Bhavani Murthy

Indian classical dance forms Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi

Bhavani Murthy

Recipient Information


Knoxville (Knox County), Tennessee


Indian classical dance forms Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi

Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount


Bhavani Murthy has been a student, performer, and teacher of Bharatha Natyam (a classical dance found in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India) and Kuchipudi (a traditional dance of Andhra Pradesh, a state in the south-eastern India) for over 40 years. Murthy started studying these ancient artforms when she was eight. She studied with various instructors after her family moved to the US, increasing her work with mentors as a college student and adult.

Murthy’s mother was a trained Carnatic vocalist (classical music style form South India) who exposed her children to the arts at a young age. Murthy’s interest in dance grew from hearing Carnatic music which is used to accompany Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi dance. The Carnatic music draws from Hindu mythology, the oldest of form of storytelling. Murthy’s dance training has included both mastering the theory and practical performance components. Today, her daughter and three sisters all perform or serve as instructors.

“This art form requires at least eight or nine years of good training to reach a level of proficiency,” explained Murthy. “It takes at least four years of training before someone can even perform on stage as an individual. To reach the level of Arangetram (a solo debut performance with live orchestra) it takes at least seven to eight years of training.” Few people are willing to devote so many years to training and study.

Murthy has performed for numerous organizations and institutes of higher learning throughout East Tennessee at educational or celebratory events. She frequently volunteers her time and talents to perform at local fundraisers for the arts and social services. Murthy has served as a juror for competitions at events at University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University. Murthy is also the director of Natana Manohari School of Performing Arts working with students from Kingsport and Knoxville.

“Learning is something that should never stop in one’s life.” Murthy’s lifelong learning will include additional training with gurus (dance instructors) to advance her choreography for both solo and group performances and instruction. She hopes to learn more about Nattuvangam (a form of rhythmic recitation where the Nattuvanar—choreographer and one who holds the cymbals—recites the rhythmic words to accompany the dancer). Murthy also anticipates learning about dance dramas (major productions based on Hindu mythology stories).