Revered Bay Area-based dancer and educator Chitresh Das, master performer of the North Indian classical dance movement Kathak, died of an aortic dissection Sunday in Marin County. He was 70.
Chitresh Das, influential Kathak dancer and educator, dies
Born in Kolkata in 1944, Das brought his lifelong study of Indian dance to the United States in the 1970s, starting the Chhandam School of Kathak to instruct a younger generation in the semi-narrative art of Kathak. Chhandam now has ten branches and and estimated enrollment of 550 students.
He was a well-known and influential figure in the Bay Area Indian dance scene, as both a teacher and perfomer, and is credited with forming the first university Kathak course at San Francisco State University.
He is also remembered as a extraordinary entertainer and storyteller:
Das was an ecstatic presence, wild-eyed and haired, still performing his athletically demanding style of dance — with its 10 pounds of bells on each ankle and its rapid-fire foot-stampings — into his 70th year. Over the past decade it had become one of Das’ chief delights to test the physical virtuosity and musical sophistication of Kathak against other dance traditions. Last September, he appeared at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, soaked in sweat, in a friendly showdown with flamenco dancer Antonio Hidalgo Paz. His evening-length show with tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, “India Jazz Suites,” was a critical and popular hit and toured the country. (Their performances together are documented in the film Upaj, which means “improvise” in Hindi and aired on PBS last year.) In my own estimation, Das was always the winner of these cross-cultural contests.
Mr. Das is survived by his wife Celine Schein and daughters Shivaranjani and Saadhvi. Rest in peace.
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