Everyday Heroines

Premiered October 2007, University of Michigan Arthur Miller Theater                                                                                                                                                  

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Everyday Heroines was composed and choreographed as a tribute to two extraordinary women: Madhavi's Bharatanatyam guru of more than two decades, Anandhi Ramachandran, and Mallora Matthaei, a Michigan native who was a healer and a pioneer of whole foods. Contemporaries born in very different areas of the world, Anandhi and Mallora were women of great spirit who lived through times of enormous change. They evolved into wise women who overcame the barriers of their gender and culture to become outstanding teachers and healers—inspiring heroines to the many who knew and loved them.  This piece dramatizes their life stories and celebrates the ways in which they were pioneers.


I.  "Anandhi"
Anandhi Ramachandran was born into an illustrious Brahman family near Chennai, on the southeastern coast of India. She grew up during the Indian National Freedom Movement, the daughter of a renowned writer, publisher, and freedom fighter, Kalki Krishnamurthi, who worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi. Anandhi was one of the first members of a privileged caste to learn Bharatanatyam as a young girl. (For most of its history Bharatanatyam was practiced by devadasis who came from lower and middle castes, and during the British colonial period Bharatanatyam was frowned upon and eventually banned outright.) Anandhi overcame family and societal opposition to study as an adult with Rukmini Devi, who founded Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts in order to resurrect Bharatanatyam as a performing art. Eventually Anandhi became a master teacher of dance and dramatic theory at Kalakshetra, raised three children and two grandchildren, and mentored countless students, family, and friends with unfailing grace.

Mallora Matthaei was born into the family of a country doctor in Farmington, Michigan. She met her husband, Frederic Matthaei Jr., while attending the University of Michigan, and after graduation they married, settled in the Birmingham area, and raised five children. An early advocate of organic food, Mallora started the first health food store in the Birmingham area in the 1970s. Her journey of self discovery led her to feminism and the Human Potential Movement, to personal growth, and to social justice advocacy. Her commitment to helping others inspired her to go back to graduate school in the 1990s, and after earning two master’s degrees in social work she became a psychotherapist and worked with abused women. Mallora was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, healer, and friend, and she enhanced the lives of all those who came into her ever-widening circle of love.

III. "Heroine's Song"

First chorus:
There's more to life than meets the eye,
Wonder in limitless supply!
If you can clear yourself you might
See we're connected to the Light.

Women of intellect and heart
Working in spirit and art,
Showed us how we could live free
Of fear and mediocrity!

(First chorus)

The fifties couldn't keep them down,
They moved beyond their cultures' bounds,
Raising their kids organically,
Modeling strength and creativity!

(First chorus)

Simple virtues, wisdom won
Through life's trials to become
Healers and celebrants of art
Consciously living in heart!

Second chorus:
Everyday heroines who lived
To teach and heal, to love and give.
In an age of cruelty—
They chose to love fearlessly.

They had a kindness you could feel,
A compassionate sensibility,
A vital, connecting energy—
That drew us to them like honey bees.

(Second chorus)

Beyond convention and cliché
Lies a vitality that they
Tuned into as a source of
Grace and healing energy.

(Second chorus)

Anandhi Teacher called it God,
Mallora called it the Goddess,
The Grandmothers say it's Great Spirit—
Can you feel it, breath it, hear it?

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