Woman Menon, Padma
- Artistic Director, Choreographer, Dancer and Teacher
Written by Grace Edwards, The University of Melbourne
Born in Kerala State in 1966, India, Padma Menon trained initially in the Bharatha Natyam style in Hyderabad in 1973. The next year she began training in Kuchipudi, a dance style evolved from ancient Sanskrit theatre, and in 1975 gave her graduation recital (Arangetram) in both styles. In 1976 she moved to Madras to work with Vempati Chinna Satyam in the Kuchipudi style and became a member of his dance company, which was attached to the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Madras. Menon performed extensively with this company in India and also gave solo performances across the country.
Menon subsequently moved to Australia, and launched her Australian career by giving solo performances of Kuchipudi in 1989. In 1993 she established Kailash Dance Company, renamed Padma Menon Dance Theatre in 1996, employing both Anglo-Australians and Indian-Australians. The company toured twice to India with her cross-cultural works. In 1996 she collaborated with Meryl Tankard to create Rasa, which used dancers from both Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre and Padma Menon Dance Theatre. Menon also established a school of Indian Dance in Canberra, which became Kailash Dance in 1991 and reopened in Sydney in 1998 as Mudra Dance. After leaving Canberra in 1998, Menon studied postmodern techniques in Sydney with Russell Dumas and theatre directing and Butoh with Nigel Kellaway. Menon worked as a dancer and teacher for several years in the Netherlands where she also undertook postgraduate studies in choreography.
After living for a period in India, Menon returned to Canberra in 2008, establishing the Mudra Centre for Dance. The Mudra Centre offers classes based on Dhuman technique, developed by Menon, which combines Laban Movement, yoga, modern western dance, kalaripayttu and classical Indian dance. A core element is the concept of 'Bhakthi' or 'spiritual devotion', interpreted in Dhuman as a 'turning inwards and embodying of our inner impulses.' (Padma Menon, official website) Menon has developed Mudra for Women as part of 'a commitment to making the feminine universe personal', which to her is exemplified through the cyclical, symbolic and inner world (Padma Menon, official website).