Dr Nalini Rau is a leading dancer, teacher, and choreographer of BharataNatyam in the legendary Dandayudapani Pillai bani. BharataNatyam, thousands of years old, evolved in South Indian temples. Dr Rau has preserved, evolved and innovated this ancient art form.


Dr Rau has preserved the repertoire of her legendary teacher, Guru K.N. Dakshinamoorthy Pillai, transmitted in the ancient oral tradition of the guru shishya parampara, by establishing the Natya Anubhava Dance Academy. She is one of the leading disciples of her Guru in the US.


Dr Rau while preserving the solo nature of the artform, went onto experiment with the traditional technique in a series of dance ballets. She chose innovative new themes for BharataNatyam grounded in modernity. BharataNatyam traditionally deals with mythology, spiritual and mundane emotions. Dr Rau's innovation lies in applying the traditional style and techniques to contemporary issues. She has choreographed, directed and performed dance ballets on various current issues: Strength of women (Naari), corruption, war and phases of life (Jivan) and respect for universal values (Govina kathe). She has also created dance ballets on traditional themes such as Devi Saraswati, Krishna, Dasha Avatara, Geeta Govinda, and Nauka Chararitramu. She has evolved her technique to include elements of theater and mime (abhinaya). She delves deep into each item bringing out not just the literal meaning but also the inner meaning intended by the composer. Many of these innovations evolved from an effort to make the art accessible to her students and to her audience. She has choreographed several pieces in more than 13 languages for her students. She has also written original scripts and poetry for her dance productions, composed jathis/rhythmic patterns and verses. She has been interpreting Tagore's poetry through dance for over twenty years. She has choreographed new vibrant pushpanjalis, jathiswarams, varnams, thillanas and javalis.

Dr Rau has trained over 150 students at Natya Anubhava; 24 of them were trained for a two hour solo stage debut known as Arangetram. Her students receive a solid foundation in pure dance, expression (Abhinaya), the underlying theory, philosophy and mythology. Many of Dr Rau's students are Indian Americans, raised with both Western and Indian values. Dr Rau facilitates their self-expression through dance, story telling, and connecting the ancient stories to our contemporary lives - highlighting the universal themes of struggle, dilemma and victory. Performing in dance ballets gives her students enormous scope to grow. Students from different cultures come to her for dance lessons. She molds her lessons individually to suit the student's background and ensures that they learn the art with complete clarity. She teaches regularly to students of non-Indian heritage at "Something Good in the World". She also taught for 2 summers at Westchester Ballet and trained them well enough to perform a recital. She loves all her students and teaches her art with a passion

Some of her choreography can be found in these youtube links
Westchester Arts Council
Classical Indian Dance at Greenburgh Library
Meghna (Maya) Rau-Murthy Bharatanatyam
Hanuman Varnam
Arangetram Demo
Lakshmi Damodara Arangetram Highlights

Dr Rau's student Rohini Kurup made a small documentary here on her Guru for her arangetram.


Dr Rau is an accomplished dancer and nattuvunar (conductor of the dance & orchestra). She and her students have performed extensively, in the local community, nationally, and internationally: at the Arts Westchester, Lincoln Center, NYC Town Hall, Jewish museum, Hammond museum, Krannert Center for Performing Arts, Illinois, the United Nations, Tarrytown Music Hall, Irvington Town hall center, Westchester county center, White Plains Performing Arts Center, AKKA Baltimore, Paramount theater Peekskill, Kannada Koota NY, India Center of Westchester, Flushing Hindu Temple, Sri Ranganatha Temple, LipiLekha, White Plains wellness clinics, Racial Harmony coalition, numerous schools, colleges, temples, hospices, libraries and at community events in the Tri state area. She has also performed internationally at several sites including Marghazi in Chennai, Finlandia Talo Helsinki, and at the World Religions conference in Queens NY.


Dr Rau received numerous felicitations in the course of her long career. She received the Natya Nava Ratna award from the President of India, his excellency Dr The Westchester county board of legislators recognized her work by proclaiming June 1st 2013 as Dr Nalini Rau day, and Natya Anubhava Academy of Classical Dance day. The Office of the Westchester County executive awarded her a Certificate of Distinguished service for her invaluable service to the community. She received an award for promotion of the art and culture from Indian American Cultural Association of India, for individual talents and contributions from the Shri Vishnu Mandir of Connecticut, from SRIM center Atlanta, the SMVA Trust USA, and from the Kannada Koota of New York. As a linguist, she was conferred the Uggersein award in Linguistics from the University of Delhi.

Community Service

Dr Rau has been a community leader in Westchester. She held several fundraisers through performances for the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Gujarat & Turkey earthquakes, for pure drinking water, housing and education for the underprivileged in India.


Journal news featured Guru Dr Nalini Rau on the occasion of the 20th year anniversary of Natya Anubhava dance academy.

Dr Rau was featured for one of her dance dramas in India New England

Dr Rau published some of her poems in "A Journey - A collection of poems", Gandhar Creations, Bangalore, 2007

She published musings about her Guru in the magazine of India Westchester Center. The scan for that is here. Dr Rau also published an obituary for her Guru in Narthaki magazine

She wrote a series of articles on Bharata Natyam while working as a young trainee journalist for two years in the fortnightly India Tidings with the well known journalist K.Srinivasan in New Delhi.

Dr Rau did her doctoral thesis in linguistics:
Rau, Nalini. 1987. Say (abs.) as a quotative marker: evidence for convergence in Kannada and Marathi. In Bashir, Elena and Hook, P. E. and Deshpande, M. M. (eds.), Select papers from SALA-7: South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable Conference (held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 17-19, 1985), 269-282. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.

Verb agreement in Kannada: A constraint based account
Source Type Dissertation
Subjects Linguistics
Publication Number 3301215


Like branches of a tree few of Nalini's students have gone onto become wonderful dancers in their own right. They use dance to support social initiatives such as the fight against drugs, Rural Education in India etc. Some of those links can be found below:
Kala Dhaara
Dance Against Drugs
Lok Vani
India New England Kaladhara
Maya Rau Murthy

Dr. Nalini Rau