Nartaki Natraj is the first transgender person to receive Padma Shri award for Bharatanatyam. Originally from Madurai, Nartaki Natraj specializes in Nayaki Bhava of the traditional dance form of Tanjavur. She trained under veteran dancer K P Kittappa Pillai.
Nartaki Natraj founded a dance school where she teaches Bharatanatyam. Narthaki left home at a very young age and she soon became a symbol of trangender empowerment in Tamil Nadu. Narthaki followed her passion to become a dancer with the support of her friend Shakti.
Narthaki has been a recipient of the Kalaimamani award, the highest honour of the Tamil Nadu government and the Nritya Choodamani of the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 2009. The Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar (2011) and the Vetri Award of the University of Madras for performers from marginalised communities in society (2013) are among her other distinctions.
She has a rare collection of Tamil literature, which she uses for research in her solo and group productions. Some of her dance productions are ‘Tamizh Amudhu’, ‘Siva Darisanam’, ‘Shakthi Darisanam’, ‘Kumara Vijayam’, ‘AranganVaibhavam’, ‘SwatantraVriksha’ on contemporary issues.