Balasaraswati (May 13, 1918 – February 9, 1984), full name Tanjore Balasaraswati, was a celebrated exponent of Bharatanatyam, the Indian dance form. Her art is a rendering of a classical dance style from her home state in the South India in Tamil Nadu. She was instrumental in popularizing this style of dancing not only in India but also in many countries of the world. She was the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour given by the Government of India, in 1977. She was also honoured with the title of Sangita Kalanidhi in 1973 by the Madras Music Academy, South India's highest award for musicians. Her special achievement was her inclusion in a compilation of the Dance Heritage Coalition, "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100" (2000), the only non-western dancer to get this position. Satyajit Ray the well known Indian film maker made a documentary on her creation.
- It may be true that I had dancing in my blood... I was a toddler when I danced deliriously with that street beggar. All called him a madman when he brought the house down with his frenetic dancing. Was he really mad? His unerring jatis (danced to rhythmic patterns) reverberate in my mind. Who knows which siddhapurusha (literally: “with all accomplishments”) he was? I can still see the gleam in his eye. If I am dance-mad now how could it be otherwise?... My first guru was a madman.
- The initial inspiration for me to take up dancing came from seeing performances of Gauri Ammal when I was very young. If this lady had not brought the dance to such a stage of development, the combination of music and dance that I have attempted to realize would not have been possible.
- Quoted in "Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life", pp=25-26
- Bharatanatyam is grounded in bhakthi. In fact bhakthi is at the center of all arts of India. Our music and dance are two offerings to God...This experience may only occur once in a while but when it does for that little duration, its grandeur enters the soul not transiently but with a sense of eternity. As one gets involved in the art, with greater and greater dedication, one can continuously experience throughout the few hours of the dance, the unending joy, this complete well-being, especially when music and dance mingle indistinguishably.
- Her comment on the role of dance and music in veneration of God. Quoted in "Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life", page=28
- It was my mother, Jayammal, who had me trained as a dancer despite strong family opposition.
- Quoted in "Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life", page=31
- Although she was blind by that time, she was the best critique of my dance. If there is any one I would like to known, I would like to be remembered as Danam’s granddaughter.
- Her observation on her grandmother Danammal’s influence on her in dance and music quoted in "Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life", page=39
- Dignified restraint is the hallmark of abhinaya....The divine is divine only because of its suggestive, subtle quality.
- When asked why she thought there was deterioration in standards and expectations of art, she suggested it was the result of the fuss generated around young dancers, the pressures to perform at an early debut, and the indiscriminate acclaim given to young dancers before they had found their feet.
- On her abhinaya (the art of expression'). Dance readings and musings Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life. Narthaki.com. Retrieved on 1 December 2013.
- There used to be beggar, a sort of maniac, who would jump up and dance like a monkey while singing tat tarigappa tei ta, tat tarigappa tei ta. Bala would imitate him, both dancing like monkeys... All of us tried to snub him but the beggar could not be turned out. It meant a few coins for him; he made a regular visit to our house and the two used to dance. That was the real starting point for Bala’s dancing mania.
- Observation of a relative in Knight, Douglas M. (15 June 2010). Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6906-6.
- She was the only one where the music and dance were equally important... her dance moves were deeply affected by this... she was able to convey not only the meaning of the dance, but also the emotion of the music. That’s what I liked best.
- Rukmini Devi in Dance readings and musings Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life. Narthaki.com. Retrieved on 1 December 2013.
- Perhaps the greatest Indian dancer of the past thousand years.
- Dr. Narayana Menon quoted in Balasaraswati. Center for World Music. Retrieved on 1 December 2013.