Natya Dance Troupe at the Art Institute

(Photo: I said “Bharata”, not “Bollywood”! Credit: Natya Dance Theater.)

Spending last Friday afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, I had the unexpected pleasure of witnessing an artist-in-residence performance by a member of the Natya Dance Theater (NDT). The Natya troupe performs Bharata Natyam, an ancient, highly expressive dance tradition from Southern India with a wonderfully varied (and surprisingly athletic) vocabulary, put to the aid of telling classic Indian texts.

Over the past week, Krithika Rajagopalan demonstrated the dance in Gallery 142 of the Art Institute to rapt audiences of museum-goers as part of the AIC’s ongoing Silk Road exhibition series. Krithika’s mom, Hema, founded the Chicago-based troupe in 1975 and, as Krithika told me, eventually she “couldn’t get away from the dance” and was captured by the power and beauty of the ancient form. Now, she’s a part of her mom’s troupe, which travels the world to get the word out that Bharata Natyam is “far from Bollywood”.

Krithika’s residence at the Art Institute ended today, but she and NDT will be performing their new work, Alakshaya–The Invisible Veil, around Chicagoland through April. You can check out NDT’s calendar for specific information, but of note to downtowners, NDT will perform March 15 through 17 at the Dance Center of Columbia College in the South Loop.

If you haven’t seen them, catch them before Krithika heads (temporarily) back to her Brooklyn, NY home for the spring. I asked her to say hi to my old stomping grounds, and left Gallery 142 more sure than ever that no matter where an ex-New Yorker like me goes, we’re never, ever far from an unexpected Gotham connection.

In the case of Krithika and the Natya Dance Troupe, though, it’s a happy connection. Note to Krithika: keep checking those Southwest/ATA frequent-flyer deals.

One word: Ding!.

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