Kiran Rajagopalan is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, writer, and educator based in New Jersey. Born and raised in the United States, he had his early training in Bharatanatyam from Asha Prem, Prasanna Kasthuri, and Sujatha Srinivasan. From 2007-2014, he lived in Chennai, India to continue his advanced training in Bharatanatyam with A. Lakshmanaswamy and Bragha Bessell. He also studied Carnatic violin with A. Kanyakumari and Anusha Sreeram and Bhagavata Mela Natakam under the guidance of S. Natarajan. Kiran has given many acclaimed performances in India, Indonesia, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States.
Kiran graduated with a B.A. (magna cum laude) in Behavioral Neuroscience and Spanish from Boston University in 2008, an M.A. (honors) in Bharatanatyam from University of Madras in 2010, and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University in 2015.
Alongside his performances, Kiran regularly conducts workshops, lectures, and demonstrations on Indian classical dance, aesthetics, and neuroscience. In 2017, he co-founded Daya Arts, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which aims to bridge diasporic communities of color through original, high-quality artistic productions rooted in West African and South Asian visual and performing arts. To date, Daya Arts has organized two sold-out showcases of South Asian LGBTQI+ artists at BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance and produced three original dance-based works – Sāmityam, Twin Rivers, and Vaiśravaṇa. Kiran is currently an adjunct faculty in Marymount Manhattan College’s Department of Dance.
Photo Credit: Madhavi Reddi
Vaiśravaṇa, commonly known as Kubera, is the Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu deity of wealth in the form of natural resources, currency, and commerce. In some depictions, he is the pot-bellied, self-serving, dark-skinned ruler of the Yakshas – an indigenous tribe of magical healers and shamans coveted for their knowledge of Earth’s secrets but feared by “respectable” society. In others, he is the radiant, noble, golden-skinned guardian of the north and official treasurer to the gods.
His shapeshifting in religious art and literature is reflective of South Asian society’s framing of good and evil around wealth, caste, and complexion. His endurance in collective consciousness symbolizes mankind’s relentless pursuit of wealth in an era dominated by consumerism and driven by instant gratification. These themes will be explored in three acts, each of which is dedicated to a specific South Asian classical dance style, geographic region, and time period.
This solo work by Kiran Rajagopalan has been commissioned by Prakriti Dance and will premiere in full at their “Festival of Solos” on October 20, 2019. The first act, performed in the Kandyan dance style of Sri Lanka, will be presented for Ramapo College’s Made in New Jersey series.
Vaiśravaṇa Bonus Materials
Photo Credit: Shravya Kag & Logo Design by Sangeetha Kowsik