Workshops / Arts-in-Education

Workshops at Chennai

Chennai "Culture Window" for NIFT Freshers - July 6 & 7, 2004, NIFT Campus, Taramani, Chennai

As part of NIFT's orientation programme for their first year entrants, Anita Ratnam and ADT members were invited to showcase South Indian arts and culture as a two-day programme.

The 200-strong freshers were held spell-bound by the variety and depth of ADT's repertoire and collaborations, including the NID-artisan-inspired Ganesha mask in palm leaves and the innovative use of fabric in performance.

The focus of the programme was to inspire students to think/interpret independently and to realize the importance of the creative journey they are embarking on.

Guest speakers invited by Arangham included Ms Prabha Nagaraj on natural and organic fibres and Mithran Devanesen on art appreciation.


In collaboration with the Japanese Consulate (Chennai), Arangham Dance Theatre arranged a one-day exploratory movement workshop with members of Biwakei, a visiting contemporary dance company from Japan. Held on March 1, 2004 at Launch Pad, Chennai, the workshop proved to be an absorbing encounter that opened new insights into two approaches to dance.

Biwakei's director, Yetsuko Yamada and ADT's Anita Ratnam shared common ground in their search for a contemporary idiom to their work. Both companies discovered they had dancers from disparate backgrounds who were working together to create new work. The explorations in each other's dance styles and the short demonstrations from individual repertoire stirred a lot of interest and curiosity.

It is hoped to carry this collaboration forward through further dialogue and enrich each other's vocabularies.

Critics Speak:

At an exploratory movement workshop, Setsuko Yamada and her troupe, Biwakei, met Anita Ratnam and dancers from Arangham Dance Theatre. (After demonstrations of each other's work, there were questions.) Anita and her team wanted to know how they discussed and visualized ideas, how they worked on a piece and how much time the creative process took. Biwakei's questions related to the Indian idea of working with a particular image to create a piece. They found "a great connection to the earth in Indian dance" and that it has a palpable mental and physical energy. Setsuko said "The energy seems to be natural, as if it cannot be learnt with training or practice. In Japanese dance, the feeling of energy is more internalized." - SHALINI UMACHANDRAN, The Hindu, Metroplus, Tuesday, March 9, 2004

December 21, 2003 @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai for Kartik Fine Arts

Convened by Chitra Visweswaran and Sudharani Raghupathy, Kartik Fine Arts hosted Natya Darshan II, a seminar on dance dramas on December 20, 21 and 22, 2003 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai.

The theme of the lec-dems on 21st morning was 'Exploration within tradition.' The presenters were Anita Ratnam (creativity within boundaries), Radhika Shurajit (dance through the lens) and Ananda Shankar Jayant (group choreography evolution of a visual vocabulary).

A past student of Kalakshetra, Anita Ratnam spoke about the farsightedness of Rukmini Devi who had used kalari movements in one of her productions even as far back as 1960s. In an excerpt from Daughters of the Ocean, she demonstrated the interweaving of martial arts movements like tai chi into her dance vocabulary.

Drawing on her experiences in the television medium, Anita lays a lot of stress on visual imagery. Invited frequently to present programs on particular social themes by social organizations or by corporates, she finds the choreographic process a big challenge to not only make the presentation visually pleasing but to also convey the intended message to the audience. She said she frequently uses the cloth as a means of expression for various moods and moments. To demonstrate this, Anita and her group of dancers presented an excerpt from her dance-theatre production Suvvadu, which has a social message.

In yet another excerpt, this time from her latest production Utpala, 2 dancers Vasanth and Bharath portrayed Lord Padmanabha. Anita urged the younger generation of dancers to attend theatre plays since they had elements of narrative, drama and choreography.
Courtesy www.narthaki.com, excerpted from a report by Lalitha Venkat

Critics Speak:

Anita's presentation was neat and impressive. She urged the up and coming dancers of today to watch contemporary theatre which is vibrant and alive and which can be a great source of inspiration for fresh ideas and innovation. JANAKI SUBRAMANIAN, CityExpress, Chennai, Monday, December 29, 2003

Anita Ratnam spoke of getting away from the solo prima donna complex in dance and the mood to celebrate different bodily techniques working in simultaneity and in relation to one another, while giving scope for individuality and improvisation too... Works like "Daughters of the Ocean" and "Suvvadu", with dances from different styles, showed how cultural and artistic specificities no longer proved insurmountable. LEELA VENKATRAMAN, The Hindu, New Delhi, January 2, 2004


Against a backdrop of striking collages by Chennai-based artist V V Ramani, Anita was invited to do a folk story narration for young kids and adults at Lalit Kala Akademi on November 22, 2003. An interview in www.narthaki.com on this event, highlights more details.


Anita and ADT were privileged to choreograph young students at the formal ceremony for the inauguration of the RAJIV GANDHI NINAIVAKAM at Sriperumbudur on October 10, 2003. It involved school students from Padma Seshadri, Sishya, students from city colleges, as well as sloka students from the city's Vedapadasalai, members from Koothu-p-pattarai and south Indian nadaswaram and conch artistes.

"It was a challenge that sprung up unexpectedly. When Romi Chopra, a consultant who handles major outdoor events first broached the subject, it was supposed to be a very quiet and small affair. But then it became much larger with the President of India accepting the invitation to open the memorial," acknowledged Anita, while speaking about the project. "I was honoured to choreograph the details for the ceremony but it was a real nightmare of logistics with security detailing being the biggest one! We had only 5 days to rehearse and I must say the students cooperated so well with the daily travel to Sriperumbudur and the blistering heat to beat! We enjoyed it completely and I'm sure it will remain a striking memory in the whole team's minds... "

Gandhi, Ms Priyanka and Mr Rahul Gandhi were especially touched and made it a point to meet the entire team and thank them individually, followed by exclusive photo shoots with the group!

Acknowledging the rare opportunity their school students received, Padma Seshadri writes:
The dedication of the Rajiv Gandhi memorial is indeed a lofty act and that our students had a constructive role to play in it fills us with immense pleasure and pride. We thank you for selecting our school for this noble cause... Our students consider themselves lucky to have worked with you for it has blessed them with a good exposure, in addition to their appearance on international media. We will treasure this life-time occasion and we look forward to working with you on such memorable projects in the future too. Mrs VALLI ARUNACHALAM, Vice Principal, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School, TP Road, Chennai
More Details


Organised by Ms Kausalya, Positive Women Network, Chennai, on August 6, 2003, at Chennai, Anita Ratnam delivered a special motivational address on the role of the general community towards women living with HIV.

Addressing HIV positive women from Tamilnadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, Anita exhorted them to break the cycle of self pity, depression and self flagellation and instead, move constructively forward. A moot point in her talk was economic empowerment by learning new skills like car driving, setting up a taxi service with interest-free loans offered by the government of Tamilnadu and earning an independent livelihood. She even offered to hire their car service on a regular basis, once established!


In August 2003, an extensive lecture-demonstration of Arangham Dance Theatre's repertoire and the choreographic impulses that shaped their work was presented to members of Samskriti and an invited audience at Asan Memorial School auditorium, Chennai. Segments from productions like Gajaanana, Daughters of the Ocean, Naachiyar and Utpala were presented by members of Arangham Dance Theatre, with explanations by Anita Ratnam.

Review From "SAMUDRA", August 2003: Anita's dance though contemporary in theme and content, has its strong foundation in tradition. The presentation was based on excerpts from her productions over the past ten years... Her first sentence said it all "This is to help you know why and how we do, what we do"...Anita made the audience put on their thinking caps by describing all the brainwork which went into each work... the audience got so absorbed in Anita's presentation that they lost cognizance of time and space. In fact, the audience was breathing in the dancer and in the same way the dancer was breathing in the audience... such a thoughtful programme!

A response from the audience: Thanks for that wonderful dance-dem evening at Asan Memorial, with Samskriti. I liked UTPALA really much. KRISHNA KUMAR, Director, Masquerade


Initiated by members of the Defence Colony Club, Chennai, and supported in part by THE HINDU newspaper, Anita Ratnam and members of Arangham Dance Theatre conducted a five day Creativity & Movement summer workshop in April 2002 for young kids in the age group of 4 - 13yrs. While the smallest members enjoyed the freedom to just BE, the older group revealed a keen sense of self and balance with surroundings! Creative role playing and theatrical improvisations also found an enthusiastic response.


On the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8, 2002, Anita Ratnam was a busy invitee to several functions. The most memorable was an invitation from Dr Aishwarya, World Vision, New Hope Area Development, Chennai, to conduct a workshop for over 200 self-empowered women from low income groups, some of who had been sex workers or were AIDS-afflicted too. The idea was to break barriers and give them a sense of fraternity in a fun-filled and relaxed atmosphere. The workshop began on a shy and tentative note as the participants had never experienced some thing like this before. Anita's informal coaxing and native Tamil aphorisms soon had a bunch of enthusiastic women re-discovering that MOVEMENT is therapy for the body, heart and soul!


In November 2001, Anita Ratnam was invited to offer a talk on body language and conservation of arts and culture for young members of Arkin Systems, Chennai. The motivational talk went a long way towards inspiring awareness and respect for India's heritage. In the words of Vijayalakshmi Swaminathan, Senior HR Manager, Arkin, "The session was an eye opener to many people. Lots of minds started ticking on how to prevent themselves from feeling jaded and isolated. Every one went back to their desk feeling rejuvenated enough... to attempt an inner change. Thank you for the wonderful session. We look forward to having you as a resource person for our campus induction programs."


On invitation from Goodbooks Bookstore and Resource Centre, Chennai, Anita Ratnam and members of Arangham Dance Theatre conducted a movement workshop for children called "RHYTHM AND MOVEMENTS" between June 16 - 24, 2001. Meant for children in the age group of 8 and 12, the sessions saw enthusiastic, young students learning to be "noodle boiling in water" or melting like a big block of ice!

The fun-filled workshop allowed the kids to develop their basic skills in observation, concentration and team work besides appreciating rhythm, balance and flexibility. Spread over three weeks, the workshop covered a range of movement, improvisation, imagination and dance kinetics, as well as introduced children to physical theatre.

Good Books is a reading resource center for young children

The Response

After the encounter at Goodbooks Bookstore and Resource Centre with Anita Ratnam, here are a few reactions:

I liked the "Trust" Exercises and the "Waking Up" Exercises because they are like games. I enjoyed the music and the dance because its fun! SHANMUGAM, 8yrs, Std: 3, Abacus Montessori School, Chennai

This is the best time I spent in my life - so joyful! Even though it was tiring it was splendid. Together we learnt so many things. Instead of sitting idly at home, we learnt many useful things like body movements, balance, trust, rhythm and music, obsevation and concentration, strengthening the body... It was so good, we did not feel like coming out of the room! ARPITHA, 8yrs, Std: 3, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Sr. Sec School, Chennai

I liked everything. Especially the dance. The steps were nice and it was fun! The first time I came I did not know that they would teach us all these wonderful things. I'd really like to thank Anita Aunty and everyone for teaching us so many things. NEERAJA, 8yrs, Std:3, Bala Vidya Mandir, Chennai

I liked jumping and rolling and crawling. I did not like "Ice Melting"! S G TILAK DESIGH, 8yrs, Std: 3, Vyasa Vidyalaya Matriculation Hr Sec School, Chennai

I liked the "Trust" Exercise and the dance. I liked mostly everything! Thank you. MADHURYA SRIKRISHNAN, 9yrs, Hindu Senior Sec, School, Chennai

The thing I liked the most was the "Trust" Exercise and, the "Melting Ice" and the "space" from all these three. I liked my teacher, ANITA AUNTY! KHYATI H. SHAH, 10yrs, Std: 5, Lady Andal, Chennai

It wasn't all "Tha Tha Thai" Kathakali class but more of training to the body to be open to dance. We did many exercises - I liked "Trust" and "Blind men" best.... I was never good at dance (I hated it!) but now this has really taught me the true nature of dance. It was really fun and I enjoyed it! VISHNUPRIYA DAS, 10yrs, Std: 5, DAV Hr Sec School, Chennai

I really enjoyed the workshop. I learnt how to be a block of ice and pretending how ice melts, how spaghetti boils in water... We got new friends and learnt how to be free and light. I got a great opportunity to participate in this workshop. JANANI 11yrs, Std: 6, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Sr. Sec School, Chennai

It was very exciting. I liked the way our creativity was allowed to come out... Being a participant for the second time only wants me to come back for more! I look forward to the sessions. SRUTHI SRIRAM, 12 yrs, Std: 7, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Sr. Sec School, Chennai

The best dance workshop I attended! I am sad I missed one day of the four precious days!!! Thank you Anita Aunty, Sangeetha & Madhu! K. SANDHYA, 13yrs, Std: 9, Abacus, Chennai

For more details on workshops done for Chennai schools check Programmes Conducted

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