Anusha Pillay - Artistic Director
Anusha Pillay, born in 1968, in Johannesburg, South Africa, started dancing at the tender age of 10 in Lenasia. She joined the then Sangeeta Nataka Academy, where she studied under the tutelage of Smt. Satyabhama Kolapen who was a disciple of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale of Kalakshetra, Chennai. In 1986 Pillay was the 1st student of the Academy to complete her diploma. In 1988/89 the Academy travelled extensively, with their dance drama called Thiruneelakantar, to Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and many other minor towns and cities around South Africa, in which Pillay danced as principle dancer of the Academy. Previous performance experience includes the FNB Dance Umbrella at Wits University, exchange programmes with a Spanish Dance school, Moving into Dance and Performing Arts Council of Transvaal, to name a few. During this time, she also joined the teaching staff of the Academy where she taught the younger students. The Sangeeta Nataka Academy was renamed the Institute of Indian Art and Culture in 1996. Pillay’s last professional performance for the Institute was held in Lisbon, Portugal, along with other dancers where they performed at the World Expo.
In 1997 Pillay became head teacher of the Institute of Indian Art and Culture (IIAC), South Africa. Her guru simultaneously opened the US branch of the Institute. Under the banner of the IIAC Pillay held annual concerts and in 2005 and 2006 she trained students for the Newtown Diwali Festival, in which the school performed under the banner of the Gauteng Indian Dance Alliance, alongside Smt. Jayasprie Mupen, Jankaar and other dance schools. While heading the school Pillay assisted her guru in preparing 48 students for arangetram, starting from 1998-2008.
In May 2010 Pillay along with Panna Bhaga and Reshma Chhiba co-founded the Sarvavidya Natyaalaya (SVN), a not for profit dance school based in Lenasia. Under her leadership the SVN has performed extensively in and around Johannesburg and also performed on team South Africa at an international dance festival in 2013. She is also a senior performer for all major productions.
Pillay continues to serve as Artistic Director and senior teacher dance of the SVN which has expanded to Marlboro, Glenvista and Benoni, with a vision to uplift classical Indian dance in South Africa and inspire all generations to learn and understand the intricacies of this ancient art form. Independently of the SVN she serves the external examiner for the Nritya Rupam Academny of Dance and is the Chief Dance Adjudicator for the regional Tamil Eisteddfod.
- East Wave Radio Nelson Mandela Community Leadership award
- 2013 (on behalf of SVN)
- Montenegro Dance Festival 2013 (Herceg-Novi and Tivat, Montenegro) – won the category of folk dance and over all festival winners as Team South Africa.
- Fine Art Award from the Tamil Federation of Gauteng
Reshma Chhiba - Creative Director
Reshma Chhiba, born in 1983, in Johannesburg, South Africa, started dancing at the tender age of 8 in Benoni. She joined the then Sangeeta Nataka Academy, where she studied under the tutelage of Smt. Satyabhama Kolapen, disciple of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale of Kalakshetra, Chennai. Chhiba, who also studied under Smt. Anusha Pillay, received her diploma in 2002 through the Institute of Indian Art and Culture (IIAC) (South Africa). In 2004 Chhiba travelled with Smt. Satya Bhama and other post graduate dancers to the annual December India Dance and Music Festival, Chennai, where she performed at the Chidambaram Temple and the Mini Music Hall, Chennai. She along with other graduates ran classes at the Benoni branch and soon after joined the teaching staff of the Lenasia branch under the banner of the IIAC. While part of the IIAC Chhiba performed in all major productions.
In 2010 Chhiba co-founded the Sarvavidya Natyaalaya with Anusha Pillay and Panna Bhaga. She currently serves as the Creative Director as well as the junior teacher. She recently accompanied and performed as part of the SVN troupe for the Montenegro Dance Festival 2013. Chhiba serves as a dance adjudicator at the annual regional Tamil Eisteddfod.
Independently of the SVN Chhiba works as a practising visual artist and exhibits her work extensively in Johannesburg and has also exhibited in Durban and Cape Town. She continues to pursue an interest in achieving a conversation between her visual language and dance.
Panna Bhaga - Administrative Director
Panna Bhaga, born in 1981, in Johannesburg, South Africa, started dancing at the tender age of 7 in Lenasia. She joined the then Sangeeta Nataka Academy, where she studied under the tutelage of Smt. Satyabhama Kolapen, disciple of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale of Kalakshetra, Chennai. Bhaga, who also studied under Smt. Anusha Pillay, received her diploma in 2003 through the Institute of Indian Art and Culture (IIAC) (South Africa). In 2004 she joined the teaching staff of the IIAC and in 2005 took charge of the administration for teaching staff. Under her administration the IIAC put together many productions and participated in community projects, at which Bhaga was a performer too.
In 2010 Bhaga co-founded the Sarvavidya Natyaalaya with Anusha Pillay and Reshma Chhiba where she currently serves as the Administrative Director. Bhaga solely develops and teachers the meditation and mythology syllabus to all dance students, this allows them to connect to a deeper level of spirituality, which ultimately informs their personal journeys of dance in a meaningful way. She too recently accompanied and performed as part of the SVN troupe for the Montenegro Dance Festival 2013. Independently of the SVN Bhaga also undertakes the management and coordination of other projects.