L. Vijayalakshmi's Film Dances
Neethipathi (1955, Tamil) - "Ananthame Anantham" - This is L. Vijayalakshmi's earliest film dance that I'm aware of, and for that it gets listed first on the list. She is on the right paired with a young and adorable E.V. Saroja in the twin-dance format that became wildly popular after Sayee-Subbulakshmi popularized it in Rathakaneer and Malaikkalan the year previous.
Kuravanji (1960, Tamil) - "Senghkaiyil Vandu Kalin" - After a "faux-classical" beginning, Vijayalakshmi and another unknown dancer (perhaps Priyadarshini, who danced with Gopi Krishna in Sampoorna Ramayanan?) perform choreography in such energetic sync that it nearly rivals the level of Sayee-Subbulakshmi. Watch the rhythmic segment starting at 1:30! Half-way through the song switches to feature Savitri and at 3:43 brings the dancing duo back for a folk dance.
Narthanasala (1963, Telugu) - "Jaya Gananayaka" - Choreographed by Vempati Pedda Satyam (relative of the late Kuchipudi legend Vempati Chinna Satyam), this dance is filled with clear markers of Kuchipudi dance albeit in their film version. Scholar Rumya Sree Putcha, whose work I will cover in a future post, argues that "Until Nartanasala, Kuchipudi movements rarely appeared on a woman's body, and certainly not on a courtesan body" because Kuchipudi gurus generally utilized Bharatanatyam vocabulary when depicting courtesan and shringara-oriented dance in films. Putcha notes that in "Jaya Gananayaka," we see "Pedda Satyam's aesthetic and what is identifiable today as the Kuchipudi style appear for the first time [in Telugu films] on a solo, female dancer's body" in a setting that is "carefully-framed" as a purely pedagogical interaction between a student and her guru framed by a large Nataraja statue in the background.
About L. Vijayalakshmi
T.A. Narasimhan's at The Hindu which notes that Kumari Kamala "presided over her arangetram" in Bharathanatyam in Chennai. I've not been able to determine if she formally learned Kuchipudi (and from whom) or if it was something she was trained in by the Kuchipudi dance directors in her many Telugu films. There is a long article about her with lots of photos at this blog, but it is all in Telugu; anyone want to translate any interesting snippets?
After doing some searching based on the available information about her life, I learned that she is known today by her married name Vijayalakshmi De Datta (as evidenced in this interview of her husband) and that after marrying and leaving films in the late 1960s she earned a B.S. from Maderae University in 1985, a M.S. from the University of the Philippines in 1990, and another M.S. from Virginia Tech in the United States in 1994. I have been delighted to learn that Vijayalakshmi has worked as an accountant in higher education (I also work in higher ed!) in the United States ever since she moved here in 1991. It seems her last position at Virginia Tech was as the director of finance for Facilities Services, and her husband also worked at Virginia Tech as the associate vice president for international affairs and director of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development until 2011 when he retired. This means that Vijayalakshmi and her husband worked at Virginia Tech when it experienced the terrible mass shooting in 2007.
In the last few years, Vijayalakshmi and her family moved to California where her son Raj De Datta owns the company BloomReach. Vijayalakshmi currently works as a financial analyst in the Business Services department at UC Davis. Here she is on the UC Davis administration webpage: