Sitaradevi was born on 8 November, 1920 in a brahmin family on the auspicious occasion of the main Hindu festival of Diwali. She was therefore named Dhanalaxmi (Dhanno for short) by her father. Her father, Sukhdev Maharaj, was a Sanskrit expert and a Kathak teacher. In those days, it was considered inappropriate to train girls in dance. But Sukhdevji trained both, his son and daughter, in dance. He therefore had to face the wrath of the society. According to prevailing traditions, Sitaradevi’s marriage was fixed when she was eight years old. The wedding was to be celebrated with great pomp and show. But Sitaradevi refused to get married and voiced her desire to learn dancing. Her education started in Kamachh Gadh Highschool. She won the hearts of the audience with her dancing performance in the school play ‘Satyavan Savitri’, after which she was named ‘Sitara’ (star) by her father. She started giving solo performances from the age of ten. The following year, the whole family shifted to Mumbai. Film maker Niranjan Sharmaji appointed 12 year old Sitaraji as a dance director. She was the dance director for famous movies like Nagina, Roti, Vatan and Anjali. Her performance as a male dancer in the film ‘Mother India’ was her last dance performance in movies. Now, she strictly concentrated on classical dancing and developed her own style, which was inspirational and energetic. She regularly exercised to maintain a healthy and robust body. She was famous for her rhythmic and energetic steps. She has given innovative performances in many places in India, as well as at the Royal Albert Hall, theVictoria Hall (London) and the Carnegie Hall (New York).
Shri Rabindranath Tagore conferred the title of ‘Nirtya Samragini’ (Queen of dance) on her. Apart from Kathak, Sitaradevi was equally proficient in Bharatnatyam, folk dances, Russian ballet, as well as Western dancing. Some of the actresses who were her disciples are Madhubala, Rekha, Mala Sinha, Kajol. Her uniquely varied dance styles earned her the title of ‘Kathak Queen’. Even at the age of 94, she attended many music programmes and was a source of encouragement to the artists. She passed way on 25 November, 2014.
1969: Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
1995: Kalidas Samman