Padmashri Geeta Chandran is a Bharatanatyam dancer cum Carnatic vocalist who is one of modern India's most recognisable classical performers. Based out of New Delhi, her career spans over five decades, with performances across various media platforms, including television, radio and films. Her most significant contribution, however, is to bridge the ethos of traditional Bharatanatyam and contemporary preferences. Here, her work, intensely loyal to the tenets of India's oldest art form, acts as a shield preserving its essence for future generations.
She was born in Mattancherry, Kerala, but spent most of her formative years in Delhi. Her journey in dance began at the tender age of five, when Guru Swarna Saraswathy, a formidable force in the Thanjavur dasi style, took charge of her training. Here, she fell deeply in love with dance, as her Guru's genius at Abhinaya, excellent vocals, and overall artistic excellence profoundly impacted her. These observations helped her build a multi-faceted approach towards dance, stepping away at a young age from a unidimensional perspective towards Bharatanatyam.
In the 1990s, she was guided by Guru K.N. Dakshinamurthi Pillai, who encouraged her to engage with her art more personally. A deeper focus on adavus and jatis, along with a fundamental understanding of the finer nuances of stagecraft, were firmly imbibed in her. She also studied under Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Guru Jamuna Krishnan, a talented dancer and composer renowned for her vibrant performances.
Guru Jamuna introduced her to her teacher, Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, an Abhinaya expert, and it was from this point that Guru Geetha's distinct style sprang to the forefront. The input from each of her gurus, combined with her interpretation of the world and Bharatanatyam, gave birth to a manner that is distinctly her own.
Guru Geeta Chandran's style is known to surprise audiences and experts alike. Her Abhinaya, including a vast range of facial expressions accompanied by expert control over movements, is what has made her beloved to the masses. While she firmly adheres to the classical style of Bharatanatyam, her ability to include contemporary takes in her presentation is what sets her apart. There is minimal attempt to over-commercialize any performance, yet her productions are always close to the current state of the world.
Her versatility, firm foundation, depth of knowledge and devotion to the art form have enchanted audiences for decades. Her constant focus on improving herself helps her stay in tune with the world's rhythm; this ability to evolve while staying true to her core is her greatest strength. She engages a strategic range of dance-related activities : performing, teaching, and singing. Her fierce pride in adhering to the classics and avoiding needless gimmicks have made her a mainstay in Indian classical dance for decades.
Her flagship project, the Natya Vriksha Dance Company, is among India's premier training academies and production houses for Bharatanatyam. The Government of India awarded her its fourth highest civilian prize, the Padmashri, in 2007. Further recognition of her work came from India's apex cultural body, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which honoured her contributions towards Bharatanatyam in 2016 and Tagore national Fellowship (2018-2021). She is a mainstay in domestic and global cultural events, where her insight and repertoire are highly sought. She was also UNESCO’s South Asia Advocate for Artists in the covid-19 pandemic. Her book, So Many Journeys, chronicles her path in dance and gives the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the arduous yet fulfilling path she has had to take.