Veteran dancer and choreographer Leela Samson’s Bharatanatyam journey began at the age of 9 when her father sent her to Kalakshetra to learn Indian classical dance and music under famed choreographer Rukmini Devi Arundale.
She taught at the Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra institution in Delhi from 1975 to 2005. As the Director of Kalakshetra from 2005 to 2012, Leela worked on broadening the academic paths of dancers who graduate from the arts and cultural academy and also spearheaded the digital transformation of the campus while consolidating the many institutions that came under Kalakshetra’s banner.
She has also choreographed Spanda - a body of work known for taking Bharatanatyam in bold inventive directions with its blend of tradition and innovation. Reputed for her abhinaya (the art of expression in Indian dance) and impeccable form in nritta, Leela has performed extensively at prominent dance festivals in India and other parts of the world.
Kalaa Utsavam 2020 shone the spotlight on Leela’s illustrious legacy of dance, breaking barriers and the nuances of Bharatanatyam, through Making A Scene, Esplanade’s series of podcasts about how art gets made.
Hosted by Connected to India founder Himanshu Verma, the podcast looks at how Bharatanatyam has evolved within its traditional framework and examines how choreography has transformed to find relevance in a modern world. It explores Leela’s journey in dance including her work as a mentor, what her practice means to her and how a dancer can make the transition to becoming a choreographer.