Chitra Visweswaran is famed as one of the leading Bharatnatyam dancer of India. A competent performer, teacher and choreographer, she heads her own dance institution, ‘Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA)’, at Chennai.
Chitra’s association with dance began early at the tender age of three from her own mother, Smt. Rukmini Padmanabhan, an excellent dancer herself. She took up Western Classical Ballet in London where her father was Railway Adviser at the Indian High Commission. This was followed by training in Manipuri and Kathak in Calcutta. Chitra started training under Smt. T. A. Rajalakshmi which continued for 10 years. Under her guidance, talented Chitra could achieve a level of proficiency and she choreographed her first dance at the age of eleven.
In 1970, she received the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatnatyam from the Ministry of Human Resources Development and went for training under the Bharatnatyam exponent Vazhuvoor Ramaiyya Pillai. On completion of her scholarship, she started working on her own. Chitra’s husband, R. Visweswaran a vocalist, composer and santoor player is also an artist in his own right. Together they are considered a contributive force to be reckoned with in the field of Indian Dance and Music. Chitra has performed in all major dance festivals in India and toured abroad often. Her dance and lecture-demonstrations have been documented for reference by various institutions and universities.
Chitra has contributed her own concepts to the traditional Indian dance style through her experimentation and innovations. She produced and choreographed several dance dramas in her own style which were highly appreciated. Some of them are ‘Devi Ashta Rasa Malika’, ‘Panchali’ based on Subramania Bharathi’s Panchali Sabadam, ‘Raghuvamsa Thilakam’, ‘Ayothi Mannan’, ‘Dwarakanatham Bhaje’, Dasavatharam’, ‘Nritya Srinkhala’.
She has bagged many credits and awards for her contribution towards Bharatnatyam. She is the first dancer to be invited to occupy the Rabindranath Tagore Chair of Fine Arts in the University of Madras. She is also a member of the General Council and Executive Board of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. In 1980, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha awarded the ‘Nritya Choodamani’ to Chitra. In 1982, the Government of Tamilnadu give her the title, ‘Kalaimamani’. She received the ‘Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award’ in 1987 and the ‘Padma Shri’ in 1992. She was also awarded the titles of ‘Mahila Shiromani’ and ‘sthree Ratnam’. Now she is involved in teaching and helps to collect funds for ‘RASA’, an institute using creative dance and music therapy for special children with learning disabilities.