Born Nataraj at Madurai, Tamil Nadu, this bharatnatyam dancer took the name Narthaki at the time of her debut performance in 1983 as a woman. Braving poverty and social stigma, Narthaki followed her passion to become a dancer with the financial support of Shakti – her childhood friend. Staring her training under Namanur Jeyaraman of the Tanjavur bani, she later became a disciple of the late K P Kittappa Pillai, a descendant of the 17th century Tanjavur Quartet. She lived with her guru for 15 years imbibing the essence of Bharatanatyam from him along with Shakti. She also worked as Kittapa Pillai’s assistant in the Tanjore Tamil University.
Narthaki Nataraj started her school Narthaki Nritya Kalalaya to take her guru's aesthetic vision forward. The school was established at Madurai. When she moved to Chennai in 2000, she launched the Valliambalam School of Dance. Her school has branches in the U.S., the U.K and Canada. Besides, she has been conducting annual workshops at the government department of music in Oslo. At the workshops, Shakti and Narthaki teach Indian and Norwegian students the Tevaram, Tiruppugazh and Tiruvachakam.
An empanelled artist of the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India and a top grade artist with national television, 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.
Narthaki 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' and productions on contemporary issues.