She is the artistic director of the acclaimed dance company Natya Dance Theatre in the USA, which was established four decades ago. It won the prestigious Mac Arthur International Connections Fund Grant for artistic collaboration with Nan Jombang Dance Co, Indonesia. Internationally-reputed dancer and choreographer Hema Rajagopal was in Chennai to collaborate with them to produce a new programme titled The Incomplete Gesture that will premiere in the US this year, and then travel to Indonesia and India.
Hema is trained under Dhandayuthapani Pillai and Kalanidhi Narayanan, the abhinaya exponent. She has won illustrious achievements and awards — Emmy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award from several cultural institutions abroad, Master Teacher Award from Asian American Heritage Council, to name a few. Her main mission in life according to her is ‘to use my art to build cultural bridges and promote universal human values.’
“I have raised over a million dollars through my productions for area temples,” she reveals with a bonhomie approach.
About her new work The Incomplete Gesture, she says, “My work will explore the various relationships and consequences of miscommunication, using old and new narratives from Indian and Indonesian culture. It is a powerful means of cultural exchange.”
India has certainly played a big role in Indonesian culture, which is a fusion of Indian, Chinese, South-East asian and indigenous Indonesian culture. The ancient Indians have spread many aspects of Indian culture in Indonesia.
How timely is it? We are aware that the ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of Ramayana and Mahabharatha. India has certainly played a big role in Indonesian culture, which is a fusion of Indian, Chinese, South-East asian and indigenous Indonesian culture. The ancient Indians have spread many aspects of Indian culture in Indonesia. But misunderstanding between two entities at various levels and relationships gave rise to clashes, arguments and even war today.
Krithica rajagopalan, co-artistic director, daughter of Hema Rajagopal, is an acclaimed dancer. She says with modesty, “I recently have been chosen as the first Indian American to be nominated for Joseph-Jetterson Award for choreography in Sita Ram, the most admired production of Natya Dance Thatre. The unique feature of my presentation was that the knowledge I acquired in gyrokenesis and gyrotonic have been used.” It is no wonder that she has been chosen as the artist in residency for the prestigious Doris-Duke Foundation at Hawaii.
By Narayana Vishwanath