Kali Veerapadran, 21, is perhaps the only male dancer, who has mastered the classical dance form Bharatanatyam, as well as three ancient Tamil folk dance form in India.
Born into a family of poor Adi Dravidars in Kovalam, a struggling fishing village, not far from Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Kali lost his father very young; it was his mother — a construction labourer — who worked doubly hard to raise him and his many siblings.
His talent for dance was spotted in a Tsunami Rehabilitation centre, and a kind sponsor sent him to Kalakshetra, India’s premier dance school, in Chennai. Kali also learnt and quickly mastered centuries-old folk dances of Tamil Nadu – Oyilaatam, Thappaatam and Karagattam. In May 2014, Kali passed his Diploma in Dance course with a first class. He’s also been admitted to the P.G. Diploma in Dance at Kalakshetra. Kali’s dream is to start a dance school and teach both the folk dances of Tamil Nadu as well as the very classical (but largely inaccessible to the poor) dance – Bharatanatyam.
And his dream — like his talent — is unique: there haven’t been many attempts to teach the two dance forms, one venerated (Bharatanatyam) and the other neglected (folk dance forms) side-by-side.