Empress of Kathak

Nritya Samragini (the empress of dance) is what Rabindranath Tagore called Sitara Devi when she was just 16. Seventy eight years later, she has managed to retain the title with the same verve and magic. On Thursday evening, Devi was conferred with the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 at Silver Oak, India Habitat Centre, in Delhi, for her contribution to the development of Kathak. Besides Sitara Devi, TV Gopalakrishnan was awarded for his contribution to the Indian classical music through Mridangam.

In the past, prominent figures such as Chandralekha, Girija Devi, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Mrinalini Sarabhai and Buddhadeb Dasgupta have been the recipients of this award. Lalit Mansingh, member of the selection committee, said, "The selection committee had a difficult task in choosing the awardees. We finally selected Sitara Devi for her unparalleled contribution to music, and Gopalakrishnan, who is a versatile vocalist-cum-musician." The selection committee also comprised of Shanta Serbjeet Singh, vice-chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi; dance critic Leela Venkatraman; Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, among others.

Former attorney general, Soli J Sorabjee, who chaired the committee, said, "Sitara Devi has enthralled generations with her unique dance style. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore rightly described her as the Nritya Samragini, and the epithet continues."

The ceremony also launched the Legends of India Annual Sangeet Mahotsab on Friday at the Kamani Auditorium, which will go on till September 4.

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