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Pandit Chitresh Das, World-Renowned Kathak Master, Dies

Pandit Chitresh Das, classical Indian dance master, has died at the age of 70 in San Francisco, California.
Pandit Chitresh Das during a solo Kathak performance in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pandit Chitresh Das during a solo Kathak performance in the San Francisco Bay Area. Courtesy Chitresh Das Dance Company

Pandit Chitresh Das, arguably one of the most influential Indian classical artists in the world, passed away January 4th at the age of 70, according to the director of Das' dance school, who said his death was due to "acute aortic dissection."

Das was a world-renowned Kathak dancer -- a centuries-old dance form that translates to "the art of storytelling" -- as well as a choreographer and instructor who elevated the classical Indian art form in the U.S. and around the world.

His dedication to the dance bloomed in India -- he began studying Kathak at the age of nine -- and followed him to the U.S. In 1970, Das received a University of Maryland fellowship to teach Kathak to students, and later established the first accredited Kathak course in the country at San Francisco State University.

In 1980, he founded the Chitresh Das Dance Company & Chhandam School of Kathak in San Francisco, currently recognized as the largest Indian classical dance school in North America. According to the dance company, 700 students are enrolled worldwide at Das' schools across California, and in Boston, Mumbai, and Kolkata.

"His contribution to Kathak, to dance, to art, to India, to community, to humanity, and to life stretch across the globe and beyond," said school director Rachna Nivas in a statement. "In his words, 'Life and death are the only reality. You come alone, you go alone. Only thing to do in between is practice and do whatever you do with love.'"