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Padmashri Geeta Chandran
A celebrated artist and a star-performer, Geeta Chandran began learning Bharatanatyam from the tender age of 5 years under the tutelage of Smt. Swarna Saraswathy, who hailed from the traditional Thanjavoor devadasi parampara. Subsequently, Smt Chandran continued learning diverse aspects of the classical dance from a galaxy of eminent Gurus.
Today she is a renowned artist who has synthesised the knowledge she received from her Gurus to imprint Bharatanatyam with her personal vision of the dance. In her dance presentations Geeta Chandran skillfully weaves abstract notions of Joy, Beauty, Values, Aspirations, Myth and Spirituality.
In recognition of her vast and varied contribution to Bharatanatyam, she was awarded the prestigious national award -the Padma Shri by the President of India in 2007.
Smt Chandran is celebrated not only for her deep and composite understanding of the art of Bharatanatyam, but also for her Carnatic music (she is a trained and accomplished vocalist), her work in television, video and film, theatre, choreography, dance education, dance activism and dance-issue journalism.
Founder-President of Natya-Vriksha, an organization devoted to promoting Bharatanatyam, she has evolved a holistic style of teaching the classical dance which engages young learners. She has presented the arangetrams (debut performance) of 25 senior disciples who continue their training under her and she continues to mentor over one hundred disciples; several of her students have blossomed as full-fledged performers.
Geeta Chandran is also Artistic Director of the Natya Vriksha Dance Company, known for the high aesthetic quality of its group presentations.
She has constantly striven to create new spaces for the classical dancer of today. She has continuously attempted to push the frontiers of the classical art and to reach out to new, and especially young, audiences. She believes that dance must be linked to life and that artists must use their unique position in society to make a difference to life and living. Her choreographies HER VOICE and IMAGINING PEACE articulated her conviction that dance can be a vehicle to build social bridges. Her widely acclaimed dance-theatre production KAIKEYI and her choreographies on the themes of DRUGS have thrown the spotlight on issues of social stigma. Her 2008 work -- MYTHOLOGIES RETOLD -- addresses the social curse of female feticide. She is also known for using classical Bharatanatyam to amplify gender and environmental issues.
An A-Top graded dancer at Doordarshan and at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Geeta Chandran has been recipient of both the Junior and Senior Research Fellowships from the Government of Indias Department of Culture. She is recipient of several awards including the Lady Shri Ram College Illustrious Alumna Award, the Dandayudhapani Pillai Award, the Bharat Nirman Award, the Natya Ilavarasi, the Indira Priyadarshini Award, the Media India Award, the National Critics Award, the Sringar Mani and the Natya Ratna.
She has travelled all over the world with her performances and has danced at many prestigious dance festivals in India and abroad. In 2007, she was invited to perform at the World Hindi Conference in New York, and then again to represent India at the India-60 celebrations at the Lincoln Centre in New York.
She is associated with several NGOs and charitable organizations raising resources for valuable causes, among them peace, environment and peace. She is well-known for her association with philanthropic causes, and has presented innumerable performances to raise funds for worth social causes. She is most especially identified with gender issues and poverty. Her recent work showcasing the horror of female feticide through dance has won her renewed praise.
She has authored a book SO MANY JOURNEYS, an intensely personal collection of her writings narrating her engagement with Bharatanatyam. In April 2009, in her book entitled Dynamic Women Dancers (Womens Hall of Fame series) Canadian author Anne Dublin listed Geeta Chandran as one of ten global all time great dancers.
photo and bio courtesy Padmashri Geeta Chandran