Between Chaos & Calm: Diversifying Form Within Tradition – Reflections From a Conversation With Natya Dance Theatre’s Krithika Rajagopalan Performing At 2013 Chicago Dancing Festival

“There is something that happens in the ‘in between’

A moment, nanosecond, that exists between chaos & calm

Between yesterday & tomorrow

When you decide to be at peace…until you decide not to

When your mind is absolutely clear.

There’s almost nothing that CAN’T happen…

[Sthithihi] literally came to life when deliberating [on the in between]

Krithika Rajagopalan
Krithika Rajagopalan

Krithika Rajagopalan, associate artistic director and principal dancer with Chicago-based Natya Dance Theatre – one of the leading Indian dance companies in the USA – speaks eloquently about her newest solo exploration, Sthithihi – in the stillness; a shortened version presented at the Solitaire performances on the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago‘s stage, as part of Chicago Dancing Festival’s 2013 season.

“It’s a great honor to be part of this festival.”

Krithika, having a background in both traditional and contemporary movement, navigates the chaos of creation; crafting out of it, a conceptual dance that diversifies it’s classical form through not only its movement vocabulary but by incorporating “brand new music that is as cerebral as creativenot 4×4 but a 9 beat patterning.”

Bharatanatyam or Bharata Natyam, as she speaks on it, is a highly codified art form;  telling the story with not just the rhythm that is present but using eyes, articulating body to convey the intended expression.  there is structure; but within this framework she’s interested in the conceptual flow…this flow is where Sthithihi’s premise lives…


“what’s traditional? it’s not just about preservation…what’s classical?” i offer my thought that classical form stands the test of time, is always noted for it’s authentic self.  this authenticity may come under scrutiny when one explores the form as Krithika does, is doing  with Sthithihi… when,she allows her self  to discover, to evolve, to be truly present in the moment. and even if that moment is structured, one can find freedom. Krithika seeks this freedom inside the structure of Bharat Natyam. and basks in being able to make distinctive choices; such as including a particular piece of 8th century piece of text, set to music, that references Parvati: the goddess of mountains serving to create, protect & destroy.  as i look up this goddess, i note that while she has been known to be benevolent, Parvati can be wrathful…

“let the emotions lead”

in discussing Parvati, i sense an emotional shfit that carries her to a poetic place… she begins to revel in the mountain image and its relation to the waters on top, descending..

“Look at the mountains…like the Himalayas

The waters that move from top to bottom

Gushing down at moments

Trickles at others

These same waters that could potentially kill you when rapid,

Are nourishing your being when still.”

“She (Parvati) is stillness. the stillness between creation & destruction. it’s all within us. the ability to destroy or nurture. where is that place where we can clear both the chaos & the calm?”

Krithika Rajagopalan
Krithika Rajagopalan

Nature’s roots, our roots, a clearing of mind

beyond the image of mountains, Krithika offers other elements of nature as metaphors for connecting to each other, to our humanity, to embracing diversity:

in order to see where our roots are, we need to open up the earth and show them.  the roots reach out as much as the branches… 

however it’s all about clearing the mind. for Krithika, in looking for this clarity, one should deepen their connection to our roots,  to nature. this being a process, one which requires practice. the practice of observation.  through observation comes inspiration… the impetus for this piece and others to come, can be found in her garden… sitting there, contemplating and being present…

i look at nature and it tells me what’s the goodness in the world…how to reach for it…like the trees that lean towards the sun.

when being present, one finds stillness, the potential to explore anything…the possibilities that can come up. as she co-exists with nature, Krithika strives to find that, in this beginning solo exploration… a gesture inside that possibility

Krithika Rajagopalan
Krithika Rajagopalan

Expanding perceptions, looking at the details…

“This is the first time Indian classical dance has been presented at this festival.”

given this opportunity at Chicago Dancing Festival to share this tradition with audiences who may not have viewed Indian dance before, rather than cater to contextualization, Krithika suggests viewers just soak it in.

to look at it for its dimensions, the nuances… the eyes, the tilt in the head, shift of torso, the beauty by which she diversifies the from; dancing the in between place of chaos & calm…within Sthithihi…


Krithika Rajagopalan performed Sthithihi as part of the Solitaire performances for Chicago Dancing Festival 2013 at  Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on August 21st & 23rd. more to come on that performance, as well as reflections on a conversation with enterprising choreographer Camille A. Brown… who also performs a solo for Solitaire.



Author: Barak adé Soleil

contemporary artist, independent consultant and curator. working within community.

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