Pandit (a term used to denote a master) Chitresh Das was schooled in the North Indian dance tradition, Kathak, from the age of nine by his guru Pandit Ram Narayan Misra. He learned both the percussive and sensual elements of Kathak, including the solo tradition in which the dancer is required to go on stage without any prior rehearsal and execute improvised rhythms, compositions, and storytelling for two to three hours. When he danced for the master tabla artist Samta Prasad as a youngster, Prasad commented, "Baccha nai hai; chacha hai" (He is not a child; he is an uncle). Das's performing career in India was launched when he was invited by Ravi Shankar to dance at the first Rimpa Festival in Benares. In 1970, he received a Whitney Fellowship through the University of Maryland to teach Kathak, and the following year Ali Akbar Khan invited him to be an instructor at the Ali Akbar College of Music in California. By 1980, Das had founded his own school. For the past 38 years, he has been teaching and mentoring students and maintaining a vigorous performing schedule. Recently, Pandit Das has been involved in creating and choreographing cross-cultural touring performances including East as Center, a piece combining Indian and Indonesian master performers, and India Jazz Suites, a collaboration between Das and young tap dancing phenom Jason Samuels Smith. He recently opened a school in honor of his parents in Kolkata to teach dance in the red light and lower income districts and to build bridges with the youth of India.
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