Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery. —Martha Graham
  • This production narrates a story of Krishna, the blue god, from his childhood spent stealing butter, to an adolescence of teasing milkmaids, to the pivotal moment in which he reveals himself in all his glory on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The musical score, commissioned by Three Aksha and composed by S.V. Balakrishna, reflects the movement vocabulary of the production and is based on classical music, incorporating the use of rare folk instruments such as the Edakka, the Udukku, and the Darbuka. Renowned Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar of India choreographed the Bharatanatyam aspects of the piece, while Artistic Director Viji Rao choreographed the folk forms and is the principal dancer in the production. The piece premiered at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater in Philadelphia and toured to Shekar Auditorium, Albany, NY; Sama Rathi Auditorium, Lemont, IL; and St. Mathew’s Auditorium Halifax, Canada in the summers of 2006 and 2007.


  • In this production, Rao filters the grammar of Bharatanatyam into its pure dance elements, which are synced with North Indian, rather than the traditional South Indian, music. This results in a exuberant burst of dancers filling the space and contracting into poses from temple frescoes, never stirring away from the traditional. The piece was choreographed by Rao and toured to Scottish Convention Theatre, Scotland; the Nehru Centre, London; and the Montgomery Bharathiya Temple Auditorium in Lansdale, PA in the spring of 2006. In May 2007, Abhika toured again to St. Mary’s Auditorium in Halifax, Canada; the Delaware Hindu Temple, Hockessin, DE; the Painted Bride Arts Center, Philadelphia; and Philadelphia’s Performance Garage.


  • Rao choreographed this production at the intersections between the movements of Bharatanatyam and ballet, a choice that is even mirrored in the piece’s music. Nrityantra is therefore an amalgam, showing Rao’s deep understanding of Bharatanatyam’s structure as well as her understanding of a dance form as different from it as ballet. Shoba Narayanan, a member of the Three Askha ensemble, was awarded an apprentice grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to perform this piece in 2007. Nrityantara toured to Shekhar Auditorium, Albany, and the Montgomery Bharathiya Temple Auditorium, Lansdale, PA.


  • At its core, Bharatanatyam is a structural mapping of numbers on a surface. In this production, Rao creates a dialogue between the numbers and the inherent spirituality of the form, resulting in a movement tapestry. Prayog showcases both the mathematics in dance and the dance in mathematics. This production premiered at the York Wood Theatre, Toronto, Canada and was also performed at St. Matthew’s Auditorium, Halifax, Canada in 2007. PRAYOG also toured 13 cities in the U.S. during the summer of 2008. The Indian government then invited Three Aksha to perform the piece in Delhi, Pune, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai in the summer of 2009.


  • In Uurja, Bharatanatyam-trained dancers explore the depth and scope of dance theory and movement through the spectrum of universal human emotions. Choreographed by Bragha Bessell and Rao, the piece has been presented in twenty-one venues in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey since the summer of 2010, including the Great Plaza (Philadelphia), JET Auditorium (NJ), Chateau Granier, (Philadelphia), Deemester Theatre (York), Elkin’s Oval (Philadelphia), Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the Allentown Symphony Hall, C.E.C. in Philadelphia, and Montgomery County Community College Auditorium.

Civilian/Warrior Revisited (collaboration with Miro Dance Theatre):

  • Directed by Miro Dance Theatre Artistic Director Tobin Rothlein, “Civilian/Warrior Revisited” weaves the 19th-century German play Woyzeck, Indian Kali myth, and interviews and imagery from recent war veterans to create a unique narrative on soldiers and citizens in our modern-day culture of war. This unique combination of live dance and projected image combines elements of documentary film, multi-screen video installation, and movement in hybrid between theatrical work and gallery installation. In creating the piece, Rothlein worked with a team of consultants and contributors, including Rao, Miro Dance Theatre Co-Director Amanda Miller, and Miro’s dancers. Her work on this piece represents Rao’s ability to bring classical Indian dance with different dance traditions to create innovative, cross-disciplinary performance in collaboration with other artists that appeal to a wide range of dance audiences, as well as her technical skills in Chauu, Kalarippayattu, and mask work. This work premiered as part of an open studio series in November 2008.

How Am I Not Myself? (collaboration with Miro Dance Theatre):

  • Born a couple of days apart on opposite sides of the world, Rao and Miro Dance Theatre Co-Director Amanda Miller both began their classical training at the age of four. Thirty years later, following professional classical careers, they are both engaged in their own unique forms of contemporary dance. In “How Am I Not Myself?,” together with Tobin Rothlein’s video work, Miller and Rao dance their stories in an exciting new work of mythology, media, and madness. How Am I Not Myself? premiered in December 2009 in Bangalore and Ahmadabad, India, and in January 2010 at the Painted Bride Arts Center, Philadelphia.

“Aniika: Love is a Battlefield”

  • As part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, inspired by the artistic spirit of 20th-century Paris, experimental performance artist Ryat, Cuban-born percussionist and composer Francois Zayas, and Rao combine their creative talents in live music, dance, video, and spoken word to follow the tale of a young couple who fight to defy their social stations for love. Aniika premiered at the Painted Bride Arts Center in April 2011.


  • Hindu philosophy says that life is temporary. It is created, sustained, and ultimately destroyed. Moksha, or “release,” is the final liberation of the soul from this cycle of death and rebirth. In Pushkara by Three Aksha Dance Ensemble, choreographed by Artistic Director Viji Rao, this journey through a life is revealed through the marriage of the rhythms of the tabla, a traditional Indian percussion instrument, and the extraordinary beauty of Bharatanatyam, a South Indian classical dance form.
  • The Sanskrit verses for Pushkara are chosen from the Upanishads, a collection of philosophical writings that were transcribed from the ancient oral tradition. Historians date their composition from around 800 to 400 B.C. “Upanishad” means inner or mystic teaching, and is derived from upa (near), ni (down), and s(h)ad (to sit), or “to sit down near.” The Upanishads form an early Hindu source at the very core of Indian philosophy. The piece was premiered at the Painted Bride Arts Center, Philadelphia for a three day dance festival in October of 2012. Since then the performance has traveled to 11 different venues in PA, NJ, Italy to name a few.