Uttara Asha Coorlawala

Uttara Asha Coorlawala

Adjunct Professor Dance



Professor (Adj)
Curator, Erasing Borders festival of Indian Dance In New York City

Uttara Asha Coorlawala is interested in bridges between theory and practice, and on re-circulations of movement through time and cultures.  Her writings about the qualities of 'Indianness' in dance, have served as criteria at the international performance level    Practically her advocation for culture-specific criteria by which to evaluate Asian classical forms in the high school level has informed current IB standards. She has advocated for development opportunities for artists, and for performance opportunities for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary performers.  She has served as a curator for the Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dances in New York since 2009.

 Within the field of dance studies she served on the Editorial Board of Dance Research Journal, and as a panelist for New York, Ohio, and Maryland State Arts Councils. She also served as an advisor to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and as Dance Director of the National Center for Performing Arts, in Mumbai.

In 2011, Coorlawala was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puruskar Award, India’s highest award in the Performing Arts. It was the first time an American has received this award. As a dancer-choreographer Coorlawala had initiated in India what has since become a movement towards intercultural innovation. Her choreography was based on modern dance, Bharata Natyam and yoga. Her  first solo dance tours were sponsored by the United States Information Service (now a part of NEA) introducing American modern dance to audiences across India.  Subsequently she danced in several solo tours in India, Europe and East Europe, Japan and the USA. She was listed as an empanelled artist with the I.C.C.R. (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) NYFA –The New York Foundations for the Arts, and various arts-In-Education programs in New York city.

Prior teaching credits include Princeton University, The Alvin Ailey School Professional Program,  the Long Island University at the C.W. Post campus, The Spence School, and the University of Miami at Coral Gables.  Most recently she has been invited lecturer at the University of Santa Cruz, The University of Hawaii at Manoa,   the University of North Texas, Denton and at the Natya Kala Conferences in Chennai.

The global re-circulation of dance movements

  • Dance in Asia - India
  • Indian Classical dance

  • Sangeet Natak Akademi grant for research in contemporary Dance in India. 2011
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Puruskar Award for Dance Performance and choreography. 2010
  • Asian Cultural Council, Discretionary Travel grant to mentor and participate in Choreography workshops in Kolkatta, Co-sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Sangeet Natak Akademi, and Patadik. 2009
  • Principal Investigator, for Asia Society/Ford Foundation: Artistic Production & Cultural Identity in U.S. Immigrant/Diasporic Communities. http://asiasociety.org/files/pdf/Artistic_Production.pdf   2005
  • Research Fellowship, The AHRB Research Centre for Crosscultural Music and Dance Performance, (Universities of Surrey, Roehampton, and the School of Oriental and African Studies,U.K.) 2003
  • Research Fellowship Asian Pacific Performers Exchange, UCLA Center for Intercultural performance. 1999
  • CORD Graduate Research Award  (Congress on Research in Dance, U.S.A.) 1994
  • Homi Bhabha Fellowship for choreographic Research.1976-78
  • John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund Fellowship to study Choreography in NYC  1970


  • Curator of the Erasing Borders Dance Festival, New York city since 2008.
  • Dance Studies Association
  • Former editor for the CORD newsletter, and executive committee member of its Editorial board over 4 years.

  •    “Diversity and Equality in Teaching Indian Dance History” at the IGNCA-Vadodara Symposium.   March 8th. 2022

    Panelist for online public program for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Monday October 19, Nrityagram,: For the Love of Dance. 2021

     Online global lecture on Indian dance from an American Perspective for Shri Shri University, Bhubhaneshwar, India (September) 2020

    Invited lecture On Diversifying Dance. for Dance Department, University of North Carolina – Charlotte. 2020

    Invited Panelist on Theory and Dance, at the Kennedy Center, Utsav, on September 21-22, 2013
  • Keynote Speaker at symposium "Sensing South Asia" at The University of Hawai'i at Manoa,
  • a featured interview on Doordarshan, (national television) India,
  • Expert Artistic Advisor to The National Commission on Human Development in Partnership with the United Nations Development Program, on the Fundraising production Anarkali for (then) President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf
  • Natya Kala Conference, Chennai.

2019               “La Meri, Memes and the Mirror of Gesture”  India Theatre Journal, Intellect Publications, U.K.

2019                  “The Dancing Subject in Hindi Film A book review of This Is How We Dance Now!: Performance in the Age of Bollywood and Reality Shows By Pallabi Chakravorty in Dance Chronicle VOL. 42, NO. 1, 118–120 https://doi.org/10.1080/01472526.2019.1576463

2016               “Kalanidhi Narayanan” Samyukta: A Journal of Gender & Culture (July 2016) Vol.XVI. No.2 pp10-30 (an interview)

2015               Darshan and Abhinaya: An Alternative to the Male Gaze 3rd reprint is in Natyasastra and the Body in Performance: Essays on Indian Theory of Dance and Drama Ed. Sreenath Nair. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company. Earlier prints of this article include: Dance Research Journal 28/1, Congress on Research in Dance. Spring

2012 "Writing out otherness".in Studies in South Asian Film & Media Volume 4 Number 2 Intellect Books, UK Ltd. doi:10.1386/safm.4.2.121_2
and in Discourses in Dance, Vol 5. Issue 1. eds. Susan Leigh Foster, Ramsay Burt. Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance U.K.

2010 “It Matters for Whom You Dance: Audience Participation in Rasa Theory” in Dance Matters: Performing India eds Pallabi Chakravorty and Nilanjana Gupta. Routledge, India.

2008 “Dance-South Asia” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World. Volume 2, pp. 412-413. Edited by Peter N. Stearns. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN13: 9780195176322, ISBN10: 0195176324

2005 Artistic Production & Cultural Identity in U.S. Immigrant/Diasporic Communities for Asia Society/Ford Foundation

2004  “Uncle Nala” The Estate Project for Artists with Aids- Invited contributor. www.artistswithaids.org

2003 “Dancing Asianness at APPEX” in Narrative/Performance:Cross-Cultural Encounters at APPEX (Los Angeles, California: UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance) 2003

2003 “It Matters For Whom You Dance: Reception in Rasa Theory” in Audience Participation:Essays on Inclusion in Performance ed. Susan Kattwinkel., (Westport, Conn: Praeger Press)

2003 "Re-Inscribing Indian Dance" and “Re-membering Winds of Shiva” in New Directions in Indian Dance ed: Sunil Kothari, Mumbai: Marg Publications

2001 "Ananya and Chandralekha-A Response to 'Chandralekha: Negotiating the Female Body and Movement in Cultural/Political Signification'" in Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader Wesleyan University Press,
and also l articles for Pulse, (UK), Channels,(WDA) Nartanam (india) Sruti, India. Dance Research Journal (USA) Dance Chronicle (USA)

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