Natya dance theatre celebrates 40th anniversary season with world premiere of “varna – colors of white”; The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, October 22-24

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Natya dance theatre celebrates 40th anniversary season with world premiere of “varna – colors of white”


  • Program features principal Natya dancer Krithika Rajagopalan
  • Score performed by musicians direct from India
  • 40th Anniversary Gala features rare performance by Natya Founder and Artistic Director Hema Rajagopalan


The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, October 22-24


CHICAGO –September 21– Natya Dance Theatre, Chicago’s pre-eminent dance company dedicated to the dance-theatre art of Bharata Natyam, celebrates its 40th anniversary with the World Premiere of Varna – Colors of White, a full-evening work exploring universal emotions through words, music, dance and drama created by Founder and Artistic Director Hema Rajagopalan. Natya presents Varna – Colors of White at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., in three performances only, Thursday – Saturday evenings, October 22-24, at 7:30 pm.


Natya Dance Theatre preserves and perpetuates the Bharata Natyam dance-theatre form through innovative directions and appeal to contemporary sensibilities involving dynamic body movement, rhythmic footwork, hand gestures and facial expressions to convey meaning and emotion that aims to spiritually transform audiences worldwide.


“For 40 years, Natya Dance Theatre has explored humanity’s deepest questions and values, and we are committed to continuing this tradition with the World Premiere of Varna – Colors of White,” adds Rajagopalan. “Inspired by humankind’s tendency to evolve, clash and rebuild, Varna re-envisions ancient philosophies to bring classical ideals into the relief of modern society where we continually deal with ego, violence and selfishness. Being contemporary is Natya’s tradition, and this work showcases over four decades of our continual evolution. We are thrilled to commemorate our anniversary year with this new piece.”


Based on ancient texts and poems of Sage poets dating from 788 AD to the present day, Varna’s full length narrative delves into the divine relationship between spirit and the physical world as well as our connection to each other to explore universal themes of love, compassion, sorrow, greed, desire and jealousy that are inherent in all of us. Choreographed for 12 dancers, Varna will also feature principal Natya Dancer Krithika Rajagopalan, a Doris Duke Artist-in-Residence, recipient of Chicago Dance Award, the Jerome Foundation Grant and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. The dancers will be accompanied by a live musical score composed by Rajkumar Bharathi and performed by acclaimed Indian musicians Sri G. Vijaya Raghavan, one of India’s leading percussionists; Smt. Chitrambari Krishnakumar, one of India’s top vocalists; Sri Kalaiarasan Ramanthan, one of the most popular and sought-after violinists in the field of Bharata Natyam music; plus Indian flutist Adyar Balakrishnan Muthukumar and percussionist K.R. Venkatasubramanian.


Natya Dance Theatre will also present a special 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday, October 24, featuring Varna – Colors of White with Founder and Artistic Director Hema Rajagopalan performing for one night only, with a gala reception to follow at Columbia College Chicago. This will be Rajagopalan’s first public dance performance in two decades.



Individual tickets for Thursday and Friday performances are $30 with $125 tickets available for the Gala performance on Saturday, October 24. Tickets are available by phone at (312) 369-8330 or online at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, HERE.  


Varna – Colors of White is funded, in part, by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.


About the Artists

Natya Dance Theatre was founded in 1975 by renowned dancer, choreographer and dance educator Hema Rajagopalan to serve as an agent of cultural preservation, presentation and exchange. Natya seeks to sustain and develop the art forms of India through the teaching and performance of Bharata Natyam for audiences of all backgrounds. Bharata Natyam is a highly-developed dance-theatre form of southern India that combines dynamic body movement with rhythmic footwork and stylized hand gestures and facial expressions. Natya promotes the values of Indian culture, preserves an ancient art form, and forges links among Indian, American and other cultures.


Natya’s dancers for Varna – Colors of White include Amulya Gampa, Anuhya Gampa, Shobhana Gopalakrishnan, Vidya Govind, Sindhu Konkapaka, Santha K. Pappil, Malvika Ragavendran, Sreelakshmi Rajesh, Asha Rowland, Monica Sridhar, Vinay Srinivasan, and Vidya Visvabharathy.


Hema Rajagopalan is a Bharata Natyam dancer, teacher and choreographer of international repute.  She is the founder and artistic director of Natya Dance Theatre, a professional touring company and school that has specialized in Bharata Natyam for the past 40 years.  Her innovative work preserves Bharata Natyam in its full integrity, developing the art form in new directions and bringing it to diverse audiences all over the world.  Her gurus are some of the foremost figures in Bharata Natyam: Padma Shri K. N. Dandayudapani Pillai and Padma Bhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan the Abhinaya exponent.  She has performed as a soloist at prestigious venues throughout the world.  As a choreographer, she has created numerous short works and over thirty evening-length productions.  Noteworthy among the many prestigious awards that Hema has received are an Emmy® Award for the public TV production, World Stage Chicago, seven National Endowment for the Arts choreography awards in the USA (the highest number ever) and the Vishwa Kala Bharati Award for Artistic Excellence in India.   She conducts workshops and master classes at colleges and universities throughout the country, and is an adjunct faculty member at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.


For more information on Natya Dance Theatre please visit




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