The Gurus

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Hema Rajagopalan is the Founder and Artistic Director of Natya Dance Theatre, an organization that specializes in performing and teaching Bharata Natyam. Natya Dance Theatre celebrated its 40 th anniversary in its 2014-2015 season. She is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer of international reputation committed to preserving Bharata Natyam in its full integrity, developing the art form in new directions and bringing it to diverse audiences. Hema has performed as a soloist at prestigious venues throughout the world, receiving critical acclaim. Her gurus are some of the foremost figures in Bharata Natyam: Padma Shri K. N. Dandayudapani Pillai and Padma Bhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan, one of the world's greatest exponents of art. Among the many prestigious awards that Hema has received are an Emmy Award for the PBS production of World Stage Chicago, seven National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Awards (the highest number ever received by any American choreographer), and, in India, and the Vishwa Kala Bharati Award for artistic excellence. In 2004, she was the first choreographer working in an Indian movement tradition to be selected by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum to create new work, and was also honored by the Bhairavi Fine Arts Society of Cleveland with the Nritya Seva Mani (Devotee of Dance) Award: Hema is the first US-based dancer to receive this award. Scores of students trained under her have distinguished themselves as performers, teachers and choreographers. Her teaching accolades include the Master Teacher Award from the Asian American Heritage Council and the Master Teacher Award from the City of Chicago. She has served as a dance panelist with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Illinois Arts Council and other state arts agencies. Hema has been appointed by the Canadian government to assess Bharata Natyam dance training programs. She conducts workshops and master classes at colleges and universities throughout the country. Hema feels that, as an artist, her task is to produce aesthetically pleasing performances but also to consider her responsibilities as a citizen of the world. She is influenced by the evolving cultural environment around her, and uses her art to foster cross-cultural understanding and social harmony. Krithika Rajagopalan is performer, master teacher and choreographer who began her dance training under master practitioners Hema Rajagopalan and Padma Bhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan. Trained in Gyrotonic, she utilizes this movement technique as a training method for Bharata Natyam dancers. Krithika is Associate Artistic Director of and Principal Dancer for Natya Dance Theatre, based in Chicago. She has presented solo and ensemble performances at prestigious venues all over the world, including the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Music and Dance Festival of Madras, India, the National Centre for Performing Arts in Bombay, India and many more. Highlights of her performance engagements include the honor of performing for President Bill Clinton, original commissioned performances with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, the World Music Institute NYC and her work in collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Krithika’s choreographic credits include solo and full productions such as Sita Ram (a rock opera in collaboration with Lookingglass Theatre and The Chicago Childrens Choir) The Flowering Tree, Shakti Chakra, Ahimsa: Toward Non-Violence, and Alakshaya, all of which have received the Chicago Reader Critic’s Choice Award. She has also co-choreographed works such as Amma (Mother), in collaboration with modern dance company Hedwig Dances, Rasa in collaboration with Padmabhushan Kumudini Lakhia and Hema Rajagopalan, Mitra, and World Stage Chicago, an Emmy-award- winning PBS production. Krithika was the first Indian performer ever nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award.  Awards and recognition for Krithika’s work include the Chicago Dance Award, a Jerome Foundation Grant, the Master Teacher Award from the Illinois Arts Council, an artistic residency at the Art Institute of Chicago, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, the Woman Warrior Award from Columbia College Chicago, and the Commitment to the Arts Award from Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago. In 2015, she was chosen to be the Artist in Residence at Shangri-La as part of the Doris Duke Foundations residency. Krithika creates multi-disciplinary works to preserve and perpetuate the art of Bharata Natyam to wider audiences.