Chitra and her husband have won international acclaim for their work and are in residency at Northwestern for five days. They gave a performance Thursday night, and will give a concert Friday night with an orchestra. At Thursday’s demonstration, McCormick freshman Pallavi Sriram, a student of Chitra’s, also performed two dances.
Roughly 30 students came to see the free performance on Thursday. They didn’t just experience traditional Bharata Natyam dance; they also learned about Indian literature, philosophy and the spirit of dance.
“I love it when I discover teachers from a very different genre teaching the same sort of foundational principles of human movement and dance that I teach,” said Joseph Mills, the associate professor of dance who organized the event. “I was very happy that we were teaching the same thing in different ways.”
Between dances, Chitra told stories from classic Indian literature, like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita, and explained the philosophy of Indian dance. At the end of the performance, she said that most of what she had done was improvised.
“This is an up-close and personal demonstration, and knowing that it was improvised was impressive,” said Communications freshman Laura Cohen, a dance major who took the Cultural Studies of Dance class with Sriram. “It was really interesting because I had learned all about the history of Indian dance. We learned what each symbol that the dancers did with their arms meant, so I could understand the stories that she was telling when she danced.”