Her strikingly beautiful face, gorgeous curls and her body so lithe- springing like a deer at one moment and immensely graceful, her eyes full of fervour and the movements so enigmatic, you can watch her dance till eternity. To describe Rukmini Vijayakumar as just a dancer, would be like categorising the peacock as just another bird.
She is multi-faceted- an actress, teacher, model and pilates instructor- a true artist in every way.
CageYourAge caught up with this enigmatic beauty to find out what goes on behind the persona, secrets to her astounding stamina and grace and what she does to look the way she is.
Can you tell us how you got into the field of dance and acting?
I have been dancing since the age of 8 and it is something that has remained very consistent in my life. I started learning Bharatanatyam as a toddler and my interest in dance just grew from there. . My formative years were a combination of ballet, yoga and acting- all of which have led me to where I am now. I did my BFA in Modern Dance and Ballet at the Boston Conservatory where I developed an awareness of the physical body. Those 4 years of intense training made me find new avenues and approaches while looking at Bharatanatyam.
I also studied Anatomy and Physiology at Bangalore University and further did my studies in Nutrition, Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology at UCLA. So yes, all my studies have been solely dedicated to honing my dance skills.
Under the banner of my Bharatanatyam dance company – RaadhaKalpa which I set up in Bangalore and my dance space LshVa where I have regular classes in classical dance, pilates, stretch and strength , I have been imparting training to children while retaining their creative instincts.
As a teenager I started getting modelling offers, which for me was a great way to earn money and so I took it up. One thing lead to the other and I was called by the famous BharathiRaja sir for an audition. That led me to my first Tamil movie – Bommalattam. The rest just fell into place !
Give us a peek into your food diary
Morning -On rising I have just a glass of warm water .
I eat a banana and a few nuts and head for exercise sessions which usually begin by 4.30 am.
Breakfast – I don’t eat much of a breakfast or any heavy meals during the day because of my hectic practise sessions. Since I have motion sickness and my dance involves a lot of spinning movements, I feel nauseous if I eat heavy. So I just snack through the day. I eat an assortment of fruits, nuts and cheeses through the day. I wouldn’t advise anyone to emulate my meal plan because this is what works for me.
Lunch – This is always a salad. I am basically a vegetarian so my salad is a mix of grains, vegetables, greens and seeds. Grains can be anything like brown rice, quinoa or millets . I eat a lot of greens and coloured vegetables mixed into it. This is something I always make because I enjoy making and knowing what exactly is going into my stomach. Its a different salad everyday, with assorted elements added in each day depending on my choice. I love eating yoghurt, cheese and paneer, so there is always a bit of all this in my daily lunch.
I make sure I don’t eat any refined carbs, the only time that I do eat something like that is when its inevitable like if I’m stuck with airplane food, it makes me very lethargic and I don’t feel myself moving at my normal pace.
My one indulgence almost everyday is that I have to have a piece of dark chocolate, it keeps me going !
I usually have a cup of tea ( which is normal chaai with sugar ) everyday between my practise sessions. And I also keep snacking on fruits and nuts.
Dinner – This is my main meal is which can be anything from daal and rice to rotis and vegetables. Its basically a full meal which someone else may have for lunch. This suits me best because I know I will not be dancing for the next few hours.
Do you take any supplements to keep up your stamina levels?
I don’t take any supplements other than multi- vitamins , and even that is because I travel so much and subjected to different weather conditions all the time. I don’t take any protein supplements because I consume enough during the day in the form of curd, paneer and nuts. I have never found the necessity to go to a nutritionist and I have just chalked out my own plan which seems to be working fine for me.
Can you tell us what exactly is your skin care regime ?
I don’t use anything for my face other than a herbal ubtan made by my mom, she puts almost 20 herbal ingredients into it, and I use this for my face and body. I don’t know the exact ingredients because she has been making this for me since years and has always solved any skin issues I may have. I use it for my face and body – It does leave my bathroom quite muddy so if it’s a short travel trip I may not carry it with me .
When I’m going out I use a Lancòme tinted moisturiser because I hate using a foundation other than for my stage shows . My skin care is very basic, I don’t fuss over it.
My make up is also basic, I just do my eyes with a kohl and a lipstick by Estee Lauder , I’m sorry I don’t remember any names of the products I use ! Once I buy it, almost everything looks the same to me. Since I wear pretty heavy make up for my stage shows, on a daily basis I just leave my skin bare mostly.
Your gorgeous curls are your signature look, how do you take care of them ?
Everyone asks me what I do for my hair and frankly I do nothing ! I just use normal coconut oil for my hair because it tends to get very dry and sometimes I may use an argan oil at the ends. And even shampoo could be anything , I was using a normal Dove shampoo which did the job for me and just recently did I switch to Moroccoan Argan oil Shampoo which I am liking quite a bit ! I don’t wash my hair very frequently because of my dance schedules, my hair takes forever to dry and it interferes with my daily sessions. However I do believe in a good oil massage, whenever I skimp on this especially during my tours I find my hair falls a bit more than normal.
Obviously exercise is a huge part of your lifestyle apart from your rigorous dance rehearsals. What goes into it?
My schedule is different everyday and I have specific workouts for each day. For example today is my day off, so I just did yoga for an hour, followed by pilates and stretches for another hour. I am a certified Mat Power Pilates instructor and for me this is one of the most intense form of exercises, I don’t need any machines to work on all my muscle groups.
Yoga has been a part of my life from childhood and while contorting myself into difficult positions was what gave me a high before now its a lot more internal. I find myself more at peace just practising yoga without pushing myself into body twists.
I also practise something called parkour. Parkour is basically a training discipline using movement adapted from military obstacle course. Its very intense and I have a trainer to help me with this.
I keep alternating between different forms, previously and even now on and off , I practice kalaripayattu which is basically a martial art form from Kerala. Its all about strength and agility and all these forms go a long way in my dance.
How do you fit in exercise when you travel so extensively and in the midst of a hectic schedule?
That has never been a problem at all for me. I don’t need a gym or any equipment to exercise. I may go for an hours run and follow up that with an hour of yoga and pilates and I am done. I do feel it is very important to being your day with exercise it just sets the whole day and everything in the right perspective.
I am an early morning person , thats when my head is clear and I’m ready to take on the day, so I hit the gym first thing in the morning, at 4.30 am when I am in Bangalore.
I do feel strength training is very important and I visit my gym a couple of times a week for strength training with a trainer .
When do you find your moment of peace in the day ?
My dance studio LshVa is where I conduct my dance classes which begins by 6 am . Through the day, I have a hectic schedule between rehearsals in my studio and classes, which go on till late evening .
I find immense happiness in teaching children, and especially love those classes.
My zen moment is when I am dancing alone in my studio, it gives me absolute joy- its my form of meditation.
Rukmini Vijayakumar is a Bharatanatyam dancer and Indian film actress. She is the artistic director of her classical dance company- Raadha Kalpa and director of her art space- LshVa. She conducts classes for adults and children at her studio in Bangalore.
Follow her on Instagram @dancerukmini