Artistic Director, Bharathi Penneswaran’s primary mission for Aalokam is to promote, preserve and push the boundaries of Bharatanatyam, a traditional Indian dance form. Through out-of-the-box productions, unique class structure that blends dance and storytelling from the get-go, and an environment that fosters open dialogue; Aalokam has created a highly engaged dance community that has an increasing appreciation for the arts.
Aalokam marks the coming together of two talented Bharatnatyam dancers, Bharathi Penneswaran and Jyotsna Kalyansundar in 2015. Trained in the Kalakshetra style, they both bring together more than 25 years of experience each in training, performing, and teaching Bharatanatyam in India and in the USA.
While Aalokam Dance School nurtures and molds young dancers as they take their first steps into the dance form, Aalokam Dance Company creates new and innovative productions each year with its ever-expanding group of core dancers.
Bharathi has over 20 years of professional training in Bharatnatyam under Shri Justin McCarthy. Her credentials include a Post diploma in Bharatanatyam and a Yoga Teachers Training Program certification from Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. She has been a part of several performances worldwide, the highlight of which has been her performance as the lead protagonist in an Indian National Award Winning documentary, O Friend, This Waiting, directed by Justin McCarthy & Sandhya Kumar, and screened in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, San Francisco & Paris. She has appeared in both solo and group performances such as the Dance Season & Drive East events of Navatman Dance Company in New York, the India Revival Group, showcasing Incredible India, in Montreal & Toronto, the Rukmani Devi Arundale Music and Dance Festival, the Sangeeth Natak Academy Awards and in several of Justin McCarthy’s Bharatnatyam Dance productions. Her teaching experiences stem from a combination of working at some of the most prestigious institutions such as Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in New Delhi and Delhi Tamil Sangham.
Jyotsna is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer with over 25 years of training in the Kalakshetra style, under the tutelage of Padmabhushan Shri. V.P Dhananjayan and Smt.Shanta Dhananjayan from Chennai, India. She has performed and accompanied her gurus in several of their legendary productions and staged performances worldwide such as Tagore’s Tasherdesh and Rasa Samudra. She has also performed as a soloist in prestigious dance festivals like the Natyarangam and the December (Marghazhi) festival held annually in one of India’s main cultural hubs, Chennai. Her training in teaching and performance included complete immersion in the art form, through experiential dance camps (Gurukulam/Ashram) and learning from the best of Natyacharyas (faculty) in Bharatanatyam, Kalari and folk dances such as the late Nattuvannar Kamala rani and Professor N.S. Jayalakshmi of Kalakshetra fame. She also joined the NY based Navatman troupe in February 2012 and performed in their productions namely Rhythm Within and Dance of the Animals. She recently graduated with a Masters in Organizational Psychology at Teacher’s College Columbia University, NY and has now set up her own institution that promises to provide a culturally enriching learning experience across various South Asian art forms, integrating similar values that she imbibed under her gurus.
Shwetha Ravishankar is a passionate Bharatanatyam dancer with over 20 years of experience training and performing under her Guru, Dr. Tulasi Ramachandra in Mysore, India. After moving to New York, she has been dancing with NYC_Adavu, a weekly meetup group and more recently joined Aalokam as a dancer and has also taken on the Social Media Manager role. When she’s not dancing, she is the founder and host of the South Asian podcast, Chai Break, brewing South Asian centric chai-versations; and being Amma to 7 year old Diya, who recently started her dance journey with Aalokam.