about artistic director

How can we know the dancer from the dance?
—William Butler Yeats

Viji Rao has over two decades of experience as a Bharatanatyam dance artist, choreographer, and teacher. Her Bharatanatyam choreographies have been called a “technical tour de force” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “dazzling choreographer”(Dance Journal), “excellent solo opener for Philadelphia Museum of Dance” ( Philadelphia Dance Magazine), “best female choreographer in keeping the authentic classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam style for next generation of dancers” ( thinking dance magazine” and she has been “hailed as a ‘theatrical visionary” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Rao began her training at the age of five, encouraged by her father and first dance teacher, Shiva Rao. She subsequently studied with artists like Shridhar, Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar and Bragha Bessell, very eminent artists from the Kalakshetra School of Bharatanatyam, where she found the movement vocabulary that enabled her to explore contemporary themes. During her eleven years as a professional dancer and choreographer based in the U.K., Rao worked with Chitraleka Dance Company, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Moby Duck, Sampad, Sampradaya Dance Company (Toronto), and Arangham Dance Company (Chennai).

In London, she also trained in traditional Indian martial arts forms, aerial and ballroom dancing, and contemporary dance at the London School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Since 2002, Rao has been based in Philadelphia, where she founded and serves as the artistic director of Three Aksha, a dance company and educational institution. She has served as an artist-in-residence at Girard College since 2008 and has taught Indian culture and aesthetics at Moore College of Art and Design, Temple University, York College, Drexel University and Penn State University, where she helped organize the incorporation of Bharatanatyam into the undergraduate theater studies program. Viji teaches in DANC 115 program as faculty for Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

Grants Viji Rao has received
  • 2020 Leeway Foundation WOO grant 
  • 2019 PCA Master Artist grant for Mahima George.
  • 2018 Missouri Council on the Arts Master Artist grant for Eswary Sriram.
  • 2017 PCA Master Artist grant for Amaeya George.
  • 2016 Arts and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation.
  • 2016 PCA Apprentice Grant from P.C.A.
  • 2014 PCA Master Artist grant for both Neha Nataraj and Rochitha Nathan through P.C.A.
  • 2012 choreography grant from Dance Advance.
  • 2012 Transformation Grant from Leeway Foundation.
  • 2008 Arts and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation.
  • 2008 Master Artist grant for Vandana Rao through P.C.A.
  • 2007-08 PPA grant for the creation of Dance Choreography.
  • 2008 Master Artist grant for Vandana Rao through P.C.A.
  • 2007 Master Artist grant for Ameetha Palanivel through N.J.C.A