Classical Dancers

Any classical dance form, be it western, middle-eastern or Indian, is characterized mostly by conventional steps, elaborate formal gestures, steps, poses, movement precision and above all, a codified structure. In the western world, ballet and flamenco would be considered western classical dance forms, that provide the basic foundational training to any budding dancer who would want to improve his/her body strength, stamina, fine lines, movements, posture, hand and foot work. In the Middle East, classical ‘Raks Sharqi’ or middle-eastern, ‘oriental’ forms are believed to have been secret exercises or movements passed down from mothers to daughters through the ages. Classical dances could also refer to Indian classical styles of dance which are Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam; all set to a codified set of theories, known as the ‘Natya Shastra’. All around the world, there has been a propagation of various classical styles of dance with a growing need to understand and relate to specific cultures and also to be able to incorporate the art of specific, classical stagecraft into one’s everyday routine. Famous classical dancers and choreographers are Maurice Bejart, Alicia Alonso, Sir Anton Dolin, Natalia Makarova, Peter Martins, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Uday Shankar, Sujata Mohapatra, Aziza, Samia Gamal and Naima Akef. If you would like to learn more on classical dancers and choreographers, then go through the list and explore details about them in their biographies, which include trivia, interesting facts, timeline and life history.

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Vote for Your Favourite Classical Dancers

 1 

Sudha Chandran
5
Birthdate: September 27, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bombay, Maharashtra, India

Popular Indian dancer and actor Sudha Chandran was a phenomenal dancer since her early years. She was 16 when she lost her right leg after developing gangrene, following an accident. Sudha continued to perform, wearing a prosthetic leg, and went on win a National Award for the film Mayuri.

 2 
Sahara Davenport
(Drag Queen)

Sahara Davenport
4
Birthdate: December 17, 1984
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States
Died: October 1, 2012

Sahara Davenport was an American reality television personality, drag queen, singer, and classically trained dancer. She came into prominence after appearing in the popular reality competition TV series RuPaul's Drag Race in 2010. Davenport, who struggled with drug addiction throughout her life, died of heart failure, at the age of 27.

 3 
Gracy Singh
(Actress)

Gracy Singh
3
Birthdate: July 20, 1980
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Delhi, India

Gracy Singh is an Indian actress best known for portraying the role of Gauri in the 2001 musical sports film Lagaan. She then went on to play another prominent role in the popular comedy-drama film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. Gracy Singh is also a trained Odissi and Bharatnatyam dancer. 

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 4 
Vani Ganapathy
(Classical Dancer)

Vani Ganapathy
3
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Kolkata, India
Indian classical dancer Vani Ganapathy now owns a Bangalore-based dance school called Sanchari. She is also known as veteran actor Kamal Haasan’s first wife and appeared with Haasan in a dance sequence in the Tamil film Melnaattu Marumagal. She was also Haasan’s costume designer for a while.
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 5 
Bhanupriya
(Actress)

Bhanupriya
3
Birthdate: January 15, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rajamahendravaram, Andhra Pradesh

Along with her younger sister, Shantipriya, Bhanupriya rocked the Tamil and Telugu film industries in the 1980s and the 1990s. The three-time Nandi Award winner is known for hits such as Swarnakamalam and Chatrapati. She bagged her debut film, Mella Pesungal, after impressing director Bharathi Raja with her dance skills.

 6 
Padmini
(Actress)

Padmini
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Thiruvananthapuram, India
Died: September 24, 2006

Along with her sisters Lalitha and Ragini, Padmini was part of the Travancore sisters of the 1940s’ South Indian film industry. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, she later won a Filmfare award for the Hindi movie Kajal and a Filmfare nomination for Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai.

 7 
Meenakshi Seshadri
(Actress, Model)

Meenakshi Seshadri
0
Birthdate: November 16, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sindri, Bihar, India

Meenakshi Seshadri is an Indian former actress, dancer, and model. A former beauty queen, Meenakhsi Seshadri became one of the leading Bollywood actresses during the 1980s and 1990s. After retiring as an actress, Meenakshi Seshadri started running Cherish Dance School in the USA. Her life and work inspired a documentary titled Meenakshi Accept Her Wings which was released in 2006.

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 8 
Vyjayanthimala
(Film actress, Politician)

Vyjayanthimala
0
Birthdate: August 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Triplicane, Chennai, India

Vyjayanthimala is an Indian actress and dancer who played a major role in the Hindi film industry during the 1950s and 1960s. One of the most popular actresses of all time, Vyjayanthimala is also known for her contribution to South Indian movies. She is the recipient of several awards, including Filmfare Awards and Lifetime Achievement Awards at International film festivals.   

 9 
Sukanya
(Actress)

Sukanya
3
Birthdate: July 8, 1969
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Apart from being a talented Bharatnatyam dancer, Sukanya has also made her mark as an actor in South Indian films. She won a Filmfare for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Malayalam film Innathe Chintha Vishayam. She has also appeared in series and has released two devotional albums.

 10 

Pallavi Sharda
3
Birthdate: March 5, 1990
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Pallavi Sharda is an Australian actress and Bharatanatyam dancer. Sharda, who is of Indian origin, has appeared in many Indian films in addition to playing important roles in Australian films. Pallavi Sharda was featured in the 40 most influential Asian Australians list at the first Asian-Australian Leadership Summit in 2019.

 11 
Sukumari
(Actress)

Sukumari
2
Birthdate: October 6, 1940
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nagercoil, Travancore, British India (present-day Tamil Nadu, India)
Died: March 26, 2013

Sukumari was an Indian actress known for her contribution to Tamil and Malayalam films. One of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation, Sukumari acted in over 2,500 films in a career that spanned over 50 years. In 2003, she was honored with the Padma Shri. In 2011, she won the National Film Award for her performance in Namma Gramam. 

 12 
Vineeth
(Actor)

Vineeth
2
Birthdate: August 23, 1969
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Thalassery, Kerala, India

Vineeth is an Indian classical dancer, actor, choreographer, and voice artist. He is renowned for playing important roles in many south Indian movies, especially Malayalam and Tamil films. A celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer, Vineeth is the recipient of many prestigious awards, such as the Kalaimamani Award from the Tamil Nadu government.   

 13 
Mrinalini Sarabhai
(Classical Dancer and Choreographer)

Mrinalini Sarabhai
2
Birthdate: May 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kerala
Died: January 21, 2016

Padma Shri- and Padma Bhushan-winning classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai received a unique education, having been part of both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Shantiniketan. She specialized in Bharatnatyam and Kathakali, and later launched her own dance academy, along with her physicist husband Vikram Sarabhai.

 14 
Mallika Sarabhai
(Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer)

Mallika Sarabhai
2
Birthdate: May 9, 1954
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ahmedabad

Mallika Sarabhai is an Indian classical dancer, activist, and actress. She is best known as the daughter of prominent space scientist Vikram Sarabhai. An accomplished Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, Mallika Sarabhai uses the dance forms to bring about a social change. She is the recipient of Gujarat's prestigious Gaurav Puraskar and India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.

 15 
Rukmini Devi Arundale
(Bharatnatyam Dancer)

Rukmini Devi Arundale
4
Birthdate: February 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: February 24, 1986

Rukmini Devi Arundale was an Indian dancer and choreographer. An exponent of Bharatanatyam, Rukmini Devi helped revive the original sadhir style of the dance form. She also popularized Bharatanatyam among Indian upper-caste elites for which she was named in India Today's 100 People Who Shaped India list. In 1956, Rukmini Devi Arundale was honored with the Padma Bhushan.

 16 
Birju Maharaj
(Kathak Dancer)

Birju Maharaj
2
Birthdate: February 4, 1938
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Varanasi
Died: January 16, 2022

Birju Maharaj was an Indian dancer and singer. An exponent of the popular classical dance form Kathak, he was one of the most celebrated Kathak dancers ever. He won many prestigious awards like the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar, and India's second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.

 17 
Muktha
(Actress)

Muktha
2
Birthdate: November 19, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kolenchery, Kerala, India

Muktha is an Indian actress best known for her work in the Tamil and Malayalam film and television industries. Apart from being an actress, Muktha is also an entrepreneur and a classical dancer. Her performance in her debut Tamil movie Thaamirabharani earned her a nomination at the Vijay Awards.

 18 

Lakshmi Gopalaswamy
2
Birthdate: November 7, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Lakshmi Gopalaswamy is an Indian classical dancer and actress. Best known for her work in Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam films, Gopalaswamy has won many prestigious awards like Kerala State Film Awards, Karnataka State Film Awards, and Filmfare Awards South. An exponent of Bharatanatyam, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy has also appeared on TV as a judge for a dance show titled Thakadhimi.

 19 
Sheela Rajkumar
(Actress, Classical dancer)

Sheela Rajkumar
2
Birthdate: June 14, 1992
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jayankondam, Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, India

Sheela Rajkumar is an Indian Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress best known for her work in the Tamil film and TV industry. She achieved popularity after playing Amudha in the 2017 drama film To Let which earned her a couple of award nominations. Rajkumar is also known for her portrayal of Thenmozhi in the 2021 political satire television film Mandela

 20 
Rudolf von Laban
(Dance Artist)

Rudolf von Laban
1
Birthdate: December 15, 1879
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pozsony, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died: July 1, 1958

 21 
Kalaranjini
(Actress)

Kalaranjini
1
Birthdate: August 17, 1962
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kerala, India

Kalaranjini is an Indian classical dancer and actress best known for her work in the Tamil and Malayalam film and TV industries. She is also known as the older sister of popular actresses Kalpana and Urvashi. Kalaranjini achieved popularity in the 1980s when she was regarded as one of the most successful actresses.

 22 
Sonal Mansingh
(Odissi Dancer)

Sonal Mansingh
1
Birthdate: April 30, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mumbai

Sonal Mansingh is an Indian classical dancer best known for her skills as an Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer. Over the years, Mansingh has been honored with several prestigious awards like Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship. In 2003, she became only the second woman after Balasaraswati to be honored with India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.

 23 
Prabha
(Actress)

Prabha
1
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Tenali, Andra Pradesh, India

Prabha is an Indian Kuchipudi dancer and actress best known for her work in the Telugu film industry. The recipient of two Nandi Awards, Prabha has acted alongside popular stars like Akkineni Nageswara Rao and N. T. Rama Rao. As a Kuchipudi dancer, Prabha has given 40 performances in the United States of America.

 24 
Chitrasena
(Dancer)

Chitrasena
1
Birthdate: January 26, 1921
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Died: July 18, 2005

 25 

Indrani Rahman
1
Birthdate: September 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chennai, India
Died: February 5, 1999

Indrani Rahman was an Indian dancer who could perform multiple classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathakali, and Kuchipudi. Rahman is credited with popularizing dance forms like Odissi in the west. In 1969, she was honored with the Padma Shri Award for her contribution to Indian classical dance. In 1981, Indrani Rahman won the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

 26 

Yamini Krishnamurthy
1
Birthdate: December 20, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Madanapalle, India

Yamini Krishnamurthy is an Indian dancer best known for her skills in popular dance forms like Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. She is credited with founding the Yamini School of Dance where she teaches. Yamini Krishnamurthy has been honored with many awards, such as the Padma Vibhushan. She also has the honor of being a resident dancer of the Tirupati temple.

 27 
Anna Sokolow
(Dancer)

Anna Sokolow
0
Birthdate: February 9, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 29, 2000

 28 

T. Balasaraswati
1
Birthdate: May 13, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chennai, India
Died: February 9, 1984

T. Balasaraswati was an Indian dancer best remembered for her contribution to the popular classical dance form, Bharatanatyam. Balasaraswati is credited with popularizing the dance form throughout India and in different parts of the world. In 1977, she was honored with India's second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan. In 1981, she received the prestigious Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award.

 29 

Kelucharan Mohapatra
1
Birthdate: January 8, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Raghurajpur, Puri, Odisha, India
Died: April 7, 2004

Kelucharan Mohapatra was an Indian classical dancer and teacher best remembered for his contribution to the popular dance form, Odissi. Mohapatra is credited with popularizing Odissi in the 20th century. In 2000, Mohapatra became the first person from Odisha to be honored with India's second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan. He was also the recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship.

 30 

Mayadhar Raut
0
Birthdate: July 6, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kantapenhara, India

Mayadhar Raut is an Indian dancer, choreographer, and teacher. An exponent of Odissi, Raut played a key role in giving the dance form its classical status. A revered teacher, Mayadhar Raut has taught at various institutions including Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. He has won many prestigious awards like the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Padma Shri Award.

 31 
Bulantrisna Djelantik
(Dancer, Physician)

Bulantrisna Djelantik
0
Birthdate: September 8, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Indonesia
Died: February 24, 2021