An accomplished artist, Mythili Kumar performed extensively in India before moving to the U.S. in 1978 and founding Abhinaya Dance School in 1980. Her artistic ability and the high quality of her dance choreography have been recognized in the U.S where she has been awarded several Choreographer’s Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mythili has taught at Stanford University and San Jose State University, and University of California at Santa Cruz. In 2002 the Shiva Vishnu Temple of Livermore awarded her the title, ‘Abhinaya Kala Ratna’ for her dedicated service to dance. Bharath Kalachar in Chennai awarded her the title ‘Viswa Kala Bharati’ in 1999. In 2010 she was honored by World Arts West with the Malonga Casquelord Lifetime Achievement Award and received a Sustained Achievement Award from the Bay Area Isadora Duncan Award committee in 2011. In addition, Soorya Performing Arts of St. Louis awarded her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2011. She received the 2015 Legacy Laureate Award from SVCreates for her sustained dedication to dance. Julie Mushet, Executive Director of World Arts West, announced the creation of the “Mythili Kumar Award” to be presented every year at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival to an exceptionally promising upcoming artist. In 2019, Bharathi Tamil Sangam honoured Mythili Kumar with a title ‘Nadana Shirormani’ for her invaluable contributions to the Bharatanatyam art form. She was honoured with the title “Smaran Kala Kaushala” during the Smaran dance festival and was honored with the 2019 Inspire Award by India Community center (ICC) the same year.
Mythili Kumar and the Abhinaya Dance Company strive to present innovative and professional quality performances of South Indian classical dance forms. Since 1986, Abhinaya has staged several full-length dance productions such as Shiva – the Cosmic Dancer (1986), to Jwala – the Immortal Flame (2011), Gandhi ( 2012), Arjuna (2014), and Vaanara Leela (2016), which received an Isadora Duncan Award for best performance. Abhinaya has been awarded several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and from state and city agencies. The company has collaborated with Kathak and modern dance companies, Japanese Taiko drummers, ShadowLight Theater, and a Balinese gamelan ensemble. From 2017 to 2019 Abhinaya has presented the theme of social justice through the experiences of Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo credit: Viggy Mokkarala