Dr Deepti Omchery Bhalla is renowned for her versatility, as she is on a small list of Indian classical dancers known for both their performances and scholarly contributions. A pupil of the iconic late Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, she is a bilingual beacon of knowledge and integrity for old and new proponents alike. She has championed the cause of dancers developing a signature style within the ambits of accepted norms, gradually evolving an art form for the needs and tastes of the 21st century. As Senior Faculty for Carnatic Music at Delhi University, she spearheads the technical and cultural revival of Mohiniyattam and Classical Dance on a national and global scale.
Born in Delhi, Dr Deepti had a rigorous and versatile training schedule growing up. Kalamanadalm Kalyani Kutty Amma watched over her Mohiniattam training at Tripunithura in Kerala. For Kathakali, she was guided by Punnathur Madhava Panicker, Gopinath, Sadanam Nandakuma1 Neliyodi, Vasudevan Nampoothiri, and Sadanam Balakrishnan. For Carnatic vocals, her own mother, Dr Leela Omcherry, took the lead while she was trained in Hindustani music by the renowned Dagar brothers and Yunus Hussain Khan. With such an illustrious bouquet of tutors, she further developed her repertoire by studying the art form at Delhi University’s prestigious Faculty of Music and Arts.
With the advantage of such a vibrant education, Dr Deepti enhanced her performances to match the aura of the tutelage she received. Her work is unquestionably her own, as it balances her artistic vision with the tenets of the dance form. However, she does not try and escape the basic framework taught by her Gurus. She adheres to the adavu and mudras taught by Kalyanikutty Amma and prefers to wear the dress code her Guru considered apt. She believes in working within the norms while developing one's signature style, as that is the only way a dancer can progress and garner attention.
She emphasised rediscovering native rhythms and music, which is how she differentiated herself. Her rhythm matched the cadence set in ancient temples where the art form was perfected, and this was due to a concerted effort on her behalf. Her movements, facial expressions, topics and interpretations regularly attract large audiences. Instead of relying on the recorded version, she directly trained with the instruments that guided the original performers, ensuring that she understood the nuances of the talas, setting herself apart in the long run from her contemporaries. Playing with these locally beloved instruments helped her develop her distinct style of Mohiniyattam. Her knowledge of music helps her compositions feel more personal, as these are directly related to the danseuse, a rare feat in modern dance. She gathers instruments from various art forms, aided by her encyclopaedic insight into Indian artforms.
A Delhi University gold medal winner in Carnatic Music and a topper of the MPhil course from the same University, her academic excellence add a whole new dimension to her repertoire. She would eventually complete her PhD at the institution. Today she serves as Senior Faculty there, continuing the cycle of preparing the next generation of artisans, a process that began in 1985.
She is among India’s foremost musicologists, whose work on traditional art forms of Kerala deserves special mention. This includes projects related to musical instruments sanctioned by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and mentoring fellowship students as mandated by India’s Ministry of Culture.
Her scholarly works that have won her accolades include Gleanings in Indian Music, Vanishing Temple Arts of Kerala, and Keralatelle Laasya Rachnakal. This in-depth profile on both a national and regional scale makes her a unique expert in both. She has consulted academically with renowned institutions such as the NCERT, CBSE, Shri Venkateshwara College, , Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and Hyderabad University.
Her productions have earned her recognition domestically and internationally. Inside the country’s border, she has played a prominent role in many iconic festivals. This includes Swarna Samorah (India’s 50th year anniversary of Independence), Nritya Rupa (2010 Commonwealth Games), Konark Fest, Khajuraho Fest, Nila Fest at Kerala Kalamandalam, Brihadeeshwara Temple, Taj Mahotsav(Agra) and Music Academy in Chennai.
Globally, she has headlined events such as the Festival of India in Soviet Union, Fukoka Fest in Japan , Shamanika Fest in Korea , International Festival in Bosnia and Milap Fest in Liverpool. Other countries where audiences have witnessed her productions include Germany, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Serbia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Singapore and the Middle East.
Dr Deepti Omcherry Bhalla’s pioneering dance and scholarly works earned her widespread acclaim from national and international organisations. India’s Sangeet Natak Akademi honoured her for her contribution to Mohiniattam, while the Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy Award recognised her contribution to classical dance in 2007. She was further honoured by the SPIC Macay SAMMAN, Narada Gaana Sabha Award, Natya Ratna from Maarar Sabha Kerala and the Sangeeta Sarva Bhauma.