A Portland Gem
Jayanthi Raman has an MD in Medicine and a Masters in Computer Science and Informatics. But her success story, is in dance, and lies at the heart of her cultural heritage. She recently received the Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship Award for 2015. This is just one of many awards she has received for her outstanding artistic achievements. One of the biggest successes of her work has been her ability to both preserve the integrity, and expand the reach, of the Indian classical dance form Bharatha Natyam. Over the course of her training, which started at a very young age, Jayanthi learned not just how to do the dance, but the deep history of it. That history struck a chord and is something she has been passionately trying to preserve ever since. “I realized that the more you know your history, the more respect you have for what you have today. And only then, can you give it safely to the next generation.” Her journey has required her to wear many hats including: dancer, teacher, choreographer, producer, presenter, writer, editor, and speaker on women’s rights and Hindu religion. But ultimately, she says the role of cultural ambassador is really what keeps her going.
When Jayanthi arrived in Portland in 1990 there was little to no Indian dance happening here aside from the informal venue of birthday parties and street fairs. So, she built a school and founded a professional performing company. From the beginning it was her mission to bring only the most authentic version of Indian dance into her own work. “I present my dance as if I am doing it in India. I don’t want to dilute it. I don’t want to lose my voice and lose who I am.” She has done over 25 productions in Portland and has had toured nationally and internationally. She has worked with almost every top dancer and musician in India. And she continuously strives to be a master of her art form. “It’s not arrogance, it’s out of respect.” Her upcoming show in May is entitled Folk Tales from India which she compares to the Tales of Mother Goose. It’s a contemporary twist on a very classic set of stories. But she assure’s me, “You come to my concert, you are going to see India.”
Dance has been a part of Jayanthi’s life so long it’s as normal to her as brushing her teeth and it’s clear that her passion for it will never run out. “It’s hard for me to understand why people don’t dance. Dancing always puts me in a happy mood and the energy stays on throughout the day. In life, the road is a little windy, but with dance, it’s shinier and nicer along the way.”