American Natya Lifetime Achievement Award

American Natya Festival has tradition to honor the great servants of classical dance who devoted and gave their life to promote Indian Classical dance in USA. This is a token of representation to show our “Thank you” for their time, dedication and contribution. Life time achievers have made a change in their communities; created a space and highlighted Indian classical dance in the middle of American culture, true to the spirit of this country’s tradition, which values freedom of expression to everyone. These unique personalities gave the awareness of knowledge and existence of ancient dance traditions to west by teaching one child at a time; by performing to one group of new set of people. It is just awe to see their life’s work. There are many more, than we have recognized. We bow to all these great minds.


Guru Rathna Kumar 

Rathna Kumar is an internationally renowned danseuse, teacher and choreographer, and the Founder-Director of the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, the first Indian dance school in Texas, established in 1975, and one of the first in the US.

Rathna Kumar, Houston’s prominent dance icon, is the foremost pioneer on the Indian arts scene, having established, 35 years ago, in 1975, the first institute of its kind in Texas – the AnjaliCenter for Performing Arts. Many in this country and elsewhere consider Rathna as the Indian cultural ambassador to the Unites States. She is an outstanding teacher, brilliant choreographer and exceptional dancer, always keeping in pace with the times but with a deep respect for tradition and classicism. From humble beginnings, the AnjaliCenter has grown into a comprehensive art institute and a formidable training ground for young and talented people in a variety of Indian art forms. The phenomenal strides made by Anjali in these past three and a half decades mark it as a microcosm of joy, energy, awareness, sense of accomplishment and integrity.

Rathna has trained over 2000 students from different ethnic backgrounds from all over the US, and has been recognized by many organizations – Young Audiences of Houston, Miller Theater Advisory Board, Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and UNESCO’s International Dance Council – as a true cultural ambassador of Indian performing arts in the US. She is the author of two illustrated books on the fundamental techniques of Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi.

Rathna has taught Master Classes and courses in dance at the University of Houston, Houston Community College, High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Houston Ballet Academy, Trinity University (San Antonio), Towson State College (Maryland), University of Ann Arbor (Michigan), Academy of Fine Arts (London , UK), University of Texas (Austin and Dallas). She is currently teaching a credit course in Bharata Natyam at Rice University, Houston. She has also been a Teaching Artist with the Young Audiences of Houston for the past twelve years.

Guru Sudha Chandrashekar

'Natya Veda Bharati' Sudha Chandra Sekhar is Michigan's foremost senior exponent on the Classical Dance Arts of India and a former Government of India Scholarship Winner (chosen by Smt. Rukmini Arundale and E. Krishna Iyer). She has performed for an international audience of dignitaries and celebrities over her decades as an artist, including India's First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. For the past 44 years she has wholly dedicated herself to the preservation and promotion of the dance arts as taught to her by the Gurus of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kalamandir of Mumbai. Sudha has presented 75 students in their Bharata Natyam Arangetrams to date. Her academy 'Nritya Sudha's Hindu Temple Rhythms' boasts over 300 students in the U.S. and Canada, and her award-winning performance troupe 'The Vidyanjali Dancers' have been featured in numerous publications, television specials and even in the Michigan Opera Theatre's 2002 production of the French Opera 'Lakme' -- trained and joined by Sudha herself. Among her many esteemed titles and awards are the Michigan Dance Council's Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), and most recently the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana's 'Nritya Seva Mani Award' (2010).

Whats included ?

A citation from American Natya Festival ; A check for $1000 ; A performance by students of Gurus
Previous winners


Guru Mythili Kumar (San Jose, CA)

Guru Hema Rajagopalan (Chicago, IL)


Guru Kamala Lakshman (New York, NY)


Guru Viji Prakash (Los Angeles, CA)


Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan

Revathy Satyu

Asha Prem