Vannadil Pudiyaveettil Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan, popularly known as the Dhananjayans are regarded as the legendary dancing couple of India. An Economics graduate, Dhananjayan passion for dancing is something exceptional. “Teaching is a great education.
Shanta and I are learning all the time while teaching” This is one of the famous quotes of Dhananjayan In their choreography, Dhananjayans try new things but not at the cost of giving up tradition. The mode of interpretation may differ, but the undercurrent of tradition is retained.
The Dhananjayans left Kalakshetra in the late 1960s to build a career on their own. During that time, only the wealthy and aristocrats who could spend to have their own children perform, dominated the dance scene in Chennai. However, the caliber of the Dhananjayans was such that they stole the thunder with their novel ideas that they brought to their presentations through a unique repertoire that they developed.
The vitality of dance, their costumes, the attraction of merging of the male and female dance principles in specially conceived duets, were all part of the charisma of their performances. It was no wonder that they started to receive invitations from both within the country and from abroad. They have traveled all over the world to all major cultural centers to present their art.
The Dhananjayans excel as amazing teachers. Their students think of them as gods. They teach with a difference. Not only do the dhananjayans teach bharathanatyam. They also teach everyone Indian tradition and culture.
V.P Dhananjayan was born on 17 April 1939 in Payyanur, Kannur, Kerala, India, a village with a longstanding cultural heritage. He was born into a family with eight children struggling to make ends meet, when a chance meeting with Guru Chandu Panicker of Kalakshetra made his father decide purely on instinct to send his son and V.Balagopalan to Kalakshetra under his tutelage. He graduated from Kalakshetra with a Post Graduate Diploma in Dance (Bharatanatyam and Kathakali) with distinction, and also holds a B.A in Economics and Politics.
Shanta Dhananjayan was born on 12 August 1943 into a well to do Indian family in Malaysia and traces her ancestry back to Kerala from where her family migrated to Malaysia. She was a child prodigy and by the time she was 3, her parents were convinced that Shanta would be a dancer. They found in her, an inborn response to dance and joy of movement and decided to send her to India for her education.
They sent her to Kalakshetra as an 8 year old in June 1952, a year before Dhananjayan, where she later graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma with distinction in Bharatanatyam and also learned Kathakali and Carnatic music. She was a leading female dancer from 1955-1968.
The couple has 2 sons. The elder son Sanjay lives with his wife in the USA and their younger son Satyajit is an accomplished automobile photographer and dancer who lives with his wife and son in Chennai, India.
Awards & Titles
• Padma Bhushan, Government of India, 2009
• Nritya Rathnakara, Cleveland Aradhana, USA, 2009
• A doctarte from Vaels university, 2009
• Live Magazine Achievement Award (Ohio State Academy Award) 1997 (for the best Theatrical Production of the year ’96-97 for jungle book dance choreography for Ohio Ballet Company)
• Plaque of Honour awarded by the Governor of Ohio State for excellent Community Service and International Understanding through Art 1996
• Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Government of India, 1994
• Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy Fellowship, 1993
• Kalaimamani Award, Tamil Nadu Government, 1990
• Haridas Sammelan Sursingar Sansad Mumbai “Nrityavillas” Award 1989
• Munshi Centenary Commemorative Award, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London UK 1988
• UNESCO Paris, Medallion De Merit 1984
• Nritya Choodamani, Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai, 1983
• Scroll of Honour Arts and Crafts Magazine, New Delhi awarded by then Vice President Hon, K.R.Narayanan