Interview with Singapore based Indian classical dancer Haritha Haridas

How did you get interested in Indian classical dance?

I started learning dance at the age of 5 mainly because of my mother. My parents Girija Haridas & E.M.Haridas ( currently settled in Ernakulam since last 24 years) were both artistically inclined and would take part in extracurricular activities in their school & college days .My father is extremely active even now. He is a convenor of a very popular Kochi International Book Festival that is held in Kochi for last 20 years

So they sent me to learn dance at a family friend. She had just passed out from Kalakshetra, Chennai. Her name is Jyothi, who is also the paternal granddaughter of the legendary Chakyarkoothu & Koodiyattam maestro Mani Madhava Chakyar. Later I joined my current Guru Shyamala Surendran (Dharani School of Performing Arts, Kochi) in 1996-97 at the age of 12. She is the one who turned my hobby into a lifelong passion. Her approach towards dance has always been inspiring .

How have you broaden your horizons into various Indian classical dance forms?

haritha2Before joining my current Guru, I was with another teacher ( Not Jyothi ). She would teach very few Adavus and immediately start with items . She started teaching, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, folk dance without teaching the basics. Whereas Shyamala Aunty ( as she is lovingly called by her students) believed in perfection. She would teach her students to be perfect in one form and then venture into another form. So, with her I worked on my Bharatanatyam skills and almost 10 years later, I ventured into Mohiniyattam. But then it was comparatively easier for me as my body was already well-toned due to my Bharatanatyam training. 

I have always been fascinated with Kathak. Kathak classes were very rare in Kerala. After my marriage we moved to New Delhi. There I joined at Birju Maharaj’s Parampara (New Delhi)Kathak classes run by the legendary dancer’s son and daughter-in-law. It was a great experience. But I couldn’t continue. Kalapravaha – Home of Performing Arts ( my current employers) with Kathak dance faculty too . So, I will be their student soon.

The dance form that inspired

To be honest, every dance form I learnt or watched(Odissi,Kuchipudi etc) has been an experience. The similarities of each of them have always amazed me as they all conform to Bharata’s NatyaSastra , yet how classical dances got themselves classified due to Pravrtti ( regions) despite complying with to the same rules.

About Teaching Dance

Once you have attained a certain level of learning dance, your Guru expects you to assist her with teaching junior students. So I did the same since I was 15.  But back then I was not sure of becoming a full-time dancer . Finished my schooling and B-Tech in Civil Engineering , joined for work as Assistant Site Engineer . I continued with my classes and would go once in a while to teach though I had time constraints.

It was after marriage, my husband ( Dileep Kannan) suggested starting a dance class in Hyderabad. Though primarily I wanted to work as an engineer and perform dance occasionally. It was him who éncouaged me to follow my passion wholeheartedly  and start teaching. I started a small dance school for Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam. Within a short period, I had quite a few students. As Mohiniyattam was rare in Hyderabad, there was more demand. Then I realized, teaching is what I enjoyed the most. Then we moved to Sydney. There again I had few students.

Here now, Kalapravaha has given me a wonderful opportunity to teach Mohiniyattam .

About shows, productions…

I have been mostly performed as a Dharani’s ensemble and also have performed solo at various events. I have had the fortune of performing as the protagonists of Dharani’s main productions

SthreeShakti -A thematic representation on latent power of women in which that point is explored through story of the killing of Mahisha, the asura[demon] by Devi )  where I performed the part of Devi

Tatvamasi – Inter religious unity is brought out through the story of Ayyapa,the Lord of Sabarimala, the son of Lord Vishnu(Mohini) and Lord Shiva. It is a unique dance presentation highlighting the fact that there is only one God, known to different faiths in varied names. Here I performed the part of Ayyappa

Vanamali is a group choreography depicting the life of Lord Guruvayoorappan at his abode in Chittoor temple where I played the part of Chittoorappan.

Few of my performances:-

  • Konark Dance Festival (Orissa)
  • Ayyappa Temple (Chennai)
  • SivaSagar (Assam)
  • RangTarang – National Festival of Choreography (Bangalore, 2012)
  • Kochi International Book Festival\
  • Kakatiya Festival – Warangal
  • Karur Natiyanjali
  • Ramayotsavam
  • Krishna Manjari 2016, Singapore

Also performed at various events

About your dream…

Learning is a never-ending process. I wanted to do a Post Graduation in Bharatanatyam which I couldn’t do earlier. Now I am finally living my dream and doing Masters under guidance of the most celebrated dancer of our country- Dr. Padma Subrahmanyan.

My other dreams… well I don’t want to reveal much but basically to become a good artiste and continue to spread the knowledge I have acquired.

The difference you wish to make in Singapore ..

Singapore doesn’t feel very far from home. It is a very encouraging to see people’s interest in Indian classical dances and also the rise of big institutes like Bhaskars, Apsara Arts, SIFAS and many other dance schools and many talented dancers. Though what I have seen is that most of them are into Bharatnatyam as this dance form has a global appeal .

As soon as I stepped up after a break due to motherhood, I have been getting opportunities to perform here in Singapore. That shows how people are willing to accept our classical dance forms with open arms.

My purpose is to work towards propagation of Mohiniyattam in Singapore and continue the legacy of my Guru Shyamala Surendran ( who was a disciple of the great Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma) and I am more than delighted that Kalapravaha has given me this chance where I have like-minded people like Bhupali and Kumudha (both excellent Kathak dancers) to support in my objective .


Parents : Girija Haridas and E.M.Haridas

Husband: Mr.Dileep Kannan .

Child : Tamanna Dileep ( 1 and half years old)

Parents In Law : Dr.K.P. Kannan and Shobhana Kannan (Trivandrum)

Sister in Law :Divya Kannan ( Last stage of her PhD ,JNU,New Delhi)

I have a very supportive family. My in-laws have always encouraged me. My mother-in-law herself is a very good singer. She gets very excited every time she knows I have a performance.  It was my husband who encouraged me to start writing a blog on Mohiniyattam and also start a Youtube channel in 2011. It’s been a while since I have updated it. I want to continue updating my blog too.