Celebrated Indian dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli is noted for her ability to turn traditional grammar into subtle and deeply internalized personal dance poetry. Having trained in Bharatanatyam from the age of six under the great master Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai and his son Subbaraya Pillai, she has evolved a distinctive style, described as ‘uncompromisingly classical, but, at the same time, an undeniable language of self-expression’, that is ‘both a stylized idiom and an idiolect, blurring the boundaries between tradition and individual talent, inheritance and invention’. In a career spanning over three decades, she has created a significant body of work that explores the infinite spaces within the Indian classical tradition.
Alarmél Valli has often talked of ‘singing’ with her body and ‘speaking’ with her art. Her training in music under the renowned musician Thanjavur Muktha and her approach to poetry as a complex compound of music and meaning helped shape her understanding and interpretation of dance as visual music and poetry. A pioneer in the interpretation of Sangam poetry in dance, Valli’s extensive research over more than 25 years into these unique and ancient Tamil poems has been widely recognized as a significant contribution to dance in India.
In 1984 Alarmél Valli founded the Dipasikha Dance Foundation where she trains students in Bharatanatyam. Among numerous honours conferred on Alarmél Valli are two of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards, given by the President of India, as well as the Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award, the Tamilnadu State Award of Kalaimamani and the Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Republic of France. Some highlights of Alarmél Valli’s international career include performances at the Bolshoi Theatre, the Théâtre de la Ville, the Vienna International Dance Festival, the Munich Opera Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the New York International Festival of Arts, the Avignon Festival, the Cervantino Festival, the Lyon Biennale, the Helsinki Biennale, the Venice Biennale, the Royal Albert Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Millennium Festival in Berlin and the Alte Oper Frankfurt.
Alarmél Valli has been filmed by noted Indian producers such as Govindan Aravindan and Prakash Jha. A film about her was made for the Omnibus series on BBC Two and the Films Division of India commissioned a film about her for the Indian national archives, directed by Arun Khopkar. Lasya Kavya, a film about Alarmél Valli by Sankalp Meshram, won the National Award for Best Film on art and culture in 2011. Describing Alarmél Valli’s dance style, Gisela D’Andrea wrote in The Minneapolis Tribune that ‘Valli’s dance is movement as pure joy. […] An Alarmél Valli or Suzanne Farrell can literally embody infinite subtleties of the emotions, intricacies of design, glimpses of the Divine. They can, momentarily at least, wrench order out of chaos.’
Current as of July 2015