Rukmini Vijayakumar honours tradition while reaching for contemporary cultural consciousness

For the most part, Rukmini Vijayakumar has always been one to move beyond the confines of convention. As a young girl, when she wasn’t tagging along to her mother’s dance classes, she’d be practising handstands or cartwheels around the house. 

Growing up, she trained in ballet and Bharatanatyam simultaneously, and eventually went on to secure a bachelor of fine arts in modern dance and ballet from Boston Conservatory in 2008. Since then, she has performed as a soloist in premier theatres around the world and received special recognition for her role in Pandit Ravi Shankar’s opera Sukanya, produced at The Royal Opera House in London in 2017. 

Rukmini Vijayakumar was lost in a realm between earth and air. Her bare feet beat a noiseless rhythm in the vivid green grass as her arms reached up towards the heavens. At that moment, the sun burst through the trees and shrouded her silhouette, crowning her in a mantle of sunlight. As if on cue, a camera snapped, immortalising Vijayakumar’s communion with the sun.

A new beginning is always infused with "hope". Life is full of moments that we believe to be "beginnings" only because of the presence of hope. The birth of a child, the first day at school, one’s first job, a new house, a new partner, a wedding, reconciliation after an argument and even the end of a relationship is often considered as a "fresh start". A physical symbol of these moments of hope is the flower. It is repeatedly used across cultures in times of reconciliation, celebration, prayer - all moments of ‘hope’. The films attempts to capture the emotion of these beginnings. 

In 2018, she was awarded the Jiri Kylian grant for choreography and was a resident choreographer at Korzo theatre in the Netherlands. She has simultaneously delved into a deep study of Bharatanatyam’s spiritual origins, a journey she recounts in her 2021 book Finding Shiva. Still, even after decades of training rigorously, delivering critically acclaimed performances across the world and amassing a staggering fan base on Instagram, Vijayakumar has preserved a childlike fascination for the art form, and her practice is all the richer for it.

When Vijayakumar reflects back on the moment in which she raised her arms up to the firmament, allowing sunlight to shroud her silhouette, her voice softens. It is the image that best captures the essence of the entire series, and yet, just like the project itself, came about entirely by happenstance. 

I was not aware of the sun, I was reaching up to the world, thinking about how we’re a part of it and surrendering to the beauty around us.

Vijayakumar’s practice has evolved to create a bridge between classical tradition and contemporary consciousness. Over the years, she has developed her own teaching pedagogy, The Raadha Kalpa Method, which came about when she was trying to figure out how to fix her own body, as well as how to find an honest response in the imaginative sphere. Even as she retains the authenticity of 1,000 year old gestures, she infuses them with a raw emotion that is palpable to the uninitiated. “In a lot of the poems, the varnams and the padams, there is this idea of yearning or longing to be united with Krishna, Shiva, or sometimes a goddess,” she says. “That yearning or longing is a parallel for me with a human who is searching for meaning in life or the relevance of one’s existence.”






Artistic Director of her Classical Dance Company, Raadha Kalpa, the Director of her Art Space, LshVa, and the founder of The Raadha Kalpa Method, a pedagogical system for the practice of Bharatanatyam.


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