Treasuring History,
Transcending Tradition

This is the story of Kalanidhi Dance – from its modest, grassroots beginnings to a vibrant school and company making its mark on the dance landscape in the United States and beyond. Scroll through the years and read more about our 25-year history through this interactive timeline.

  • Introduction

    In 2016, Kalanidhi Dance celebrates 25 years of creative excellence under the leadership of Artistic Director Anuradha Nehru.

    Anuradha is a dancer, educator, and choreographer in the Kuchipudi dance idiom (one of eight Indian classical dance forms). She began her initial dance education in Bharatanatyam but soon trained in Kuchipudi, to which she has dedicated her career. An artist of international repute, Anuradha founded Kalanidhi Dance in 1991 and has since led the professional dance company to widespread critical acclaim.

  • 1963 : Changing Tradition

    The late Padmabhushan Vempati Chinna Satyam, a pioneer in the Kuchipudi art form, trained generations of artists including Anuradha Nehru.

    In 1963, he founded the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai, India. It became the premier institute for Kuchipudi training. Kuchipudi is one of eight Indian classical dance forms named after a village in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where it originated approximately 1300 years ago. For centuries, it remained an all male dance-drama tradition.

    Following India’s independence in 1947 and after decades of radical reform Kuchipudi included female dancers and solo items in its repertoire. Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam led many of these changes and left a global dance legacy

  • 1990 : The Epiphany

    Anuradha’s dance epiphany occurred in 1990. During one of his troupe’s U.S. tours, Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam asked Anuradha to participate in his Washington D.C. performances.

    Afterwards, he pulled her aside and asked, “Why are you wasting your time doing a regular job. Not everyone can dance like you. You should devote your life to dance.” 

    Coming from someone of his stature, his words had a profound impact. She was sleepless that night and by dawn had decided to quit her job and dedicate the rest of her life to dance -- a decision she never regretted.

  • 1990 : New Opportunities

    Anuradha’s re-immersion in dance brought with it other artistic opportunities. Her performances across the United States brought her to the attention of dance communities, choreographers, and organizations throughout the country. She began receiving invitations to dance and give lecture-demonstrations at important dance venues, schools, and universities.

    In 1989, the Shakespeare Theatre Company invited Anuradha to work with them as movement consultant for a production of Twelfth Night presented at the Folger Library, Washington, D.C.

  • 1991 : Modest Beginnings

    In 1991, Anuradha established the Kuchipudi Kalanidhi Foundation, a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to teaching Kuchipudi dance in the United States.

    The foundation’s work began with a school. Initially, it had only six students, many of them the children of Anuradha's friends. But the school gradually grew over the years.

  • 1992 : Student Showcase

    In 1992, Kuchipudi Kalanidhi students participated in the school's first annual student performance.

    The program included several dancers who would go on to complete their dance education and Rangapravesham (debut) with Anuradha. Today, some of them are professional dancers in their own right.

    The annual student performance is now a staple of a young dancer’s education at Kalanidhi Dance.

  • 1993 : Principal Dancer

    Anuradha's dance career continued to grow as she became one of the principal dancers at Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam’s Kuchipudi Art Academy. In 1993, she embarked on an ambitious tour of India.

    Leading dance critic, Leela Vankataraman praised Anuradha’s dance debut in New Delhi, India, "Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam has done it again - groomed an enticing dancer of whom one can only say, 'She came, she performed, she conquered.'

    The evening of Kuchipudi featuring Anuradha Nehru [...] the other day was a sheer delight: grace, alluring stage presence, an hourglass figure, impeccable footwork, [and] immaculately clean dance lines."

  • 1993 : Kuchipudi Retrospective

    In December 1993, Anuradha participated in Kuchipudi Mahotsav, a major retrospective and conference held in Mumbai.

    "In 1993, I was invited to participate in the National Dance Festival (Kuchipudi Mahotsav) in Mumbai. The experience turned out to be one of my most treasured memories. I had the occasion to train intensely with my teacher, Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam, whose deep commitment to the art form and unconditional belief in his students brought out the best in everyone and ensured that Kuchipudi would flourish across the world.

    I returned from that experience re-invigorated and re-committed to building on his remarkable legacy and vowed to devote the rest of my life to contributing in my own small way toward that noble cause." – Anuradha Nehru

  • 1994 : Summer Intensives

    In 1994, Anuradha invited her guru Vempati Chinna Satyam to lead summer intensives for students at Kalanidhi.

    Summer Camp is now a central part of a dancer's education at the organization and led by leading Kuchipudi artist, choreographer, and teacher Jaikishore Mosalikanti.

  • 1994 : State Recognition

    As Anuradha's career grew to new heights, the State of Maryland recognized her contribution to the arts.

    In November 1994, she received an honorable mention from the Governor of Maryland for her "outstanding talent as a charismatic performer ... and dedicated efforts to promote and preserve the classical dance form [of] Kuchipudi."

  • 1995 : Chandalika, a Debut

    Chandalika, originally choreographed by Vempati Chinna Satyam, is a full-length Kuchipudi ballet inspired by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s story of the same name. Kalanidhi debuted Chandalika at Montgomery College, Maryland in January 1995.

    Kalanidhi Dance Company member Smitha Hughes remembers:
    Chandalika was the first time many of us were involved in such a large-scale dance drama. It was also one of the first times I remember seeing [Anuradha] Aunty dance in rehearsals. To see her dance with such intensity had a huge effect, and I ended up applying that to my own work as I continued my dance career." – Smitha

  • 1996 : First Rangapravesham

    Amrita Lahiri was the first student to complete her Rangapravesham, or dance debut with Anuradha Nehru in 1996. Amrita is now widely regarded as an emerging professional Kuchipudi artist.

    Anuradha aunty's training has been the most valuable and enduring foundation for my dance career. Her focus was always on high-quality dance, never on undue glamour, awards, or attention. Ironically, every performance today feels even more nerve-wracking than my arangetrum! I remember that innocence, the indefatigable teenage energy, and most powerful and precious of all, the nurturing presence of my teacher, holding my hand through it all!” – Amrita

  • 1996 : Rangapraveshams

    Since 1996, a number of young dancers have completed their formative dance education with Anuradha. The rangapravesham (“ascending the stage”) marks the beginning of their professional dance career.

    Kalanidhi Dance’s rangapraveshams include:
    Amrita Lahiri (1996), Smitha Hughes (née Viswanathan) (1997), Silpa Nanan (née Thotakura) (2003), Chitra Kalyandurg (2003), Asha Dwarka (2005), Nanda Srikantiah (2005), Lavanya Thamire (2008), Srilekha Jayanthi (2008), Simran Arora Afsah (2010), Rupa Ranga (2011), Shilpa Darivemula (2011), Supraja Chittari (2014), Deviga Valiyal (2014), and Kalyani Parthasarathy (2015).

  • 1997 : International Soloist

    By 1997, Anuradha was an established dancer in the United States and beyond. She had performed as a soloist at numerous prestigious venues including the National Geographic Society, Washington D.C., and with Kamala Reddy, Sasikala Penumarthi, and Shobha Natarajan, fellow disciples of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, as the “Kuchipudi Quartet.”

  • 1998 : Kucihipudi Prathidhwani

    In 1998, Kalanidhi Dance sponsored the Kuchipudi Art Academy’s U.S. tour entitled “Kuchipudi Prathidhwani.” A number of Kalanidhi students participated in the multi-city tour.

    It was an honor to be part of a tour with Guru Vemapti Chinnasatyam and the troupe.” – Silpa, Kalanidhi Dance Company Member.

  • 1998 : Indonesia Chapter

    Anuradha departed for Indonesia in 1998 and the school was put on a temporary hold in the United States. During this period, Anuradha embarked on several major dance tours that included performances in India, Singapore, and Indonesia.

  • 2003 : New Beginnings

    After a brief period in Indonesia, Anuradha returned to the United States and a new phase of Kalanidhi’s growth began. The dance school re-opened and classes resumed at Anuradha's dance studio in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • 2003 : New Faculty

    Since 2003, prominent Kuchipudi artist Jaikishore Mosalikanti has continued in his guru’s tradition and leads the school’s annual summer camp dance intensives.

    A brilliant artist, Jaikishore Mosalikanti trained under Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and has mastered every aspect of Kuchipudi and earned a reputation as a formidable Kuchipudi exponent in India, the United States and Europe. A respected teacher, Kishore’s thoughtfulness and uncompromising insistence on proper form and technique, makes him one of the most sought after Kuchipudi professionals worldwide. A prolific and original choreographer, he has been recognized by scholars, critics and connoisseurs of art, both for his choreographic and performance skills.

  • 2005 : The Dance Company

    In 2005, Anuradha became the Artistic Director of Kalanidhi Dance, the first professional Kuchipudi dance ensemble based in the United States and dedicated to the traditional repertoire and the exploration of newer choreographic directions. Founding members included Smitha Hughes, Chitra Kalyandurg, and Silpa Nanan. Dancers Asha Dwarka, Srilekha Jayanthi, and Lavanya Thamire completed the Company.

  • 2005 : Navarasa Debuts

    Anuradha Nehru and Kishore Mosalikanti conceived and choreographed Navarasa, a full-length Kuchipudi ballet, with a commissioned carnatic music score in 2005. It was the first of many collaborative pieces that the duo worked on.

    Navarasa depicts the nine Rasas or emotions – love, happiness, fear, sorrow, disgust, wonder, anger, courage, and peace through episodes taken from the epic Ramayana and abstract dance.

    The Washington Times: “Navarasa blended both traditional and contemporary elements in a fully realized evening. The perfect symmetry, the shimmery lights and the refined poses reflected the ultimate “Rasa,” or mood: true peace and enlightenment, a measure of dharma.”

    “This was a major endeavor for the company. [It] was the first major dance project I took part in 

  • 2006 : Kid Camp

    In 2006, Kalanidhi combined summer camp with a new annual tradition, Kalanidhi Kid Camp aimed at students aged between 6 to 10 years old. The young performers have presented Mighty Hanuman (2006), Krishna's Conquests (2007), Folk Dances from India (2008), Festivals from India (2009), Ganesha meets Kubera (2010), Chatura (2011), Mighty Hanuman (2012), Krishna's conquests (2013), and Bhasmasura (2015).

  • 2007 : Rasa Tour of India

    In October 2007, Kalanidhi Dance debuted Rasa in India. They performed at a number of prestigious venues including the Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai, Ananya Festival of Indian Dance in New Delhi, and Shilparamam in Hyderabad.

    Leading dance critic Leela Venkataraman wrote, “If you feel that the classical dance of ones settled abroad, knowingly or unconsciously loses its authentic flavor, think again. America-based Anuradha Nehru’s Kuchipudi Kalanidhi troupe took the audience by storm.” (The Hindu)

    2007 was very special to me. I got my first chance to perform as a company member with Kalanidhi Dance and then we toured India. This was a very memorable trip!" – Lavanya Thamire

    The tour that we did in India is one of my favorite memories from dancing with Kalanidhi. The magazine cover [from Incredible India] was a welcome surprise near the end of the tour.” – Smitha Hughes

  • 2008 : Transcending Tradition

    In 2008, Kalanidhi organized Transcending Tradition introducing new audiences to the Company’s work and beyond. Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance, a Bharatanatyam company headlined the festival.

    Anuradha Nehru was awarded the Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award, allowing her to offer intense training to Company member Lavanya Thamire.

  • 2008 : New York Debut

    Kalanidhi Dance Company presented an evening of traditional and new choreographic pieces at the Theatre of Saint Peter’s Church, New York in 2008.

    Today, I saw contemporary women, confident in their emotions and in their understanding of what they were doing, poised and clear. Clear footwork, clear arm and hand patterns - all a tribute to themselves and the work of their inspired and committed teacher Anuradha Nehru.” – Uttara Coorlawala, India Abroad

  • 2009 : Bhagmati debuts

    Anuradha Nehru and Kishore Mosalikanti collaborated on their second original full-length production in 2009. Bhagmati is based on the true story set in Mughal India of a Muslim prince, Quli Qutb Shah and his love for a Hindu temple dancer, Bhagmati.

    With the Washington area now the second-biggest Indian dance community in the United States, it is heartening to see that elaborate dance dramas like [Bhagmati] are made possible by a growing pool of local, skilled classical Indian dancers.” - Pamela Squires, The Washington Post.

  • 2010 : Joyce SoHo Debut

    Kalanidhi Dance was the first professional Kuchipudi dance ensemble to be invited to perform at the Joyce SoHo. The company was co-presented at the Joyce SoHo as part of the INBOUND festival.

    The Kalanidhi combination of bright energy, full-bodied sweetness and rapid precision; its wealth of multidirectional focus, physical detail and expressive nuance; the abundant spectacle of its groupings and geometries; its multilayered connection to its music; the beautiful pliancy of the spine; the vitality of the feet and arms: these make for a rare amalgam of prime dance virtues…” - Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times.

    This show was particularly meaningful to me because it was one of the first productions I helped secure working for Kalanidhi. It was our first major show in New York City and at a prestigious venue which sold out. We were reviewed really well in the New York Times after this show.” – Chitra Kalyandurg

    It was amazing to see that our efforts were appreciated by a dance critic in New York Times, and in general the whole performance experience for that show was so much fun.” – Silpa Nanan

  • 2011 : Siva-Shakti Debuts

    Kalanidhi continued its commitment to expanding audiences in Indian classical dance. In 2011, it produced Siva-Shakti, an evening exploring divine feminine and masculine energy. Bharatanatyam artists Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon headlined the evening.

    The following year, Kalanidhi presented guest faculty and artists Jaikishore Mosalikanti and Padmavani Mosalikanti in an evening of traditional Kuchipudi dance entitled "Dvayam."

  • 2013 : Lalla Roukh Debuts

    Kalanidhi Dance collaborated with Opera Lafayette in a modern re-staging of Felicien David’s 19th century French opera, Lalla Roukh. The production premiered at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. and was re-staged at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, New York in January 2013.

    “Here the director, Bernard Deletré, devised an unusual solution when he brought in … the exquisite Kalanidhi dance troupe choreographed by Anuradha Nehru to add vibrant touches of authenticity to the dress and movement of characters who otherwise seem less rooted in South Asia than in commedia dell’arte.” – New York Times

  • 2013 : A Junior Dance Company

    Kalanidhi’s Junior Dance Company made their professional debut at the Library of Congress as part of the Homegrown: The Music of America series in August, 2013. This concert has been archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNdnIxTrZkk

    They performed later that summer at Drive East, New York, one of the largest festivals of Indian classical dance and music outside of India.

  • 2014 : Les Fetes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour

    Kalanidhi collaborated with Opera La Fayette in a modern re-staging of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 18th century French Opera, Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour, ou Les Dieux d’Égypte (The Celebrations of Marriage and Love, or the Gods of Egypt).

    Three critically acclaimed dance companies – representing Egyptians, Amazons, and Gods of the Nile – weave the romantic tale into seven magnificent ballets, complementing the musicality of cast and chorus. Each act is directed by one of the production’s three contributing choreographers: Catherine Turocy of the New York Baroque Dance Company, Anuradha Nehru of Kalanidhi Dance, and Seán Curran of the Seán Curran Company.

    The production premiered at John F. Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall, Washington D.C, and at Lincoln Center’s Fredrick P. Rose Hall, New York in October 2014.

    “The Kalanidhi Dance Company and its founder-director Anuradha Nehru … would periodically sweep onto the stage … taking the energetic experience of the whole work to a higher level.” – DC Theatre Scene

  • 2016 : 25th Year

    Kalanidhi celebrated its 25th year with a yearlong series of events starting with its very first gala at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. In April, the company presented Rasa Revisited, a remounting of its critically acclaimed Rasa that premiered in 2005. The milestone year ended with Kalanidhi@25, an exciting evening featuring original choreography along with a medley of Kalanidhi’s most popular pieces.

  • Today

    Today, Kalanidhi continues its commitment to education, choreography, and performance in the Kuchipudi idiom. Training a new generation of dancers to the highest standards, Kalanidhi remains dedicated to artistic excellence and the exploration of new directions in Indian Classical dance.

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