Arts·The Move

'My mom was my first teacher': How Nivedha Ramalingam danced her way to her dreams

She started dancing bharatanatyam when she was just 5 years old and now she has her own school of dance.

She started dancing bharatanatyam when she was just 5 years old and now she has her own school of dance

Nivedha Ramalingam is dancing as part of the new CBC Arts series The Move. Over the coming weeks, we will introduce you to six dancers, each of whom will invite you into their routines, providing a deeper understanding of the movements that hold personal significance for them.

Nivedha Ramalingam started dancing bharatanatyam when she was just 5 years old. Nine years later, at 14, she became a choreographer, training students in her own school of dance the Bharathalaya Dance Academy.

Bharatanatyam is a centuries-old classical form of dancing originated in Southern India. In the beginning, it was performed as a solo dance exclusively by women to interpret religious texts and pay deep respect to Hindu gods and goddesses. It was banned in 1910 under British colonialism, but the ban was protested and the dance eventually revived. While Nivedha did study under some of the leading artists in the field locally as well as in India, like most bharatanatyam dancers, she was first exposed to this art form at home through her parents.

Watch the video:

The Move: ​Nivedha Ramalingam

4 years ago
Duration 3:46
"My mom was my first teacher." 3:46

Nivedha's mother had her own dreams of dancing and was a prominent dancer in Singapore for a period of time. However, those dreams were not fully supported — and she eventually moved on.

So when she gave birth to a daughter, she ensured Nivedha would always have the discipline, love and encouragement needed to excel as a dancer. 20 years later, Nivedha is still pushing herself to dive deeper into her own practice and hoping to expand the audiences for this traditional dance beyond South Asian communities.

You are only a true artist when you are able to touch the souls who are watching you.- Nivedha Ramalingam, dancer

Bharatanatyam is a complex dance form, combining flexible footwork, intricate sign language, dramatic facial expressions and beautiful moments of stillness and quiet. Nivedha, who typically performs hour long repertoires, choreographed a much shorter piece for CBC Arts so we can give you a taste of what this incredible dance form has to offer. And while this dance is meant as a spiritual offering — the story of a heroine awaiting the arrival of her God — it's not hard to also see it as a meaningful way for Nivedha to honour her first teacher: her mother.

Watch the first episode of The Move featuring Siphesihle November, who never expected to have the life as a ballet dancer and now at 19 is the youngest company member of the National Ballet of Canada.


Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?