|"A performer who has opened new avenues to his form, it is easy to see why Das has been acknowledged as a phenomenon." - Hindustan Times, India
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A child prodigy, Pandit Chitresh Das has become one of the most dynamic and far-reaching artists to have emerged from modern India. A prolific artist, his performance, choreography and evolution of Kathak, classical dance of North India, have influenced the art form world-wide.
Pandit Das is first and foremost a master and virtuosic performer of the classical Kathak tradition. As a committed guru, he has trained many dancers who have gone on to establish their own careers in Kathak dance. Based on his concept of “innovation within tradition,” Pandit Das explores the boundaries of Kathak technique and performance, creating compelling, new works and techniques that are inventive, yet deeply rooted in the Kathak tradition. His innovative technique, Kathak Yoga, was recently published as the subject of a doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. “A performer who has opened new avenues for his form, it is easy to see why Das has been acknowledged as a phenomenon.” Hindustan Times, India.
Trained from the age of nine by his guru, Pandit Ram Narayan Misra, Pandit Das was schooled in both major Kathak traditions, embodying each in his artistry: the graceful and sensual elements of the Lucknow school combined with the dynamic and powerful rhythms and movements of the Jaipur School.
Pandit Das has also received numerous awards and grants from Olympic Arts Festival, National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, California Arts Council, Rockefeller Foundation, Irvine Fellowships in Dance, among others. Pandit Das formed the first university accredited Kathak course in the US at San Francisco State University. He was brought to teach twice at the West Bengal State Academy and represented the state of Bengal in tours throughout India.
Pandit Chitresh Das now spends a large amount of time in India performing, giving workshops and teaching at his school, Chhandam Nritya Bharati, in Calcutta. Pandit Das ultimately sees art as a service to society and devotes time to those in need, including teaching children in the slums of India, the Blind Opera of Calcutta and his most important project of teaching empowerment and self-awareness through dance to the daughters of sex workers, in partnership with the New Light Foundation in Calcutta, India.
Selected Major Performances
Pandit Das' performing career was launched in India when he was invited by Pandit Ravi Shankar to perform in the first Rimpa Festival in Benaras. He has since performed internationally, featured at celebrated festivals at the:
- Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Festival, Bhubaneswar, India (2012)
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2011, 2012)
- Flynn Center, Vermon (2012)
- Yale University (2011)
- Kohler Arts Center, Wisconsin (2010)
- Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco (2010)
- Karamatullah Khan Festival in Kolkata (2008)
- Mumbai Festival (2008)
- American Folk Festival (2008)
- US Consulate 50th Anniversary in Mumbai (2008)
- American Dance Festival (2004, 2006)
- UMAQ Festival, New Delhi (2004, 2006, 2007)
- Fort William, Kolkata (2005)
- Habitat Centre (2003)
- National Kathak Festival in New Delhi (2003)
- Dover Lane Conference, Kolkata (1979, 1982, 1984, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003)
- Lincoln Center (1988)
- Olympics Arts Festival, Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games (1984)
- Surya Festival, Chennai (1982)
Pandit Das' pioneering contribution to the American arts scene began in 1970 when he received a Whitney Fellowship through the University of Maryland to teach Kathak. In 1971, he was invited by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan to establish a Kathak dance program at the renowned Ali Akbar College of Music in California. His own school, Chhandam, founded in 1980, now has branches in California, Boston, Toronto, Metro DC Area, Denver, Tokyo, Japan and Kolkata and Coimbatore in India. The California school is the largest Indian classical dance school in North America.
- National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts - the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. governnment for a traditional artist (2009)
- Award from Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, a national arts institution in India founded in 1938, for outstanding contribution in the field of Kathak dance (2007)
- Isadora Duncan Dance Special Award for presenting the largest Indian classical dance festival outside of India (Kathak at the Crossroads, 2006)
- Goldie Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Francisco Bay Guardian (2006)
- Pandit Das and Mr. Smith received the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for best ensemble performance of the year for India Jazz Suites (2005)
- Collaboration with Tap star Jason Samuels Smith, India Jazz Suites, placed first in the top ten dance productions of 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle
- Isadora Duncan Dance award for outstanding choreography and performance (2004)
- Inaugural lifetime achievement award from the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (2004)
- Isadora Duncan Dance Award (Izzie) for best dancer of the year and his collaborative production, East as Center (2003)
- Irvine Fellowship in Dance (2000)
- Pandit Das was given the honor of twice representing his home state of West Bengal in tours throughout India (1998, 1999).
- Isadora Duncan Dancer of the Year Award (1987)
“With his superlative performance, Chitresh stole the show from the moment of his appearance. Even at 62, this slim and trim dancer mesmerized the audience with his dignified posture, style of presentation, incessant vigor and graceful movements. Following demands from the audience, the organizers had to prolong the program to allow Chitresh to demonstrate his world-famous piece on the sound of the railway engine.” - The Statesman, India, 2006
"After the intermission, Chitresh Das, a true master, completely overwhelms me with his solo. His perfection of form, coupled with a transcendent stage presence, makes for an unforgettable performance, easily one of the most thrilling I've ever seen." - Aimee Ts’ao, Dance Insider