Mythology says that the veena held by Goddess Saraswathi was named ‘Vipanchee’ and ‘Vipanchee Natyalaya’, a dance institute run by Kalaimamani Dr. Saraswati derives its name from there. Entering the dance hall in Vipanchee with its aesthetic settings engulfs everyone in melody and rhythm. Dance choreography and rehearsals are round the clock activity and it all started when Dr. Saraswati came down from the North of India after having acquired the distinction of a renowned dancer and decided to set up an institution for teaching dance. This idea was translated into the establishment of a dance school by name ‘Ramana Sudha Natyalaya’.
When she started looking for a musician to set the musical score for her dance drama ‘Annamayya’, she approached Dr. Balamuralikrishna and to her pleasant surprise the veteran artiste readily agreed to help, thus began their association. Subsequently, Dr. Balamuralikrishna evinced interest in having this natyalaya as a wing of his Trust and it was re-christened as Vipanchee Natyalaya and Dr. Saraswati took over as its Director.
Vipanchee has established branches and is also associated with the Thirupattur Dance School. Vipanchee workshops are being conducted in India, Canada, USA, Australia, U.K. and South Africa. Many research students and dancers sponsored by American Institute of Indian Studies have had vigorous training under Dr. Saraswati, notable among them is Aridoram, who did research in interpreting Bharatanatyam through Saiva Siddantam and Mimi Jaisalwanki a renowned teacher of Bharatanatyam from San Francisco. There are many students from Australia, South Africa, Tanzania and England who have had training under Dr. Saraswati.
“Starting from the Panchatantra story, ‘A mouse is a mouse is a mouse’, we have done over 60 dance features for the Doordarshan including ‘Shakthi Leela’ the first colour dance drama produced for Chennai Doordarshan. Vipanchee has worked on patriotic themes like national integration, social themes like family planning and dance features on Ramana Maharshi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Balasaraswati. We have also dealt with rare themes like ‘Kurunkali’ a 200 year old dance form and a feature about metals” says Dr. Saraswati explaining about the versatility of her dance productions.
To crown all these comes the production on Pada Kavitha Pitamaha ‘Annamayya’ with Dr. Balamuralikrishna himself playing the role of the saint poet, Annamacharya. This dance drama has been performed by Vipanchee troupe and has received encomiums from all over the world.
Dr. Saraswati is a descendant of Appayya Dikshitar and is a renowned dancer, having had her early training in Kolkata where she was born and brought up. She furthered her tutelage in Bharatanatyam under Pandallur Sri Shanmughasundaram Pillai. After her graduation with a gold medal from Calcutta University, she continued her studies from Delhi School of Economics. She has a Doctorate from America West University, USA for her contribution to the fields of Music and Dance.
Founder of Vipanchee, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, a child prodigy born at Sankaraguptham in Andhra Pradesh to musician parents Smt. Suryakanthamma and Shri Pattabhiramayya is a doyen among musicians. At the young age of sixteen, he composed songs in all the seventy two Melakartha ragas, considered the very foundation of carnatic music. Dr. Balamuralikrishna is endowed with the ability of being an accomplished instrumentalist in addition to being a legendary singer. He plays the Violin, Viola, Ganjira, Veena and Mridangam with equal ease. He has over 400 compositions to his credit.
Vipanchee apart from continuing its present good work of spreading art and culture across the globe has embarked on a mission of restoring over 700 rare krithis (songs) of the Saint Composer Thyagaraja. When they accomplish this task it will be an invaluable treasure for generations to come in experiencing the divinity of Saint Thyagaraja through his music.