Indian-American dance company gets prestigious MacArthur grant

Dancers belonging to Natya Dance Theatre , Chicago, performing. (Photo: website

The Chicago-based Indian-American performance art company, Natya Dance Theatre, has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Grant which encourages international collaboration.

Natya is among 10 Chicago arts and culture organizations selected by MacArthur Foundation for the International Connections Grant, meant “for diverse artistic exchanges,” the Foundation announced Nov. 15.

According to the MacArthur website, Natya will receive $50,000 for a collaboration with an Indian dance master on a new theatrical dance work combining classical and contemporary elements of Indian dance for performances in Chennai, India and Chicago.

Founded by Bharat Natyam dancer, teacher and choreographer, Hema Rajagopalan, who is also the artistic director, Natya Dance Theatre is a professional touring company and school that has specialized in Bharata Natyam for more than 35 years, according to its website.

Hema Rajagopalan, founder and artistic director of Natya Dance Theatre based in Chicago)

Rajagopalan has received 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 U.S. choreographer, according to her biography on the website); and, in India, the Vishwa Kala Bharati Award for artistic excellence.

In 2004, she received the Nritya Seva Mani (Devotee of Dance) Award from Bhairavi, a Cleveland, Ohio based organization. Also in 2004, she was the first choreographer working in an Indian tradition to be selected among leading Chicago choreographers by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum to create new work.

Her teaching accolades include the Master Teacher Award from the Asian American Heritage Council and the Master Teacher Award from the City of Chicago.

“Collaborating with international peers helps Chicago’s cultural organizations create new work that inspires, entertains, challenges, and transports audiences,” Chicago Commitment Director Tara Magner is quoted saying in a statement on the organization’s website. “These artistic partnerships foster learning and build meaningful engagement that unites communities, locally and internationally,” Magner says.

This year’s projects cover a range of disciplines, including contemporary dance, film, puppetry, the visual arts, and more.

MacArthur gives out more than $9 million each year in support to more than 300 arts and culture groups in Chicago and the region. The Foundation’s International Connections Fund was initiated in 2008 to enable Chicago arts organizations to facilitate cultural exchanges with new partnerships and creative projects to benefit Chicago arts organizations, their international collaborators, and their audiences. International Connections grants are limited to Chicago-area nonprofit arts and culture organizations that are current grantees in the MacArthur arts and culture portfolio or through the MacArthur Funds established at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

The Foundation says it has been committed for 40 years, to Chicago, its people, and its diverse neighborhoods, investing $1.3 billion in over 1,500 organizations and individuals across the metropolitan region – more than in any other place around the world. MacArthur supports Chicago nonprofits, leaders, and communities by strengthening organizations, contributing to civic partnerships, investing in vital communities, advancing influential and diverse leaders, and cultivating creative expression and art.






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