The Epitome of Elegance: Top 10 Famous Classical Dancers in India

Must read

Monika Ahuja
Monika Ahuja
I have a specialization in finance but I have written for several domains including real estate, automobile, home decor, e-commerce etc. I worked in sales for over 4 years, before choosing to become a content writer. As a writer, I have worked closely with several national and international brands and have handled their social media and website content for over 3 years. With my diverse experience in the field of writing, I am looking forward to creating some engaging content for my readers.

Indian classical dance is a revered art form that embodies India’s rich cultural heritage. The famous classical dancers of India are known for their grace, technique, and expressive storytelling, which makes these dances a captivating form of artistic expression. The history of Indian classical dance is deeply rooted in tradition and spirituality, with each dance form having its unique origin and evolution.

This blog will explore the lives and contributions of the top 10 classical dance maestros, delving into their impact on the art form and their enduring legacy. From Bharatanatyam to Kathak, these iconic dancers have left an indelible mark on the world of classical dance, and their stories are a testament to the timelessness and universal appeal of Indian dance forms.

Rhythmic Tales of The 10 Best Classical Dancers in India 

Through the years, India has been home to many legendary classical dancers who have excelled in this art and played a pivotal role in promoting and preserving the various forms of Indian classical dance. These maestros have become synonymous with the elegance and poise of Indian classical dance, both within the country and on the global stage.

1. Pandit Birju Maharaj

Pandit Birju Maharaj, who made major contributions to the art of Kathak dance, was a highly regarded Indian dancer, composer, and vocalist. Often regarded as one of the best kathak dancers in India, he was born Brijmohan Nath Mishra on February 4, 1938. He was a master of the form and a prominent exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Kathak. 

He was renowned for his flawless rhythm and expressive dance gestures, or abhinaya. Coming from a well-known family of Kathak dancers, he started performing at an early age and rose to prominence in the field of classical dance. He received several honours and had a long-lasting influence on the development and preservation of Kathak.


  • Received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour, in 1986, and the Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Sangam Kala Award, and Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar.

2. Uday Shankar

Dancer and choreographer Uday Shankar was a trailblazing Indian, frequently referred to as the “father of modern Indian dance.” He gained notoriety for his creative synthesis of Western theatrical methods with Indian traditional dance, which created a unique form of expression. He was born in Udaipur, India on December 8, 1900. 

After touring Europe and America with his dance troupe and founding the Uday Shankar Centre of Dance in Kolkata, Shankar’s impact spread over the world. He had no official instruction when it came to his classical performances yet he mastered his way to become one of the best and most famous classical dancers of India. He was well-known for his innovative performances and contributions to the genre. The dance world is still shaped and inspired by Shankar’s legacy.


  • In 1962, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour given by the National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama, for his lifetime contribution to Indian dance.
  • He founded the Uday Shankar India Culture Centre in Almora, Uttaranchal, which later reopened in Kolkata and is dedicated to dance, drama, and music education.

3. Mrinalni Sarabhai

One of the best classical dancers in India, Mrinalini Sarabhai, was trained in Kathakali and Bharatanatyam. She was the first female Kathakali dancer to master and execute the male dance technique. In addition, she was instrumental in promoting Bharatanatyam outside of temples and elevating it to a respectable level in other cultural communities. 

She was the founder and director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. Thousands have received puppetry, music, dance, and theatre training from this institute. She was later married to eminent physicist Vikram Sarabhai, and her daughter Mallika is a very accomplished and acclaimed dancer.


  • Established the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad in 1949, which imparted training in dance, drama, music, and puppetry.
  • Received the Padma Bhushan in 1965 and Padma Shri in 1992, as well as numerous other awards and honours.
  • Authored several children’s novels, poetry, plays, and stories and wrote an autobiography titled “Mrinalini Sarabhai: The Voice of the Heart.”

Also Read: 10 Famous Poets In India And Their Inspirational Works Of All Time

4. Yamini Krishnamurthy

Yamini Krishnamurthy is among the popular classical dancers in India who performed in the Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi traditions. She started her Bharatanatyam training under Rukmini Devi Arundale’s Kalakshetra at an early age, having been born in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh. 

Later on, she trained with well-known dancers like Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai and Kanchipuram Ellappa Pillai. Krishnamurthy gained recognition all over the world for her contributions to Indian traditional dance styles and was renowned for her elegance, dexterity, and expressive emotions. The world of classical dance is still being shaped and inspired by her legacy.


  • She received numerous awards and honours, including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan, among the highest civilian awards of the Republic of India. 
  • Krishnamurthy also founded the Yamini School of Dance in Delhi, where she imparted dance lessons to younger dancers.

5. Kelucharan Mohapatra

Legendary Indian classical dancer, master, and exponent of Odissi dance Kelucharan Mohapatra is known for bringing Odissi dance back to life and making it famous in the 20th century. Mohapatra, who grew up in Raghurajpur, Puri, Odisha, started dancing at an early age and rose to prominence in the classical dance community. 

In addition to being one of the most famous classical dancers of India, he was also a skilled musician who played the mridangam, tabla, and pakhawaj. As a child, he performed the Odisha traditional dance, Gotipua. His studies in Mahari and Gotipua dance enabled him to contribute significantly to Odissi dance.


  • Received the Padma Vibhushan, one of the highest civilian awards of the Republic of India
  • Was the first person to receive the Padma Vibhushan from Odisha
  • Founded the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Academy of Dance, which imparted training in Odissi dance

6. Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam

Renowned Indian dancer Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam was an esteemed instructor of the Kuchipudi dance style. He devoted his life to maintaining, developing, and disseminating Kuchipudi both in India and beyond. He was born in Kuchipudi, Andhra Pradesh. 

As a result of his efforts, Kuchipudi was revived and gained international acclaim. He was named “Natya Kala Bhushan of Guntur” and “Bharatha Kalaprapoorna of Hyderabad.” He greatly affected Kuchipudi dance and was a captivating performer, talented choreographer, and motivating instructor.


  • Honoured with numerous awards, including the Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship.

Also Read: 10 Best Standup Comedians in India Who Have Redefined the Art of Laughter

7. Guru Bipin Singh

Guru Bipin Singh was a renowned Indian dancer, choreographer, and teacher of Manipuri dance. Born in Singhari Village, Silchar, Assam, he began his training in singing and dancing in his childhood before focusing on Manipuri dance. 

He became a prominent figure in classical dance, known for his innovative choreography and mastery of Manipuri dance. He is often called the Father of Manipuri Dance and has choreographed various songs for Manipuri films. 


  • Received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1966, the Kalidas Samman, and the Sharangadev fellowship by Sur Shringar Samsad, among other awards
  • Founded the Manipuri Nartanalaya, an institution dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Manipuri dance

8. Shovana Narayan

Renowned Indian Kathak dancer, choreographer, and teacher Shovana Narayan has greatly impacted the classical dance community. At age ten, she was trained in Kathak by well-known gurus like Sadhna Bose, Guru Kundal Lal and Pandit Birju Maharaj. She is among the most famous classical dancers of India who perform nationally and internationally. 

She was born on September 2, 1950, in West Bengal, India. She has been captivating audiences with her bold experiments for decades. She has also worked with other international artists and dancers because of her depth and passion.


  • Received the Padma Shri award in 1992 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2001, among other awards and honours.
  • Holds a master’s degree in physics and has completed an M.Phil. in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras and an MPhil in Social Sciences from Punjab University in 2001.

9. Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma

Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma was a pioneering Mohiniyattam danseuse from Kerala, India, renowned for her instrumental role in resurrecting and formalising the Mohiniyattam dance form. She overcame social obstacles to study Mohiniyattam after being born in Thirunavaya, in the Malappuram district and finally became one of Kerala Kalamandalam’s first batch of students. She persevered against all odds to emerge as one of the best classical dancers of India.

Given her contributions to Mohiniyattam, she was dubbed the “Mother of Mohiniyattam.” Kalyanikutty Amma’s efforts enhanced the dance genre, and her choreographies are renowned for their structural integrity and artistic beauty. 


  • She was honoured with several awards, including the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award and the Kendra Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. 

10. Rukmini Devi Arundale

Rukmini Devi Arundale was an Indian theosophist, dancer, choreographer, and instructor.  Besides gaining prominence as one of the best classical dancers in India, she was recognised for her advocacy for animal welfare and contributions to Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance style. She was born into a Brahmin family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. 

When Arundale married Dr. George Arundale, the President of the Theosophical Society of India, her career in dancing officially began. She trained under renowned nattuvanar Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, learning and performing Bharatanatyam. 


  • She founded the Kalakshetra, an institution dedicated to promoting and preserving the art form. 


With this, we conclude our list of the top 10 Indian classical dancers. All these dancers have showcased the nation’s rich cultural history and varied traditions while also making major contributions to the dance world. These famous dancers have inspired generations of dancers and left a lasting impression on the classical dance community by dedicating their lives to preserving and promoting their respective dance styles. The Indian classical dance will continue to be shaped by the legacy of these outstanding performers as long as India celebrates the elegance and beauty of these dance styles.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is the best classical dancer in India?

Determining the “best” classical dancer in India is subjective and varies based on personal opinions. However, some renowned classical dancers include Birju Maharaj, Uday Shankar and Guru Bipin Singh.

What are the different types of classical dance in India?

India has several classical dance forms, including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, and Manipuri.

Are there any famous classical dance schools in India?

Yes, there are many famous classical dance schools in India. Some notable ones include Kalakshetra in Chennai, Nrityagram in Bangalore, Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad.

Who are the legendary gurus (teachers) in classical Indian dance?

Legendary gurus in classical Indian dance include Kelucharan Mohapatra (Odissi), Pt. Birju Maharaj (Kathak), Rukmini Devi Arundale (Bharatanatyam), Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (Odissi), and Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam (Kuchipudi), among others.

- Advertisement -

More articles

- Advertisement -

Latest article