Hema Rajagopalan was born in Chennai, India in 1951. A prodigy in Bharata Natyam, classical Indian dance, Hema performed as a soloist throughout her childhood. She arrived in Chicago in 1974 and began teaching Bharata Natyam to the children in her community as a means of connecting them with their cultural heritage. Her company, Natya Dance Theatre, evolved from her classes and to date, Hema has choreographed over 35 evening-length productions and several short works which involve collaborations with several Chicago performing arts companies and musicians from India.
Hema reflects on her impressions of Chicago when she arrived in 1974 and the circumstances under which she returned to performing and teaching Bharata Natyam dance. She credits several Chicago arts resources for aiding in the formation of her company, Natya Dance Theatre, and outlines her vision of presenting the best of both the classical and contemporary in the form through choreography and education.