Our Story

"When you dance, you connect with your innermost core and feel the joy of being alive."
- Hema Rajagopalan, Founder and Artistic Director
Our Story

In the mid-1970s, shortly after her arrival to the United States, Hema Rajagopalan began performing in small community events and teaching bharata natyam to children our of her living room. Forty years later, this homespun operation has evolved into Natya Dance Theatre – a professional Company and training Academy internationally recognized for integrity in its tradition and innovation in its choreography.

Artistic Director Hema Rajagopalan spent her youngest years in Chennai. At the age of six she began to learn bharata natyam under guru Swarna Saraswati, a heritage practitioner from the devadasi tradition. An unusually instinctive learner, Hema was invited to present her first arangetram after just six months of study. Moving to Delhi, she continued her studies under KN Pakkiri Swamy Pillai, presenting her second arangetram at age nine.

By the age of ten, Hema had been celebrated by critics several times over and was touring the company in regular performances to packed houses. A consummate performer, Hema continued to deepen her study under the tutelage of Kalanidhi Narayanan.

When she arrived in Chicago in 1974, Hema was prepared to begin a new life. Yet, dance would not leave her. She was invited to perform across the city and requested to begin teaching in order to connect young children with their own heritage.

From these early beginnings, grew Natya Dance Theatre- a company which continues the traditions of classical bharata natyam whilst adapting new elements in order to engage diverse audiences in national and international performances. Its four pillars of Performing Company, Teaching Academy, Community Outreach, and our Presenting Series are stabilized in a foundation of quality artistic pursuit.