SriDevi Nrithyalaya was founded by Smt K. Suguna in the year 1988 in Villivakkam, an area with few cultural activities in Chennai. Smt.Sheela Unnikrishnan had taken charge as Director in 1990. SriDevi Nrithyalaya was registered as a public trust with the aim to promote the classical Indian dance forms of Bharathanatyam as well as Kuchipudi.
In order to achieve an all-round effective learning of the art, the school also conducts theory and thalam classes, vocal music and yoga courses. The school is well-known for spotting young talents and nurturing them into professional performing artistes. At present, over 250 students have been undergoing training here. Compared with any other similar institution if its size, its current Bharatnatyam students have been winning the largest number of awards and prizes in the world have been giving the largest number of performances in the world For example, from June 2006 till mid-April 2007, the students have given 29 group and 27 solo performances.
Even though the majority of the students are studying Bharatanatyam as a hobby, the school has established a core group of the most talented and dedicated dancers which, as if in a nuclear reaction, has set a critical mass that generates the energy, inspiration and motivation for the junior learners, helps them observe and learn from each other, and makes the learning process an exciting journey of inner self-discovery rather than a boring routine. The students in the regular classes are taught as many technical elements as necessary for a particular item they are going to perform.
One of the distinct features of Smt. Sheela Unnikrishan’s teaching method is the creation an intensive learning environment where the students can closely interact, meditate, encourage and discipline each other, discovering their individual interpretations and performing styles instead of blindly copying some “standard” dancer’s movements and manners. Unlike the larger instItutions, here every student gets the guru’s personal attention. The training process is based on the student’s competency level. In the dance dramas, every student is provided with a part that highlights his capabilities and develops his talents.
SDN provides its students with the music records so that they can additionally practise the items at home or even perform these items on the stage when they are performing without a live orchestra. In addition, they can freely use SDN’s video library. SDN has branched out in 4 areas KK Nagar, Saligramam, Korattur and Kilpauk.