Vijay Palaparty, Founder & Co-Artistic Director
Vijay received dance education in India and the United States, first commencing his study in Kuchipudi with Dr. K. Uma Rama Rao at Lasya Priya (Hyderabad). After completing his debut performance in 1994, Vijay began studying Bharatanatyam with Padma Rajagopal at Nupur Anjali School of Dance (Cleveland, OH), and completed his debut in 1997. During his undergraduate studies, he traveled to India with Colgate University’s (Hamilton, NY) India Study Group, which was led by Professor William Skelton, for a semester in 1999. Part of Vijay’s coursework included studying Bharatanatyam with Professor Sudharani Raghupathy at Shree Bharatalaya (Chennai). He has since been working with her and her senior disciples, Padma Raghavan from Silambam (Chennai) and Nalini Prakash (Washington, DC/Coonoor).
Vijay has also participated in workshops in Chennai with other dancers including Chitra Visweswaran (2001), G. Narendra and K. Mahalaxmi (2001). To augment his practice, Vijay studied Carnatic vocal music with Shakuntala Murthy (Cleveland) and Rajalakshmi Narayan (Chennai). Further, Vijay practices yoga, having received initial instruction at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (Chennai).
For more than two decades, Vijay performed widely in the United States, India and in Australia. He presented debut performances in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam in Hyderabad. Vijay frequently performed at universities in the United States—including Cleveland State University (Cleveland, OH), Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH), Bucknell University (Lewsiburg, PA), Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) and Colby College (Lewiston, ME). Additionally, he frequently presented performances at national, regional and local cultural and community events. A noteworthy performance took place at the Thyagaraja Festival in Melbourne, Australia in 1998.
During the India Study Group in 1999, Vijay had the honor of performing at the Mysore Palace during Dassera celebrations, presenting a solo performance for the royal Wodeyar family descendants. Additionally, he worked with Shree Bharatalaya and Colgate University on Silappadikaram: A Tale of Puhar in 2003, playing the lead role of Kovalan. The performances played at major venues in Chennai including Narada Gana Sabha, Brahma Gana Sabha and Krishna Gana Sabha during the dance and music festival season.
In Pittsburgh, Vijay worked with Sreyashi Dey and her company, Srishti Dances of India from 2000 to 2007, taking part in many company productions including Chitrangada (with Odissi dance and Rabindra Sangeeth music ensemble, 2001), Ramayana (with Odissi, Bharatanatyam and Indonesian dance, and Indonesian Gamelan Hindustani and Carnatic music ensembles 2001), Varnam: Myriad Hues of South Indian Dance (with Bharatanatyam dance and Carnatic music ensemble, 2002), and Yaatra: Journey (with Odissi and contemporary dance, 2003).
In the past few years, Vijay has continued to perform in the United States and India. Through his organization, Spilling Ink (Washington, DC), founded in 2007, he has presented projects in India at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Chennai), Brahma Gana Sabha (Chennai), Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University (Hyderabad), Ravindra Bharati (Hyderabad), Seva Sadan (Bangalore), and Srujana/Abhinava Dance Company (Bangalore). In 2013, the organization was presented by Natyanjali at temples in South India--Tiruvarur, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Tanjavur--as part of its dance festival during Sivaratri.
The organization frequently presents its work in the Washington, DC metropolitan area at venues such as the Atlas Performing Arts Center (Washington, DC), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland (College Park, MD) and Creative Alliance (Baltimore, MD). Additionally, the organization travels with its projects to venues throughout the United States including Colgate University (Hamilton); Syracuse, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Houston, TX.
As founder and co-artistic director of Spilling Ink, Vijay produces and presents multidisciplinary literary, visual and performing arts projects. He co-choreographs with Co-Artistic Director Nalini Prakash. For more than a decade, Vijay created and led education and outreach programs through Gateway to the Arts in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region, and Class Acts Arts in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. His responsibilities also include all administrative and operational aspects of running a professional organization, including marketing and public relations, writing and design, grantwriting and fundraising, program and project management, and strategic planning.
Read more in the Work section of the website.
Recognition and Support
Vijay was awarded two artist fellowships from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities in Washington, DC through artistic excellence. He was also recognized through DCCAH’s Young Artist Program, which recognizes young segments of Washington, DC who create art and contribute to the vitality of the city.
While in Pittsburgh, Vijay received numerous grants from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Puffin Foundation, and his projects while as an undergraduate and graduate student were fully underwritten by his alma matter, Carnegie Mellon University. For his project, Varnam: Myriad Hues of South Indian Dance, Vijay received the Elizabeth Jones Award in the Humanities and the Arts from Carnegie Mellon University. Also, he received a Senior Leadership Award for his contributions to diversity and performing arts at the university.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and two master’s degrees—in professional writing and in literary and cultural studies, Vijay is a senior communications specialist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (Washington, DC). He also completed his M.B.A. in 2012 at the University of Maryland (College Park, MD).
Nalini Prakash, Co-Artistic Director
Nalini’s training in Bharatanatyam began at the age of three in Hyderabad. She learned briefly from Sumathy Kaushal, who was instrumental in recognizing potential talent in her, and suggested she identify a teacher who could nurture her talent when the family moved to Chennai. Over the next 20 years, Nalini developed her passion for dance under the guidance of Professor Sudharani Raghupathy at Shree Bharatalaya (Chennai). The school not only provided her with training in dance, but also in music, theory, Sanskrit and nattuvangam. To further develop her skills in music and its intricacies, Nalini opted to pursue her bachelor's degree in classical Indian music along with Indian Philosophy and culture at Queen Mary’s College (Chennai). She also took private lessons in music from Professor S. Ramanathan, and veena lessons from his daughters. Nalini went on to receive her master's degree in performing arts (Bharatanatyam) from the Maharaja Sayajirao University (Baroda), with Professor C.V Chandrasekhar as the department chair.
Performance and Recognition
Within two years of training under Sudharani Raghupathy, Nalini had her debut at the age of ten, which began her career as a solo performer. Thereafter, she performed in many prominent sabhas in Chennai, and even received the prestigious Government of India Scholarship for dance. The Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram recognized Nalini's excellence as a dancer and provided her with a platform to perform at Karaikudi, Neyveli, Karur and Pollachi, in its effort to promote dance in rural areas. Nalini also won the prestigious scholarship from the Kalamandir Trust, which selected her as the best dancer in its dance series. While she was a student at Queen Mary’s College, Nalini was chosen as the best dancer for three consecutive years, and she also worked with Dr. Padma Subramaniam during the centenary celebrations of the Madras University, where she took a main role in the dance production Valli Kalyanam. During her time at M.S University (Baroda), Nalini performed in and around Baroda and also in Delhi in productions choreographed by Professor C.V Chandrasekhar. After graduating, she continued to perform all over India, and went on to win the Yuva Kala Bharathi award from Bharath Kalachar. She was also honored with the Bharatha Kala Bhushana by her alma mater, Shree Bharatalaya, during its silver jubilee celebrations. Nalini has been featured in television programs including Adal Arangam on Doordarshan, and has also performed for the television series, Bharatanjali, hosted by Sudharani Raghupathy. Nalini was featured in Dances of India, created by filmmaker Prakash Jha and in DVDs on dance that have been published and distributed worldwide.
As one of the requirements of her training, Nalini started teaching younger students of dance at Shree Bharatalaya soon after her arangetram. After she left Chennai and moved to Coonoor in the Nilgiris, Nalini recognized a pressing need for cultural and artistic education among youth, which resulted in the founding of Silambam, a school for Bharatanatyam and allied arts. Over 15 years, Nalini taught over 500 students through her school Silambam in Coonoor, Ooty and Mettupalayam, and also as part of the dance faculty of three schools in the Nilgiris. Her students were recognized for their talent and dedication through Government of India scholarships, and were invited to perform in and around the Nilgiris. Nalini continued to strive towards maintaining a high level of knowledge and skill in her own dance, and expected the same of her students. She exposed her students to guest faculty, whom she invited from Chennai, in an effort to offer more learning opportunities. Over the years, Silambam established itself as a premiere institution in the Nilgiris known for its high standards, and grandly celebrated its 10th anniversary over three days. The organization went on to celebrate its 15th and 20th anniversaries as well. Currently Nalini trains advance students of dance in Washington, DC who are interested in improving their skills in technique and also building repertoire.
Apart from her school, Nalini also founded the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Nilgiris Kendra, part of a larger national institute committed to Indian culture, heritage and education. Through the Kendra, she founded a platform to promote arts education, and also created educational and artistic programming in collaboration with internationally renowned classical Indian performing arts artists. Further, Nalini introduced SPIC MACAY (Society For the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth) to the Nilgiris, and was actively involved in coordinating performances in educational institutions, in order to expose the youth to the Indian arts and culture. To recognize her efforts in bringing the arts to an underserved area, the Rotary Club of Nilgiris presented Nalini with an award for Vocational Excellence. After moving to the United States, Nalini was a roster artist with Class Acts Arts in Washington, DC and with Gateway to the Arts in Pittsburgh, through which she conducted arts education and outreach programs on classical Indian dance and music in schools, community centers and universities. She also empowered over 200 elementary school children through creative movement and Indian dance practice through the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership/School District of Philadelphia Summer Enrichment Program.
Nalini spent 15 years as a volunteer at Udhavi in Coonoor, a center for children with physical and mental disabilities, working with them to enhance physical, cognitive and social skills, both in individual and group settings. She also facilitated dance movement sessions to increase mobility, to engage them, and to further develop interaction. However, Nalini felt the need to obtain professional training to advance her skills in her work with the children. After attending a workshop in dance therapy with Tripura Kashyap in Hyderabad, she made the decision to acquire a masters degree in dance/movement therapy and enrolled in the program at Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA). Her internships included work with adult psyche, autistic children, middle school children with emotional and behavioral problems, and children with cerebral palsy. She also worked with a young Indian dancer who was recovering from a stroke, to help her with body image and self-esteem issues. This young adult was Nalini’s inspiration for her masters thesis titled, The Impact of Stroke on Body Image and Self-Esteem in Young Adults: Understanding Implications for Dance/Movement Therapy in the Rehabilitation Process of this Population. Currently Nalini works as a dance/movement therapist at Saint Elizabeths Hospital (Washington, DC) with chronically mentally ill adults in forensics. She integrates creative movement with Indian dance elements in order to help individuals express themselves through a safe and non-threatening medium. To deepen her knowledge and assessment skills, Nalini completed a certificate program offered by the Laban Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) in New York, and is a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA). She is also the chairperson of the MD/DC/VA chapter of the American Dance Therapy Association.