Jayalakshmi Narayanan, a 25-year-old Chennai-born dancer, is a well-known Bharatanatyam dancer. She is also the founder of the Jayalakshmi Narayanan School of Dance (JNSD). Which has over eighty students enrolled in it, learning the nuances of Bharatanatyam from all over the world, ranging in age from three to fifty-five. Jayalakshmi has accumulated a lot of experience and memories by performing on various platforms, both nationally and internationally. She is still not satisfied with the knowledge of classical dance, and to achieve perfection, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Bharatanatyam, where her thesis is about teaching Bharatanatyam to hearing-impaired women and enabling them to teach their community.

As a child, Ms. Narayanan was motivated to pursue a career in medicine and wanted to be a cardiologist after witnessing her father undergo open-heart surgery. However, when she came to a crossroads where she had to make a decision, she just considered what would drive her passion. This made it easier for her to decide that dancing would be something she would like to pursue without any regrets, as it was her lifelong passion, and it made her completely disconnect herself from all her troubles and worries. She realized that whenever she was on the stage performing Bharatnatyam, she was the happiest. This is when she decided to make a career out of her passion.

Her mother, her brother Ramsundar, who is a talented violinist, and she make up her family. Since their father passed away four years ago, her mother and brother have been her constant sources of support through all of her highs and lows. Jayalakshmi is grateful for having parents who never interfered with our decisions and have always supported us. Her father always told little Jaya that even if she decided to become a bus conductor, they would still be very proud of her. All they asked of her was to be committed to whatever she chose to do. This motivation, along with the freedom to explore her career choices and passion, along with her hard work, gave her the courage to achieve her goals.

When asked who influenced her to start the Jayalakshmi Narayan School of Dance, she replied that it was not someone but rather something that motivated her to walk this path.

When she was a student of Bharatnatyam, she witnessed a lot of negative attitude in her classes, such as dance class politics, seniors dominating juniors, a particular student being given special attention because her parents give monetary donations to the dance school, treating students without respect, etc. All these habits were very common and rampant, which resulted in a loss of self-confidence within students, and ultimately, the students stopped learning this art altogether. This inspired her to change the way classical Indian art forms are taught in India.

She made a decision a long time ago that no one should ever have to go through what she went through when she became a teacher and opened her dance school. Jayalakshmi is personally aware of a great number of enthusiastic dancers who gave up dancing due to these issues. This idea is what inspired JNSD to start, where every child is like her baby and every dancer is someone she aspires to be recognized as a higher being. Students at JNSD discover that love is the path to earning respect. The relationship that the students and teachers have at JNSD is an unconditional bond that allows us to fully express our thoughts without worrying about being judged.

Talking about her PhD thesis on methodologies to teach Bharatnatyam to hearing-impaired students, she mentions that it has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience. They came up with different methods to make them understand rhythm. She acknowledges that while it had been tough to teach them through sign language and make them understand Bharatnatyam Mudras and Abhinaya, when her efforts paid off, it made everything worth it.

JNSD also provides free classes to children whose parents are financially not well off by collaborating with people who are willing to sponsor children's dance fees. For every child sponsored, JNSD selects another deserving child and teaches that child free of charge.

When asked if she had a mentor or friend who supported her in this noble endeavor, she replied that life suddenly sends someone from somewhere to convince you that the seemingly impossible is possible when you have given up.

Solomon Samuel, her best friend and co-founder of JNSD, helped her understand the significance of resilience, emphasizing the value of acceptance and bouncing back stronger from any situation.

Since the beginning, he has been the driving force behind JNSD and the architect of all the planning and execution. He is someone who believed in Jaya and in her dreams and made them his own with the vision of creating a platform for those who want to learn, teach, and promote Indian classical art forms on a global scale.

Awards and accolades

1. Prathibha Puraskar from Andhra cultural association, New Delhi

2. Best Creative Personality by Crazy Tales

3. Asia’s Best Classical Dancer by MTTV

4. Yuva Shree Kala Bharathi by Bharathi Yuva Kendra

5. Miss Talented Hyderabad by Times of India

Jayalakshmi’s favorite vacation spot is Goa, which is her ultimate holiday destination, and her favorite movies showcase her love for Shahrukh Khan as well as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.

Motto for life: To enable dance to reach everyone, regardless of their disability. Dancing should be a universally accessible joy.

Ms. Narayanan is not a quitter. Even if life threw so many hurdles at her, she kept going forward. Every problem in life, she took with a pinch of salt because, in her own words, “What's the fun in living a life that's always good to you? Everyone goes through tough times, and so did I.".

She is glad she went through these difficulties and is grateful, as they helped her become the stronger person she is today.

There are a lot of plans and aims she has set for herself and for JNSD. Taking one step at a time towards achieving them, where each step she takes offers a new challenge and a new learning. There are a lot of surprises in store for the near and distant future.

I used to work as a dance teacher at other places before starting JNSD. It took a huge leap of faith to quit everything, and she dedicated herself to becoming an entrepreneur and Bharatanatyam teacher. In the initial stages, she had as few as two students for months, which led to self-doubt and hopelessness. However, perseverance pays off, and one year after starting off JNSD, which is now 80 students strong all over the world, it's not just that; they have a 5-star rating on Google, have received only positive reviews to date, and are aiming to get better at what they do.

Looking at every small improvement and growth in her students as a dancer fills Jaya’s heart with pride. However, at their recent annual celebrations, The Nritya Varshikotsavam 2023, sharing the stage with 40 of her students from all over India is one unforgettable moment she will always cherish. Out of these dancers were seven women who have a 100% hearing impairment and have not heard a single sound since birth. Some of them had to do a lot of convincing at their homes to make it to the event. Jaya is proud to be their teacher and see them not miss one single beat and dance to the rhythm so perfectly. It feels like she has done something good in life.

Jaya’s life quote is “Live your dreams and work hard until your signature becomes an autograph.”

And a message for all is: don't constantly complain about life; instead, be kind and have contentment with what you have. Everything had a reason for happening. Work hard until you achieve your goals; even if you fall short, it's still okay. Keep trying to improve your weaknesses instead of giving up. Have faith in yourself and your aspirations, as the universe will make every effort to provide you with what you truly desire if you work hard for it.