Leela Samson is a Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, instructor, writer and actress from India. As a soloist, she is known for her technical virtuosity and has taught Bharatanatyam at Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi for many years. Let us wish her a very happy birthday.
Leela Samson was born on 6 May 1951 in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. When Samson was nine years of age, her father sent her to Kalakshetra to learn Indian classical dance and music under the founder, Rukmini Devi Arundale and she studied at the Besant Theosophical High School at the same time.
Starting her career as a Bharatanatyam soloist, Samson taught at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi, and Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi. Over the years, she started performing across India and abroad including in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
In 1995, Samson formed Spanda, a dance group to review the traditional vocabulary of Bharatanatyam. Two documentary films – Sanchari and The Flowering Tree – have been made on her works. She has been the teacher of many notable dancers. She authored a biography of Rukmini Devi Arundale. She has taught Bharatanatyam across the world, including at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, and the annual Milapfest in Manchester.
She was appointed as the director of Kalakshetra by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in April 2005. She was subsequently also appointed as the chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in August 2010 and as the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in April 2011. She resigned from her position as director of Kalakshetra in 2012.
She made her film acting debut in 2015 through the Tamil film, OK Kanmani directed by Mani Ratnam. She reprised her role in the film’s Hindi remake, OK Jaanu (2017). She also appeared in Adithya Varma (2019) and Putham Pudhu Kaalai (2020).
Leela Samson has received the Padma Shri (1990), the Sanskriti Nritya Choodamani, Kalaimamani (2005) given by the Government of Tamil Nadu, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999–2000) for contributions to Bharatanatyam.