09, December, 2021 | The New Indian Express
Dr. Neena Prasad offers detailed analysis, demonstration, and advice on how students must appropriately approach Revati Raga in this Mohiniyattam…
Dr. Neena Prasad is a Mohiniyattam Dancer with a multitude of talents. Proficient in Mohiniyattam, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali, she is a leading disciple of Kalamandalam Sugandhi and Padamsri Kalamandalam Kshemavathy. Initially, her path in nritya started with Ramani Sadasivan, and Dr. Neena Prasad was an early disciple of Smt Kalyanikutty Amma. Eventually, she came under the tutelage of Kalamandalam Satyabhama (junior) at a young age, and she sought to learn other disciplines of dance. Her raison d'etre is Mohiniyattam, where her focus has been on redefining mythical heroines by focusing on the non-traditional aspects of their storylines. This has placed her at the forefront of redefining how her art form is represented, leaving a profound impact on Indian classical dance.
Her journey in dance did not initially begin with an aim to be an exponent of Mohiniyattam. Hailing from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, she was originally drawn to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. She delved deep into the subject matter of these artforms, extrapolating the hidden emotions and motivations behind each character's actions. With a Government of India scholarship, she came under the tutelage of Kalamandalam Sugandhi. She is also trained in the pure genre of Kalamandalam under Kalamandalam Padmini and Leelama. On this sojourn, she encountered Mohiniyattam, fell in love with the changes brought about by the legendary Kalyanikutti Amma, and began introducing her own interpretation of this indigenous dance form. The additions enhanced her reputation across the state and nationally, and her image appeared across billboards, magazines, and newspapers alike. From college youth festivals to professional stage performances, an entire generation of enthusiasts witnessed her journey with awe.
Her unique, aesthetic approach to Mohiniyattam deviates from the conventional norm, and she is renowned for her thematic productions, technique, and strategy. She is a proponent of balancing traditional pieces with a modern outlook, as dance must signify and evolve as per the demands of the era it is being presented in. Her style combines existing core movements with her inventions, creating a veritable treat for all viewers. This style can be witnessed in her performances and among her students as well.
Her style and discipline are vast, technically sound, and sought after by students globally. She proved that Mohiniyattam's grandeur lies beyond gender norms and her disciples are proof of the same. Some of them are Vidyamol Pradeep, Vardhman Vo Van Tao, Abha Mohan, Rithu Prakash, Aswathy Krishna, and Divya Warrier, each of whom is an established performer in their own right.
The University of Surrey U K has awarded Dr. Neena Prasad a post-doctoral fellowship for research in Mohiniyattam. She was also awarded a Ph.D. from Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta, for her thesis on "The concepts of Lasya and Tandava in the classical dances of South India-A detailed Study." The Bharthanjali Academy of Indian Dances in Thiruvananthapuram and Sougandika Centre for Mohinyattam in Chennai has thrived under her patronage. She won the Mayilpeeli Award in 2013, the "Nrithya Choodamani" Award in 2015 by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and the prestigious Kerala Kalmandalam Award in 2017.
In November 2022, Dr Neena Prasad was declared a Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards (Akademi Puraskar) winner, an award conferred by India's apex art and culture body. This award honours an entire lifetime devoted to one's craft, and the Guru was felicitated for her contributions to Indian classical dance. India's Head of State, President Droupadi Murmu herself, presented this award in person at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on 23 February 2023..
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