SAN FRANCISCO — Chitresh Das, a renowned practitioner and teacher of the kathak form of Indian classical dance, has died. He was 70.
The San Francisco-based Chhandam School of Kathak, which Das founded, said in a statement that he died in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday after suffering a tear in his aorta.
Das brought kathak to the United States in the 1970s around the same time that Indian classical music was gaining popularity in the country thanks to the likes of Ravi Shankar.
Kathak uses dance and facial expressions as a way to help tell a story. Many kathak pieces rely on ancient Indian epics as source material.
Das was known for his fast spins and powerful, rhythmic footwork accompanied by the sound of bells he wore around his ankles.
Antonia Minnecola, a Kathak dancer who studied under Das early in her career, told the Marin Independent Journal (http://bit.ly/1IsWtxz ) he was a "dynamo."
"This is a terrible loss to the Indian dance and music community," she said.
Das was born in Kolkata, India, in 1944. He came to the U.S. in 1970 to teach kathak at the University of Maryland, according to a biography on the website of his school.
He was later invited to California by another prominent Indian artist, musician Ali Akbar Khan, and went on to establish his own school.
Das was the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship and numerous awards.