B i o g r a p h y
Hailed as “among the best of this second generation of Indian dancers,” Rasika Kumar is a Bharatanatyam performer and choreographer steeped in tradition but with contemporary sensibilities. Based in California’s Silicon Valley, Rasika actively pursues the art form as a soloist, a choreographer, and as Associate Artistic Director of the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose.
Rasika studied Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of her mother Mythili Kumar, Artistic Director of Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, California. She began her training at the age of four and performed her arangetram in 1996. Rasika has toured with and performed in many of Abhinaya Dance Company's productions (1996-2000) with major roles in several of them. After moving to Boston for her undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rasika organized, choreographed, and performed in various events in the greater Boston area as a member of MIT Natya. In 2004, Rasika traveled to Chennai and took advanced training under renowned teachers Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar and Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan. She continues intermittent training with abhinaya exponent, Smt. Bragha Bessell.
Performer and Choreographer
Since 2005, Rasika has been a featured soloist for many of Abhinaya's recent productions (2005 - present) and has been choreographing solo and group pieces for Abhinaya since 2006. Her choreography has been featured of many of Abhinaya’s productions including Ritusamhara (2006), Poetic Splendor (2007), Prithvi (2007), Rivers: A Mystical Journey (2008), Nritya Sangati (2009), Jwala (2011), Gandhi (2012), Arjuna (2014), and Love Exquisite (2015). Additionally, Rasika has choreographed and performed several full length solo productions including Saatvika (2006), Dharma Yuddh (2008), Courage (2011 and 2013), and Maya - The Mystery of Krishna (2012).
Rasika's choreography and performance have garnered attention from beyond the Indian dance community. "Varsha: the Rainy Season," jointly choreographed by Rasika Kumar and Mythili Kumar for the company received a commission for the 2008 Ethnic Dance Festival. Additionally, "Prithvi Sooktam, " choreographed by Rasika in 2007, was selected to perform at the 2010 Ethnic Dance Festival. The item “Gandhari’s Lament” has received critical acclaim as a “powerful”, “incisive,” and “impressive” piece of choreography. She was selected to perform her solo work for sjDANCEco's Annual ChoreoProject Award in 2007, 2008, and 2010 and for the WestWave Dance Festival at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. She received the Arts Council/Silicon Valley Performing Arts Fellowship in 2008, when she began exploring new ways to make Bharatanatyam more accessible to contemporary audiences.
Rasika’s 2010 collaborative rhythmic arrangement with Franco Imperial of San Jose Taiko garnered the two companies an Isadora Duncan Award in the Music category (2011). The collaborative item, “Synergy,” was selected to be performed at both the 2011 and 2012 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals where the “resulting technical proficiency and rhythmic texture of their [the companies’] collaboration blew the audience away”.
In 2014, Rasika won the Lakshmi Viswanathan Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai for her solo performance in the Chennai Margazhi season.
Other Dance Forms
In addition to her career in Bharatanatyam, Rasika has also been training in Odissi at Guru Shradha under Smt. Niharika Mohanty with additional training under Smt. Sujata Mohapatra and Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. She initially trained under Smt. Asako Takami. Rasika has been fortunate to perform with Guru Shradha at the 2008 WestWave Dance Festival, the 2009 school opening, and in Bhubaneshwar at the 2011 Odissi International Festival.
Photos by Mariya Filippova