The students and faculty of Kalaangan, one of the premier dance institutes in Trivandrum, are jubilant. Their teacher, and co-founder of Kalaangan, Sharada Thampi has won the Kerala Youth Welfare Board’s 2016 Vivekananda Award for young artist.
Daughter of scientist Dr P.K. Thambi of Center for Earth Science, Sharada began taking dance lessons in Bharatanatyam from the age of six under guru Mydhili. She learned Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi too, and was regular in the youth festival circuit winning prizes in Bharathanatyam and folk dance. She remembers the State School Youth festival of 1995 where one of her opponents was actor Manju Warrier. Both have become good friends now.
For Sharada, dance was never just about winning prizes though. She soon transitioned into giving individual performances in various cultural forums like Surya festival, Nisagandhi dance festival, Attakkalari Festival in Bengaluru. She also won Cultural Ministry’s scholarship for Classical Dance.
She co-founded Kalaangan with Lekshmi Rangan, a friend from the youth festival days. They opened Kalaangan four years ago at a small place near Jawahar Nagar and shifted to the verdant space near Kowdiar golf club a year later. The place has 250 students now from all age groups. Sharada hopes to expand Kalaangan into a cultural village where seasoned dance professionals could freely associate, perform, and guide young artists.
More of a traditionalist who believes in the purity of classical dance, Sharada is not in favor of featuring contemporary issues in her art. Sharada gives less individual performances as much of her time is devoted to Kalaangan.
Although dance is her means of artistic expression, music has been Sharada’s academic interest all along. A post graduate in music, she is now pursuing her doctorate in the subject.
A grade artist at Doordarshan, she is also coordinator of Kerala Kalamandalam’s Thiruvananthapuram center.