Guru Ranjanaa Devi
Guru Ranjanaa Devi, artistic director of Nataraj Performing Arts of India is a specialist in the classical and folk dance styles of India.
She trained for twenty-two years in several classical dance and theater styles under eminent Indian performers and teachers -Guru Gopinath for Kathakali and Mohini Attam, Guru Valmiki Bannerjee for Bharata Natyam and folk styles and Gurus Mayadhar Raut and Deb Prasad Das for Odissi, in which she specialized and developed a unique style of her own – one is that is expressive, energetic and yet filled with delicate nuances. She holds graduate degrees in Indian music and musicology from Delhi University, India specializing in vocal music in the lineages of the Kirana and Agra gharana styles. Her research of temple rituals and texts relating to dance and prayer texts with leading Brahmanic scholars have resulted in acclaimed theatrical productions now acquired by libraries around the world.In 1982, she founded Nataraj Performing Arts of India, a non-profit educational and cultural organization for the promotion of performing arts of India in the United States. As the artistic director, dancer and choreographer she has presented innumerable concerts, festivals, workshops and cultural community events with her dance company Nataraj Dancers in national and international venues, touring and performing worldwide presenting performances, workshops and teaching classes. She organized a classroom teaching program on Indian arts and culture “Dancing for the Gods” for MCET interactive televised educational network. Ranjanaa and Nataraj Dancers are on the NEST artist roster in New England and present yearly residencies in the New England public school and private schools.
Ranjanaa has abiding interest and deep knowledge of the Asian performing arts that reflects in the unique artists and events she presents as the Founder Director of the Asian Arts and Culture Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center. She has received numerous awards for her work from New England Foundation for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Japan Society, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Spotlight Taiwan Fund among many others. She is Resident faculty at the Five College Dance Department and teaching at Mount Holyoke College. She is the recipient of two Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Senate Citation Awards (2007, 2013) for her outstanding contribution to the field of arts and for bridging cultural and artistic traditions of the East and West. She is a recipient of Japan Society of Boston Award for developing US-Japan Cultural Relations (2008).
Justine Lemos has received training from Guru Ranjanaa Devi in classical Indian Odissi dance since 1996 performing as a principle dancer with Nataraj Dancers at venues within the United States, India, Japan and elsewhere. She has studied Mohini Attam dance at Kerala Kalamandalam and at Nrithyashetra, in Kerala, India under various fellowships and grants including a Fulbright fellowship. Justine holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and an MA in Dance Studies. She has published articles in several scholarly journals on classical Indian dance history, semeiotics and aesthetics.
Akshaya Tucker began studying Odissi dance with Guru Ranjanaa Devi at age six, has performed with Nataraj dancers at numerous venues, from local schools to the Five Colleges, and was a member of the Nataraj Company Japan Tour in 2009. She recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University in 2015 with Honors in Music, and received the 2015 Madeira Award from the Brown Club of Rhode Island. She is an accomplished musician winning the Brown Orchestra’s Concerto Competition in 2012 on cello, and co-directed both Ragamala, Brown’s Classical Indian music group, and Fermata / Brown Composer’s Collective. Her thesis project Gyaan Kar Dekh/Perceive with Love, was a performance of music and dance that she composed, choreographed and performed. with a 16-member cast, exploring connections between Odissi dance, Hindustani and Western Classical music for which she received Brown’s Distinguished Senior Thesis Award. She hopes soon to attend graduate school in Composition for film and concert music.
Merli V. Guerra
Studied under Guru Ranjanaa Devi as a dance major at Mt. Holyoke college and began performing with the Nataraj Dancers in 2007 and continues to perform with the company. She is also Artistic Director of Luminarium Dance Company in Boston, a professional modern dancer and an award-winning interdisciplinary artist She has studied dance and performed roles on international tours to India (2007, 2012) and Japan (2009). Her choreographic works, films, and video art installations have been selected for presentation from New England to New York to the West Coast. Her work was chosen as in 2014 to be honored with the Massachusetts Cultural Councils prestigious 2015 Gold Star Award. Offstage, she designs the regions leading periodical in contemporary arts and culture as its Production Manager of Art New England magazine, and is a senior contributor and dance critic for The Art Fuse.
Pankti Dalal has studied Odissi with Guru Ranjanaa Devi for 12 years and has been performing in the Northeast area since 2010. In 2012 she began to assist Guru Devi in teaching beginner students basic Odissi technique. She currently attends Kenyon College and is a mathematics major and dance minor, with a focus on classical modern and post-modern technique. She has studied pedagogical dance philosophy and choreography at Kenyon. Pankti also teaches weekly brain-compatible movement classes to younger children to help them develop neuromuscular patterns at an early age to promote advance coordination in the future.
is a dancer and choreographer who has studied many movement styles including ballet, contemporary, Mexican Folklorico and Classical Indian dance. She has an MFA in performance and choreography from Smith College and a BA in dance from Hampshire College. She is currently studying to become a Physical Therapy Assistant, teaches ongoing yoga and one-on-one Gyrotonic sessions, an exercise system developed on dancers in NYC. Her own work has been performed through out Massachusetts and beyond.
Monica Bhowmik an eloquent dancer continues her thirteen years of learning with Guru Ranjanaa Devi. She has performed with the Company in notable performances Festival of Lights (2002-2005), In praise of Tara, Mudra: The Gesture Speaks among so many more. She has also performed in schools, Museums and community locations and been a part of Nataraj Dancers school residencies programs throughout New England. Monica was part of the Nataraj Dancers 2009 Japan tour. She teaches beginning and intermediate level classical dance classes for young children at the Nataraj Center for Arts of India.
Nidhi Mohan has received her training in Indian classical dance under the tutelage of Ranjanaa Devi since an early age. She has performed in India and in the US at several prestigious conferences and continues her learning and performing with the Nataraj Dancers in New England.
Papia Chanda has danced with the Nataraj Dancers in several Odissi performances and theatrical productions namely RagaMala: The Nine Jewels, Moksha, Chandalika. She was trained in the Bharata Natyam style in Kolkata India in early childhood and began learning Odissi with Guru Ranjanaa Devi when she moved the United States. She continues to assist Ranjanaa Devi in the presentation of residency programs.
Martha Furman Kojro
Martha Furman Kojro studied and performed with Guru Ranjanaa Devi from 1984-1996. She holds a BA in Art History from Umass/Amherst. Martha resides in Missouri where she leads twice weekly exercises classes and is active in a local arts community. She exhibits original crochet art in regional and national fiber arts shows.