WALTHAM, MA—Acclaimed Bharatanatyam Dancer Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai, who is the founder and Artistic Director of the Natyamani School of Dance, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 at the 18th Annual INDIA New England News Woman of the Year Awards gala on May 8 at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon extraordinary individuals annually by INDIA New England News, one of the nation’s largest Indian American news organizations covering the Indian and South Asian community. The Woman of the Year Awards gala will be attended by about 500 business and community leaders, philanthropists and professionals.
“I’m very happy and honored to receive the Lifetime achievement award from India New England news,” said Ms. Thirumalai. “I would like to thank all my students who have inspired me to be the best teacher possible! This award belongs to the Natyamani community who have motivated and supported me in all my endeavors. I look forward to sharing this wonderful artform in the New England area for years to come.”
Many of Ms. Thirumalai’s dance productions and shows are fundraisers for Akshaya Patra, a non-profit organization that serves hot midday meals to over 1.8 million under-privileged school children in India every day. Natyamani’s recent flagship production Bharatham, celebrated the school’s 25th anniversary, and raised $50,000 that will help feed 2,500 school children for an entire academic year.
“Sridevi is not only an accomplished Bharatanatyam Dancer, but an excellent human being. She has groomed hundreds of young dancers to bring out the best in each of them,” said philanthropist Desh Deshpande, who serves as Board Chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation USA. “I have seen how the combination of her compassion and her god given gift of artistic expression has enabled her and her students to raise funds for Akshaya Patra and provide thousands of school children hot midday meals in India.”
Dr. Manju Sheth, MD, director of Woman of the Year and hostess of celebrity series Chai With Manju who started the Lifetime Achievement Award, said Ms. Thirumalai’s contribution to Indian classical dance is priceless.
“It is huge privilege for us to honor renowned Guru Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai for her extraordinary contributions to the world of Indian classical dance. The purity of her teachings in the age-old traditions of Bharatanatyam dance in a rapidly changing world of art is her great legacy,” said Dr. Sheth. “We are excitedly looking forward to showcasing her journey and honoring her with Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 on May 8.”
Due to coronavirus pandemic and meeting restrictions imposed the state of Massachusetts, the backup, or rain date, for the event is Sept. 11, at Burlington Marriott in Burlington, MA. If the meeting restrictions are not lifted by May 8, the Woman of the Year Awards gala will be held on Sept. 11, 2020.
Ms. Thirumalai is an acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer who is widely known for her pure interpretation of classical dance traditions. She has won numerous accolades and titles including Natya Thapasvini – which aptly describes her immersion and dedication to the divine art form. Natyamani School of Dance, which Ms. Thirumalai established in 1992, is synonymous with excellence and adherence to classical techniques in the Greater Boston area.
“My heartiest and most sincere congratulations to Guru Sridevi Thirumalai for having receivedn the Lifetime Achievement award for her exemplary contributions to the world of Bharatnatyam and Indian art and culture at large,” said Tara Anand, founder of Anubhava School of Music and the 2019 recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award. “We live in a world where quick fixes, immediate gratification and applause are actively sought after. Somewhere in this race for quick stardom, deep traditional core classicism , values and discipline seem to get clouded over. Only a Guru that has very deep knowledge and insight, infinite caring for quality and a deep reverence for the highest standards can still shine the light of true knowledge in today’s world.”
Ms. Anand said that Ms. Thirumalai is one such Guru and artist, revered for her excellence as a performer and a Guru. Once they enter Natyamani, every one of her students imbibes the skills for a lifetime of most exalted learning , their art and life gets imbued with timeless sparkle, erudition and value, she added.
“Her contribution goes way beyond teaching, she inculcates a deep respect for art, artists, and a deep respect for the institution and the Guru. She not only makes them stellar dancers but extraordinary human beings and makes an effort to instill all the qualities she honors into each and every student, no matter how challenging the circumstances might be,” said Ms. Anand. “She is not only an exceptional Guru and performer, she is also a most efficient organizer and has to date produced many successful shows, for her students and with artists from India.”
She said that Ms. Thirumalai is truly a most treasured gem in the world of Indian art and culture not only in the United States but also in India.
“There are very precious few in this world that can accomplish what she has. I am sure that so many including me, will be incredibly thrilled that such a richly deserving Guru is being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by INE,” said Ms. Anand. “Sridevi Thirumalai makes the whole community proud and we as artists are infinitely enriched by her presence among us. Congratulations again to Guru Sridevi Thirumalai.”
Mandy Pant, Academic Research Director at Intel, said that Ms. Thirumalai known for her unwavering focus on discipline, persistence, quality, grace and beauty.
“In Bharatanatyam, “Bha” stands for bhavam or emotion, “ra “– for ragam or melody, ta – for thalam or rhythm. This is the essence of the traditional Indian classical dance form that Guru Sridevi through her Natyamani School of Dance has embodied in all students for over 25 years,” said Mandy Pant, Academic Research Director at Intel. “Her unwavering focus on discipline, persistence, quality, grace and beauty, along with her innate talent as an amazing choreographer, is very evident every single time one watches her students perform. The 2,000-year old dance form has been preserved untainted because of dance teachers like Guru Sridevi Thirumalai. New England area is truly blessed to have her.”
Ms. Thirumalai credits her mother’s constant encouragement and support from a very young age as one of the driving forces behind her lifelong passion for dance. She in turn, inspires each of her students to similarly develop a deep love and understanding of Bharatanatyam. She has a lasting impact beyond dance on all her students, numbering close to a thousand, by teaching them the value of dedication, focus and hard work.
Ms. Thirumalai has guided more than 60 students to their Arangetrams. Her choreography reflects her thorough knowledge of the art and is carefully curated to highlight the student’s unique skills and strengths. She has performed extensively in the US and India and has choreographed many productions with her senior students. She also uses her art to advance social causes, particularly those that help children.
Upendra Mishra, producer of the 18th Annual INDIA New England Woman of the Year Gala, said Ms. Thirumalai has choreographed over 50 productions with an innovative choreography and flawless execution.
“We’re looking forward to honoring Ms. Thirumalai during the Woman of the Year Awards gala,” said Mr. Mishra.
He said the newspaper will also honor 20 outstanding women in the areas of science, technology, business, healthcare, arts and culture, and community and social services at the gala.