Early Life of Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama
Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama was born in 1937, in a middle class family, at Shornur, on the coast of Bharathapuzha, in Palakkad District of Kerala, to Krishnan Nair, a petty businessman and Ammini Amma. Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama started learning dance, at a very early age, as a part-time student of Kerala Kalamandalam, under the guidance of Kalamandalam Achutha Warrier and Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Warrier, concurrently with her academic schooling at Government High School, Shornur. After completing her 8th standard there, she joined Kalamandalam as a full-time student. That was when she started learning Mohiniyattom, under the Kalamandalam stalwart, Thottassery Chinnammu Amma, the first long serving dance teacher at Kalamandalam, though the main focus of study remained Bharatanatyam. Chinnammu Amma introduced the young Satyabhama to various dance techniques such as adavu (basic movements), cholkettu, jathiswarams (syllables and musical notes) in Chenchurutty and Todi.
Musical Career of Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama
The debut musical career of Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama was on major stage in 1955, during the silver jubilee celebrations of Kalamandalam, in front of Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The next six years of study at the institution gave her opportunities to visit Singapore and Malaysia, as a part of the touring Kalamandalam troupe, where she performed Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. After completing the course, Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama joined Kalamandalam as a junior teacher. Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama also had a stint of training from the doyen of classical dance, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma.
Other Career of Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama
Kalamandalam Satybhama was the first woman Vice Principal of Kerala Kalamandalam and, later, became its Principal till she retired in 1992. She sits in the selection committee to decide annual Kalamandalam fellowships. Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama is also functioning as the Dean of Kerala Kalamandalam.
Kalamandalam V. Satyabhama as a Teacher
Kalamandalam Satyabhama quietly retired from performances at a young age of 24 to attend to her duties as a teacher and choreographer. Kalamandalam Satyabhama modified the performance techniques so that the emotive aspect of the performance strictly sticks to Lasyam. She is also said to have revolutionized the Mohiniyattam curriculum at Kerala Kalamandalam which is said to have resulted in the evolution of Kalamandalam style Mohiniyattam. Kalamandalam Satyabhama was also a pioneer in having the changes she has brought to the mohiniyattam costumes. The designs she has created follows Kerala traditions in colour, pattern and accessories and has become the signature of Kalamandalam style. Kalamandalam Satyabhama also changed the way the dancer styles the hair, which was vaguely adapted from Raja Ravi Varma paintings.
Awards Received by Kalamandalam Satyabhama
Kalamandalam Satyabhama was honoured with several awards and recognitions like Padma Shri Award, Nruthya Natya Puraskaram, Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards, Nruthya Natya Puraskaram of the Government of Kerala, Tirunal Puraskaram, Shadkala Govinda Marar Award. Kerala Kalamandalam has instituted an award, in honour of Satyabhama, which is distributed to deserving students of Mohiniyattam, in the form of a scholarship annually.