Malathi Iyengar

South Indian Bharata Natyam

Malathi Iyengar has studied the Pandanallur/Tanjore style of Bharata Natyam dance from Guru Narmada of Bangalore, India, a student of the legendary Kittapa Pillai, of Tanjore, India.  After moving to the United States as a teenager, Malathi dedicated herself to dance by taking classes in California and by traveling to India to study under her guru.  She earned a M.F.A. degree in Dance Choreography & Performance from University of California, Los Angeles.  Today, Malathi is an accomplished performer, choreographer and teacher, serving as the artistic director of Rangoli Dance Company and founder of the Rangoli Foundation for Art & Culture in Southern California.

Bharata Natyam is one of the eight major classical dance forms of India, originating in the southern state of Tamil Nadu more than 2,000 years ago.  Though it started out as a temple ritual, Bharata Natyam has become one of the most popular art forms of India, combining dramatic gestures and facial expressions to convey a story, often based on Indian mythology.  The Pandanallur/Tanjore style of Bharata Natyam emphasizes the mastery of tempo, precision of technique, subtle expression and dexterity in execution.  The style is known for its understated and clean geometric lines, and its variety of steps or Adavus.

As a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2005, Malathi worked with her daughter and apprentice, Lakshmi Iyengar.  Already a seasoned performer, Lakshmi apprenticed as an assistant teacher and Nattuvanar.  The Nattuvanar, or dance conductor, conducts the recital by vocalizing the dance syllables and playing cymbals.

Select Performances

Aananda Narthana, Royce Hall, University of California, Los Angeles, October 2005

Enduring Traditions, Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, Hollywood, July 2005

Planting a Sequoia, John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Hollywood, California, September 2004

Sacred Geometry and Punyakoti, Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley, California, August 2004

Love Lyrics, Norton Simon Museum, Los Angeles, California, August 2002

Dances of India, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, August 2002

Rhythms from the Heavens, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California, April 2002

Ramayana, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, California, August 2000


Malathi Iyengar was conferred the recognition and title ‘Asthana Vidushi’ by the Hindu Temple Society of Southern California on July 23, 2005 for her contributions to art & culture.

Authored & published Dance & Devotion, Rangoli Foundation, August 2004

ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program Master Artist, 2005

Durfee Foundation Artist’s Resource for Completion Award, Los Angeles, California, 2000

Brody Fellowship for Performing Arts/Dance, California Community Foundation, Los Angeles, California, 1999

Alma Hawkins Award for Excellence in Choreography, University of California, Los Angeles, 1995

Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Award, University of California, Los Angeles, 1994

Teaching Experience

Private dance instructor, 1994-present

Lecture & Demonstration, Asian Studies Development Program, University of Redlands, California, March 2006

Lecture and demonstration, Department of South Asian Studies, California State University, Long Beach, April 2005

Artist-in-Residence, Mayfield Senior High School, Pasadena, California, 20 students, 9th through 12th grade, February-March 2004

Speaking engagement and discussion for M.B.A. students, Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore, India, 150 students, December 2003

Demonstration, lecture and workshop on Rangoli Art, Loyola Marymount University, Marymount Institute and Department of Art and Art History, Los Angeles, California, November 2002

Lecturer, California Polytechnic University, Pomona, Institute of New Dance & Cultures, Fall 1999

Arts educator, Los Angeles Unified School District and Performing Tree, 1985-1994

Professional Services

Choreography, staging, and performances
Creates commissioned art work
Educational presentation to schools or community organizations
Offers works for sale
Assists in planning arts events


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