Imagineer, Producer, Director, Educator, Choreographer, Performing Artiste, Arts Passionista…..
Kamini Manikam is an accomplished Bharathanatyam artiste of International repute.
Born in a milieu enriched with music and dance; her great-grandfather, the late Mr. Chinnayya was a dramatist and an actor actively involved in stage plays of pre-independent Malaya. Next in line was her grandmother, the late Mrs. Amaravathi Govindaraju; the first female artiste to perform ‘Kathakalatshebam’ (narration of mythological stories by singing) in Malaysia. Nurturing further, Kamini’s mother, Mrs. Indira Manikam and her aunt, Mrs. Kamala Ramachandran went a mile ahead to form the renowned Tanjai Kamalaa Indira Dance School in 1966; presently making it the ‘Longest Operating Dance School in Malaysia’, endorsed by the Malaysia Book of Records. Concurrently, her mother is the founding President of the Malaysia Bharathanatya Dance Association, active since its inception in 2008.
Kamini primarily took up dancing at the tender age of 3 from her mother and her aunt; adhering to the Tanjavur style of dance, uniquely known for its grace and subtle execution of steps. She then ensued under the tutelage of ‘Shastra Nritya Kala Sarathi’ Natyacharya Shri Ravi Sharma, a Bharathanatyam exponent from Chennai.
Besides performing extensively in more than 350 shows locally and abroad namely, India, Spain, Japan, Turkey, Mauritius, Australia, and Singapore; Kamini has also flourished in many lead roles in the highly acclaimed dance drama productions of the Tanjai Kamalaa Indira Dance School. These spectacular shows are performed all year round in and out of Malaysia, bagging full houses and awards along the way.
In 2007, she enthralled the audience by leading the role of ‘Sivagami’ in ‘Spectacular Sivagamiyin Sabatham’; which was the first Tamizh dance drama to be performed at Istana Budaya (National Theatre). The production bagged ‘Best Costume Design’ for BOH Cameronian Award 2008. In 2013, yet again she captivated the hearts of many by the lead role of ‘Kannagi’ in a mega production, ‘Kannagi: The Wrath of a Chaste Woman’; which toured Malaysia thereafter. This adept production won the ‘Audience Choice Award’ for BOH Cameronian Award 2014.
From thematic productions to international showcases, her performances have procured her with numerous awards and titles such as; ‘Nrithya Vilaasini’, ‘Nrithya Kala Vedika’, ‘Aadal Nanggai’, and ‘Nattya Sironmani’. Successively, she drew the attention of discerning critics as a promising dancer and was nominated for the ‘Most Promising Artiste Award’ during BOH Cameronian Award 2007. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious WFTM Global Award for Entertainment Category for her commendable aesthetic performance. She was also bestowed upon the Women Icons Malaysia 2018 Award for her achievement in the Malaysian performing arts industry. In due respect, Kamini’s artistic works have been also documented in Japanese academic journals regarding Indian dance in Malaysia.
Kamini’s dance is illustrious for its joyous feel, comprising verve movements that catch the eye. Her ‘Abhinaya’ or facial expressions are stylized to reach out easily to a myriad of audiences. Using smart communicative techniques in the execution of these expressions, she brings about a distinct approach to the matter discussed in her dances.
Over the years, this immense exposure to dance and music has resulted not only in an acclaimed dancer but as an Imagineer; thinking of creative ideas and philosophies, shaping them all up into a ‘way of life’ that she personifies as ‘Kaminism’. Creating a world of her own, Kamini incorporates these resplendently potential ideas into her dance and her career as an independent and progressive woman, advocating leadership and positive lifestyle among the eves of today.
She believes in a peaceful world, where love and compassion prevail. She uses the arts as a tool to propagate and communicate to people the core essence of life – humanity, unity, universal love. Her insight on Bharathanatyam is her Lasso of Truth and her ‘Salangai’ (dancing bells) as her pair of indestructible bracelets.
She founded LIPSTICK: Celebrating Life as ONE in 2014 to propagate compassionate values through dance and music. Nonetheless, this time she wore many hats; as a Producer, Director, Choreographer, Costume Designer and indubitably as a solo Performer. LIPSTICK Series 1: Spectrum of Estrogenic Love, highlighted domestic violence in Malaysia. In 2015, LIPSTICK was back again with its second series:sHE, woMAN, feMALE, focusing on gender equality and sexual assault. Throughout 2016, some of the items from the LIPSTICK repertoire were performed as recitals in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mamallapuram and Valencia. One of the dance pieces from LIPSTICK Series 1 was featured on South Asian Dialogue, a weekly program airing on Rogers TV-Canada. A full-length production entitled LIPSTICK Retold was staged in Japan for Tokyo Performing Arts Market 2017. Besides LIPSTICK, Kamini has also directed other productions with new age artistic conception stirred with original compositions and choreography.
Realising her responsibility to the family tradition, she conducts dance classes at the Tanjai Kamalaa Indira Dance School and assists in TKI’s management and artistic productions apart from judging dance competitions held around the country. Besides dance, her passion for music is undying. She has been formally trained in Carnatic vocal music and instruments such as the Veena and Harmonium.
Apart from performing arts, Kamini Manikam has performed eminently in the academic field. Graduated with Masters in Business Administration and Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Human Resource Development, Kamini is currently pursuing a PhD in Business, in which her study is related to Arts Management.
Endless is a daughter’s duties, as Kamini is also involved in KM Vet Pharm Sdn. Bhd., a veterinary pharmaceuticals and services founded by her dad, Dr. Manikam in 1991. For her service to the veterinary industry, she won the MIEC Young Entrepreneur Award for veterinary pharmaceuticals category in 2015.
Her constant interest and focused research on audience development in the Malaysia context, has led her to form the WOWGA Creativarium in 2017. WOWGA is a body propagating arts beyond entertainment, as edutainment. There are already many schools providing training to create performers but WOWGA is all about educating audience to appreciate arts especially traditional performing arts. It’s schedule for this year comprises a series of programmes on stage and via virtual mediums. All these form one of the primary objectives of the Creativarium to increase audience participation in concerts especially young audience from the generation Y pool and beyond.
Kamini Manikam continues to accept and advocate a variety of new concepts and ideas as her journey continues. Crossing borders and experimenting with the unknown still stay strong as her principles as she traverses life’s unlimited possibilities.