Sunanda Narayanan
Bharatanatyam Dancer, Massachusetts, United States

Sunanda Narayanan is an acclaimed exponent of the Vazhuvoor tradition of Bharata Natyam. She had her training under Guru Rhadha, one of the foremost Bharatanatyam teachers and choreographers of today. For over two decades now, Sunanda has been performing solo and duo with her sister, Sumitra, and has given around 250 performances in several Indian cities and in USA, Canada, and Brazil.

Sunanda had her Arangetram (debut performance) in 1984 under the tutelage of Guru S.K. Kameswaran. In 1992, she was awarded the Senior Scholarship of the Department of Culture by the Government of India for advanced training in dance under Guru Rhadha. Sunanda holds two diplomas in Indian Classical Dance Theory from the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Madras, India and from the Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India (ABHAI).

With several awards to her credit, Sunanda was selected by the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram (a State Government Cultural Association in India) to perform under their sponsorship. The leading Indian newspaper “Indian Express” featured Sunanda in their Personality of the Week column. The dance productions Jaya Jaya Devi and Lakshmi Prabhavam, both of which Sunanda played lead roles in, had an overwhelming response and resoundingly successful tours of USA and Canada in 1994 and 1997 respectively.

Sunanda has performed in all the lecture demonstrations presented by her mother, Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, who is a reputed scholar of Indian music and dance. In particular, the presentation on “Environmental Consciousness in Bharatanatyam” received wide media attention in India and was broadcast on the Indian National Network by the University Grants Commission in India.

Subsequent to her relocation to the US in 1996, Sunanda founded and runs a dance school “Thillai Fine Arts Academy” in Newton, MA (the Academy was formerly located in Cambridge, MA), where she trains talented students in this classical dance form of India. The Academy has a well-earned reputation for excellence in the Boston area. Many of her students have performed their arangetrams and won awards for dance in US competitions including the prestigious Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana festival. In 2011, Sunanda received an award from Lokvani, an online newsletter and resource for the Indian community in the Greater Boston area, for being a dedicated dancer and teacher.

Shows & Major Performances

Thillai Fine Arts Academy organized a highly successful a tour in August 1998 of several cities of USA, of the dance presentation DESH choreographed by Guru Rhadha and performed by Sunanda and her sister Sumitra. Called a Marga Darisanam (A Glimpse of the Path) of India’s moral and spiritual legacy, DESH was a homage to India in celebration of the 50th year of India’s Independence.

Sunanda and her students have raised funds for several Boston area non-profits through widely acclaimed performances and group presentations such as “Desh”, “Natya Nandhanam”, and “Ramabhirama”. Sunanda strives to take her art to mainstream audiences in the US through lecture demonstrations that present the dance form in a meaningful format, and has collaborated with several museums and educational institutions on such initiatives.

Classical music is intrinsic to Bharatanatyam, and Sunanda has had a thorough training in vocal Indian classical music with Gurus Semmangudi Srinivasier, Ramachandriah, maternal grandmother Ananthalakshmi Sadagopan, and Neelakanta Iyer. A leading music company in India, Sangeetha, released a commercial recording of songs sung by sisters Sumitra and Sunanda in 1996.

Sunanda is a graduate of the MIT Sloan School of Management.



Sunanda Narayanan’s recital was like an eye in the storm of the numerous dance recitals this December season. A senior dancer and student of Guru Rhadha, her performance provided the feeling of contentment that comes from total adherence to classical values. Whether in the sparkling lines in nritta or the refined abhinaya, her dance was a treat for the rasika.                - Vidya Saranyan for “The Hindu"

During the Margazhi season while performers and recitals are many, the ones that get noticed are those that offer something new without losing the depth of classicism associated with a style. A dance form needs its integrity to underpin original interpretation, letting new images fall into the fabric of time-tested ones. On that count, Sunanda Narayanan's recital had a fulfilling impact. Guru Rhadha's mastery over the Vazhuvoor bani manifested itself through Sunanda's impeccable lines, subtle expressions and graceful fluidity reflecting an inherent musicality. The rhythmic essays were neat and eye-catching.         - Bala for “The Hindu” 

There was maturity and poise in the Bharata Natyam recital of Sunanda. The artist’s understanding and maturity was reflected in the exacting varnam “Mohamana” of Ponniah. It was made interesting and worth watching by the dancer’s unerring sense of time and fine footwork and aesthetic abhinaya. Sunanda, with her pleasing stage presence and restraint was very impressive.      - K. S. Mahadevan for “Indian Express”

Obeisance to Lord Rama, the embodiment of love and compassion and personification of all that is good -- ‘Sugunadaman' -- brings great learning and joy to all those who participate in it. That was the background of ‘Ramabhirama', a thematic presentation by Sumitra Nitin and Sunanda Narayanan. With synchronised costumes and poses (as in the opening Rama-Sita pose, or the freeze with Rama hugging Hanuman in ‘Bhavayami Raghuramam'), the performance was aesthetic and visually pleasing.          - Usha Ramdas for “The Hindu” 

Presented by Sumitra Nitin, herself an accomplished musician and her sister Sunanda Narayanan who is settled in North America, both disciples of Rhadha, the detailing in the choice of the items as well as their treatment and choreography spoke volumes of the homework done. The incorporation of sculpturesque poses of Muruga with His peacock or His consorts peppered the evening's show in guru Rhadha's choreographies providing powerful visuals, in addition to an element of variety that took advantage of the presence of a twosome in the theermanams and korvais of the varnam and thillana.         - Rupa Srikanth for “The Hindu”

Sumitra and Sunanda, full fledged dancing sisters, maintained their established reputation for perfectionism in the “Kuttrala Kuravanji” dance dramas.  - K. S. Mahadevan for “Indian Express”

The story of Rama was beautifully visualized by the duo. Their rendering of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s exquisite Tillana was a visual treat in nritta and postures.   - V.V. Ramani for “Opus”



Thillai Fine Arts Academy, Newton, MA



About Sabhash - Everything about classical music, dance, drama and a platform for inclusive entertainment is the one-stop destination for the latest news and information on the performing arts of India - classical music and dance, theatre, bhajans, discourses, folk performances, and other lesser known art forms. Institutions that revolve around the performing arts have exploded in numbers, and thanks to the Internet which has made information easily accessible, the number of rasikas has grown too. Corporate patronage has played a big part in increasing the world-wide reach of the Indian arts. Sabhash wishes to be a platform for inclusive growth giving an equal opportunity and recognition to not only the main performer but also the artistes who accompany them on stage, and the people who work backstage and play the role of unsung heroes.