Executive Artistic Director
Pranita (Jain) Nayar is an Indian classical dancer, choreographer, company director, curator and producer. A graduate of the Centre for Indian Classical Dances in New Delhi, India, she trained for nine years with one of India's foremost Bharata Natyam dancers, Padma Vibhushan Sonal Mansingh. Jain relocated to the United States in 1985, earning a Masters in Dance Ethnography from the University of Illinois.
Nayar has received many accolades in the United States and India. The Consulate of India has acknowledged her with the Honor of Distinction for "sustaining and promoting India's multi-faceted, rich cultural heritage in the United States and for enriching the cultural and social profile of the Indian-American community." The venerable Maharaja Gaj Singh of Marwar, the oldest surviving member of a royal family dating back to the 15th century, has recognized Jain for her artistic accomplishments as the "Dance Jewel of Rajasthan."
Nayar has performed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC; Lincoln Center in New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Newark Museum; Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, India; the prestigious Darpana Academy in Ahemdaabad, India; and the Habitat World Center in New Delhi, India. She was honored to be invited to perform at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2006, she taught and choreographed international pop star Shakira for her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.
In addition to performing, Nayar is a dedicated and highly sought-after educator. She is an eight-time recipient of the Master Teacher Award from the Illinois Arts Council. Her teaching encompasses master and ensemble classes, as well as introductory workshops for those who seek insight into her practice. Among others, Nayar has taught at Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois, the Art Institute of Chicago, Wayne State University, Franklin & Marshall College, and Chicago Public Schools.
Nayar brings new energy to the choreography and rhythm of her chosen dance form. Skilled in the story telling component of Bharata Natyam—where the dancer uses hand gestures and facial expressions to describe the symbolism and mythology of Hindu myths—she has been increasingly drawn to and motivated by the art and symbolisms of other faiths and cultures.
Her dance company is lauded and widely-recognized. While their foundation springs from tradition and the diverse influences of India, her company is constantly adapting to remain attuned to a transnational audience.
As a curator of dance and music, Nayar has spanned the US presenting one-of-a-kind artists including the electrifying violinist L Subramaniam; the Rajasthani folk group Rupayan; India's foremost dhurpad musicians, the Gundecha Brothers; and Sidi Goma, the Black Sufi's of Gujarat. She continually seeks new influences to inspire and expand her aesthetic. She returns to India annually to connect and exchange ideas with other artists in order to stay current and enrich her knowledge of evolving Indian performance and culture.