Chitra Vairavan is a contemporary Indian dancer and choreographer of Tamil/South Indian-American descent. Vairavan is immersed in both Tamil culture and progressive brown politics in the U.S. She dances to heal and creates dance to help heal others. Her embodied practice and experimental process is rooted in deep listening, freedoms, poetry, vulnerability and ancestral memory.
As a 2016 McKnight Dancer Fellow, Vairavan collaborated with Eiko Otake of Eiko and Koma for her fellowship concert in September 2018. Their process work together sparked her journey in Eiko’s The Duet Project / 2 - 1 = 1 plus memory. Named "25 to Watch" by Dance Magazine in 2017, her recent dance experiences have freed her art and artistic-thinking earning her various accolades over the years. Vairavan received the SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer in 2015 and was recognized as “Artist We Love” by Minnesota Monthly in September 2011 among other recognition as a result of years of work in her co-founding dance company, Ananya Dance Theatre.
In terms of her current creative work, Vairavan embarks on a new and exciting period of experimentation and creation in 2019, exploring the cross-pollination of visual art and dance based work, It began with her solo, One Removed, presenting in Choreographer’s Evening 2018 at The Walker Art Center. More about the collaborative piece can be found in this reflection by artist and educator Maija Brown. Vairavan then shared the culminating work of her 2018 Naked Stages Fellowship, exploring site-specific durational performance on January 2019.
Chitra Vairavan grew up in Milwaukee, WI to two Tamil-Immigrant parents who instilled in her the importance of her ancestry, language and cultural roots from birth. They drove her and her sister to Chicago, IL every weekend to learn dance and connect with her Tamil-American community and family throughout the late 80s and 90s. Their commitment to her artistic growth and cultural knowledge set the stage of her foundations and love of the arts. Art was a matter of survival in the American landscape from there.
Vairavan learned classicial Indian dance under various gurus throughout her childhood, most notably Hema Rajagopalan based in Chicago, IL. Once she began higher education her interests took her toward contemporary and political issues as she embarked on a journey of contemporary Indian dance and social justice at the University of Minnesota, under the mentorship and artistic leadership of Dr. Ananya Chatterjea. Vairavan became a founding member of Ananya Dance Theatre company in 2004 and continued to grow, learn and share alongside a group of powerful women artists of color for 13 years. It was that momentum that nurtured her various contemporary Indian dance explorations and offerings throughout the Twin Cities and abroad. Most notable is her dance collaborative work with Aniccha Arts since 2007, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Pramila Vasudevan.