Internationally acclaimed as a creative artist whose work reveals the infinite spaces within the traditional form, Alarmel Valli bases her dance on the principle that Bharatanatyam is a superbly evocative language, where the dancer who has mastered and internalised the idiom can write her personal dance-poetry. Groomed in choreography by Sri.Subbaraya Pillai from the age of 16, she has extended the frontiers of her dance tradition to evolve her own distinctive style, that has been described as "an effortless synchronisation of apparent contradictions - linearity and lyricism, symmetry and sinuosity, precision and poetry". Drawing on her knowledge of music and the rich, nuanced vocabulary of classical Indian dance, Valli explores the many complex layers of meaning in poems and lyrics, giving them a visual and melodic dimension. Her work, while remaining within the broad framework of classical Bharatanatyam, is always contemporary in its interpretation and in its scope to communicate internationally.
Valli’s perception and experience of dance has also been enriched by her study of Odissi (the classical dance of Orissa), under renowned Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and his disciple Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena. Her study of Padams & Javalis under the eminent musician Smt. T. Muktha, of the Veena Dhanammal style of music, has helped her explore the ideal of dance as visual music - to express the subtle distinction, between the literal translation of the lyric into body language and the mature, evolved transmutation of music into movement.
The late A. K. Ramanujan says of the classical Tamil anthologies of Sangam poetry, authored around 2000 years ago, that "not to know them, is not to know a unique and major poetic achievement of Indian civilisation." Valli’s extensive research on these poems, which are remarkable for their richness, subtlety and contemporaneity, has resulted, over a period of thirteen years, in a significant body of work which is a fusion of the poetry of words, music and movement.
Recipient of numerous awards, Alarmel Valli was conferred the State award of Kalaimamani in 1979 and was made the State Artist of Tamilnadu between 1981 & 1984. In December 1985, she was awarded the title of Nrithya Choodamani by the Krishna Gana Sabha in Madras. In January 1991, she was the youngest dancer to be conferred the President’s award of "Padmasri". In 1997, she was honoured by the City of Paris, with the ‘Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris’. In 2002, Alarmel Valli received the Award of the Sangeet Natak Akademy - the apex body for Music, Dance and Drama in India. In January 2004 she was awarded one of India's highest civilian awards - the 'Padma Bhushan', conferred by the President of India. In February 2004, the Government of France conferred on her, one of its highest distinctions - the award of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
She founded ‘Dipashikha’ a Centre for Performing Arts in 1984 and has choreographed works for her students that have been presented in Japan and the US. Through innumerable lecture demonstrations, master classes, workshops and seminars in India and abroad, Valli has contributed to creating an international awareness of Bharatanatyam as a dynamic, continuously evolving dance tradition. A few of the forums in which she has worked, include Spic Macay in India, the Societe Italiana del Flauto Dolce, The Philarmonic society in Rome, the International Sommertanzwochen in Vienna and the University of Minnesota.
In 1982, a film on Alarmel Valli was made for the Omnibus series on BBC 2, by producer Michael Macintyre. Alarmel Valli has also been featured in dance documentaries by eminent Indian producers like the late G. Aravindan and Prakash Jha, by the BBC (in The Spirit of Asia Series), the Nederlands Broadcasting Company, Arte (France) and Japanese National Television. br>
Valli has performed widely at India’s prestigious cultural venues and has received standing ovations in landmark opera houses, theatres and festivals around the world. Some of the highlights of her career on the international scene would include her performances at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow (1977), at the Theatre De La Ville Festivals in Paris in 1973, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003, the Vienna International Dance Festival (1982), the New York International Festival of Arts (1991), the Avignon Theatre Festival in France (1995), the Cervantino Festival in Mexico (1990), the Harbourfront Festival in Toronto (1992), the Min-On Association Festival in Japan (1992), the Basel Dance Festival (1994), the Madrid Festival (1996), the Festival of India’s South in London (1996), the Helsinki Biennale (1997), the Millennium festivals in Berlin and Bologna (2000), the Brussels Spring Festival (2001), the Asia in Helsinki Festival in Finland ( 2001) and The Sadlers Wells Theatre (2002).
Valli has also had the distinction of performing at the Hague Palace for the birthday celebrations of Queen Beatrix of the Nederlands (1990), for the King and Queen of Norway at the Bergen International Festival in Norway (1997), at The Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Pina Bausch’s Wuppertal Dance Theatre (1998), for Prince Charles at the Royal Albert Hall during the joint celebrations of the 50th year of Independence of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (1997) and at the Frankfurt Alte Oper in 2001.
Some of the International festivals at which Valli has presented specially commissioned works of dance, include the Solo Donna Festival of the Venice Biennale in Italy (1999), the San Antonio International Festival in the United States and the Niigata Asian Cultural Festival in Japan (2000). She has also been part of Government sponsored cultural delegations to the former USSR, the Indian festivals in the UK and Sweden, to Israel and the Middle East, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Some highlights in 2004.
• In January 2004, Alarmel Valli was amongst those who were privileged to be selected for the 'Padma Bhushan' - India's third highest civilian award, given by the President of India. .
• In February 2004, she was conferred the award of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France, for her contribution to the spread of culture in France and abroad.