect sense of rhythm and her beauty as well". Vientiane Times, Laos PDR

" Ketaki's dance recital was a neat and delightful one. Her adavus were perfect and rhythm tight and precise. No wonder her interpretation of Papanaasam Sivam's varnam came off sparklingly. As to the jatis, they had both wit and sparkle". The Statesman, New Delhi

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Contact Information

Street address
Prakrit Farms, Behind Wireless Station, Andheria More, Mehrauli, New Delhi, India-110030

Electronic mail address

Office phone

FAX number

Home phone

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Last revised: June 13, 1999.