When Viji Rao first established Three Aksha dance company in 2002, her primary goal was to introduce classical Indian dance to youth. She put together dances to perform at libraries and other places in a variety of communities all across the country, practicing in a dance studio based on Greymont Street.
Rao never expected that one day her dance company would be invited to perform at Carnegie Hall. So when the company got the invite to perform there on Jan. 18 as part of an annual invitational “A Festival of Dance,” she couldn’t believe her excitement.
“We couldn’t believe it and we did not know how to react then, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Rao said.
Rao has been living in the Northeast since she moved here from England and started the company in 2002. She created a program teaching kids about classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam, which originated in southern India and focuses on facial expressions, tune and rhythm. The dance style has over 300 hand gestures with different meanings used to tell a story through dance.
A representative from Carnegie Hall was in the area and gave Rao a call. She didn’t know who they were until she Googled them, and had a few dancers who happened to be in the studio put on a performance. Shortly after, they were invited as one of 12 dance companies in the country to perform.
For their performance, the dancers will draw attention to their dance and choreography unaided by scenery or props. It is a challenging piece, with nine different rhythm patterns going on during the dance.
“It’s about bringing in the happiness and joy that this dance form has,” Rao said.
It’ll be a busy year for Three Aksha. It has 60 shows booked through the year so far, including 11 performances in Sri Lanka, Dubai and other cities in India this summer. Last year it performed at Wawa’s Welcome America celebration, the only Indian dance company to perform.
“We are open and always looking for new people to know about our art form and always looking forward to teaching and learning new art forms,” she said.
To learn more about Three Aksha or purchase tickets, visit ThreeAksha.org.