Sunaina Rao, born in Mumbai, India and raised in Texas, has been training in the field of Kathak for over 20 years. Her mother and guru, Smt. Akhila Rao, is the disciple of Kathak stalwarts - Late Gurus Sri Ganesh Hiralal Hasal and Smt. Asha Joglekar. She was awarded the title of "Singaar Mani" by the Sur Singaar Samsad (Mumbai) for her performance at the prestigious Kal-Ke-Kalakar Sangeet Sammelan in 2010 and honored with the title of “Natya Pravina” by Yuva Bharati, an organization showcasing upcoming solo Indian classical dancers. In 2016, Sunaina was bestowed with the title of “Nav Gandharva” for her outstanding performance at the Gandharva Festival organized by Madhyam, an organization founded by Guru Archana Joglekar for the promotion of Indian classical arts.
Sunaina completed her Visharad Purna with honors from Samved Conservatory of Indian Classical Music and Dance, NJ as well as from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai (ABGMVM) with a 'First Class' rating. She is currently pursuing Alankaar in Kathak and is a registered teacher/examiner with ABGMVM up to the Visharad level. Since 2020 she has been fortunate to pursue advanced training and is currently pursuing a Masters in Kathak at Bharati Vidhyapeet Deemed University, Pune under the guidance of Pandita Shama Bhate.
She has been an active participant at workshops and intensives conducted by Kathak maestros, including Padma Vibhushan Pt. Birju Maharaj, Padma Bhushan Smt. Kumudini Lakhia, and Late Guru Maya Rao as well as Bharatanatyam danceuse Smt. Priyadarsini Govind. Sunaina is the Lead Female artist for 'Meet Me on the Meadow', a 90-minute musical amalgamation of dance-music-art-multimedia, commissioned by Renu - The Foundation for Arts, for the 2019 - 2020 North America tour.
She is a co-founder and principal dancer of Kathak Rhythms, the premier school of Kathak in Texas. Sunaina teaches over 50 students at the Southlake and Coppell locations of the school. She regularly mentors upcoming young dancers of Kathak Rhythms who are pursuing their interests in the arts via providing specialized guidance, training, critique and support for their performances, scholarship and college applications. Under her mentorship, young dancers have been selected for Silambam Houston's Yuva Festival, Cry Havoc Theater's Teen Critic Program and won scholarships awarded by Frisco Arts.
Academically, Sunaina completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Houston in 2013. She then specialized in Health-System Pharmacy Administration with a 2-year residency at the University of Kansas Health System along with a Masters of Science in Hospital Pharmacy Administration in 2015. She is currently the Clinical Pharmacy Manager at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center – Fort Worth.
Highlights of recent performances
- South Asian Performance TD3113/ANS 301M - Movement Master Class - University of Texas at Austin, March 2021
- International Kathak Conference 2021 - Research Paper presentation "Gati and Gat in Kathak' (co- authored by Sapna Adhikari),
- Nritya Utsav 2021 - Festival of Dance, Feb 2021 - Panwar Music and Dance Production, Canada
- Web Series : Architecture of the Arts - Kathak in America for gen-next Indian diaspora, Jan 2021 - Renu Foundation, New Jersey
- Lead Female - Meet Me on the Meadow - North America tour 2019-2020, Anita Kulkarni Production
- DallasDances!, September 2018 - Dance Council of North Texas
- 4th Barnstorm Dance Festival, June 2018 - Dance Source Houston, TX
- Laya Taal Sadhana - Dimensions of Tabla, February 2018 - Tabla Houston, TX
- Improvisation Across Continents, August 2017 - Ida y Vuelta Flamanco & Sangeet Millennium Ensemble, Dallas, TX
- Nritya Arpan, January 2017 – India Studies at Louisiana State University, Shreveport, LA
- Gandharva Festival, March 2016 – Madhayam, Princeton, NJ
- International Kathak Festival, September 2014 – Anila Sinha Foundation, Chicago, IL
- A Night of Indian Dance! with Padmashri Shovana Narayan, May 2013 – Crow Collection of Asian Art Museum, Dallas, TX
- 5th St. Louis International Indian Dance Festival, April 2013 – Soorya Performing Arts, MO
- Kathak Festival, August 2012 – Indian Classical Music Circle of Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
- Navarasa – Colors of Life, November 2010 – Samskriti Foundation, Houston, TX
- Yuva Bharati Dance Concert, August 2010, TX
- Kal-Ke-Kalakaar, May 2010 – Sur Singaar Samsad, Mumbai, India
- Texas Collects Asia, April 2008 – Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, TX
- Nrityotsav, March 2008 – Hindu Temple Society of Omaha, NE
- Miami University Scholars Program, October 2008 and August 2007 – Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble, Miami, OH
- Lotus World Festival, September 2004 – Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble. Indianapolis, IN
- Dallas International Festival April 2004 and 2005, TX
- Natyanjali – Outstanding Young Dancers of Texas, May 2003, San Antonio, TX
"Sunaina Rao gave a masterful performance. Her facial expressions, her dramatic movements, and her precise mime set her apart as an actor as she conveyed exact moods and plots points. It was her mesmerizing and ever quicker footwork that revealed her talent as a dancer. The musicality of her footwork amplified the score. The quality of her performance was roundly appreciated by audience members, who broke into applause repeatedly after watching the light sparkle off her jewelry as she completed sequences of dizzying turns."
Read full review
- TheaterJones, October 2019,
Meet Me on the Meadow
The Most Inspiring Stories in Dallas voyagedallas.com
- Voyage Dallas Magazine, July 2017
“The evening presentation began with a powerful presentation of Kathak by Sunaina Rao. She presented her ability of Nritta in Dhamaar. Later she took a Bharatanatyam piece and rendered it in the Kathak style with great ease. She also presented a special production whose theme was “injustice to women”. She stole the hearts of people with her briskness and sharp moves.”
- India Post, May 15, 2013. 5th St. Louis Indian Dance Festival
“Sunaina, in her Kathak depiction of Draupadi’s fearful and impassioned pleas in the Kaurava court as the Kaurava brothers try to disrobe her, had the audience crying and cringing for the princess.”
- Silambam Network, November 21, 2010. Navarasa – Colors of Life