Rukmini Devi Arundale, herself a choreographer and dancer, is considered one of the key figures in re-creating Bharatanatyam. Through her utopian arts colony, Kalakshetra, started during the movement towards Indian independence, she taught what she deemed to be a classical, religious and aesthetically pleasing form of dance. Her rejection of what she termed vulgarity and commercialism in dance reflects her Theosophical worldviews and her class position in a rapidly changing South India. The article examines the ways in which her understanding of Bharatanatyam developed in the context of contested forms of nationalism as a gender regime that contributed to creating proper middle-class, Hindu and Indian subjects. It also examines the impacts of this form of cultural heritage relating to gender, culture and nationalism in today’s globalised South Asian dance scenario.