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Artist Bio

A Deeper Look

Shalaka Kulkarni started in dance as a child in her native India, where she studied and continues studying Bharatnatyam and Kathak. Sandhya Desai for her Kathak expertise, Pranita Nayar for her Bharatnatyam and Nana Shineflug for her Modern dance aesthetics have been the most influential mentors and teachers in her artistic dance life. She holds an MFA in Arts and Media and a BA in Performing Art Management, minoring in Theatre, from Columbia College Chicago. She deepened her knowledge of anatomy and movement with a RYT-200 Yoga instructor certification. Her movement journey started as a child in India with dance and martial art. She is interested in creating and presenting a hybrid movement form that fuses techniques of Bharatnatyam and Kathak with other movement influences, text and technology. Her choreography includes traditional technique of Indian Classical dance forms while delivering a contemporary narrative or an idea that is based within current happenings in the society using movement derived from Indian Classical dance to build a unique movement vocabulary for that particular piece. 

Her work revolves around the ideas of female identity, questioning societal norms, celebrating gender fluidity, empowering marginal voices and narrating lost stories of female contribution within Indian culture.

She has performed in India and in US. She has danced, taught and toured in and around her current home city of Chicago. She has toured and choreographed for Kalapriya Dance company in IL, toured with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, she has studied under Guillermo Gomez-Pena in a Performance Residency with La Pocha Nostra Collective, was one of the winning choreographers for Dance Chicago Festival 2005, was commissioned to create work for DanceBridge residency with Chicago Cultural Center, won two grants through Columbia College Chicago, was commissioned to create work for Lions Club, presented her work at Chicago Dramatist, commissioned to present work for Federation of Indian Associations in Chicago and performed and choreographed for Mandala Arts. She founded a collective called ‘SurTaal’ (inactive currently) for exploring Indian Classical dance forms through perspective of other dance forms. She was invited to present her work and ideas about hybridity of Indian Classical dance forms at IUGTE conference in Austria in 2021. She performed with International Art Adventures in Germany the same year. Most recently, she completed a SloMoCo (MoCo- Movement and computing community) Summer and Fall 2021 Residencies. She is a current artist in residence with Mandala South Asian Performing Arts with support from Illinois Arts Council, 2022 artist in residence with High Concept Labs, a guest choreographer for Momenta Dance Company and See Chicago Dance Resident creating work through their Dance for camera program. She is also a creator and producer for Dancing Chakras shows that presents Indian arts interpreting 7 Chakras of Yoga. 

She has been a teaching artist and created classes for children and adults based in Indian Classical dance, dance & media and storytelling through after school programs, dance studios, and for various undergraduate classes.  

The prime focus of every work is to create a space for the audience to feel hope or release of negative energy so that they can take what they see through the work whether created as a serious work or work filled with absurd hilarity that can give them a thread to create a ripple of positivity for others. 

Contact to invite her for facilitating workshops or presenting work listed below.

Represented  by Chicago Talent Network and DeSanti Talent for acting and voiceover

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Performance Works

Examples of Previous Projects


  • Presented work at APAP online showcase

  • Performed as a guest artist with Chicago Danzetheatre Ensemble for 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

  • Created new work with Indian Classical movement and technology with SloMoCo (MOCO- movement and computing) Summer and Fall micro-residency 

  • Presenter and performer at IUGTE conference, Austria

  • Guest artist with Mandala Arts, an Indian Classical dance company

  • Guest artist with Raks Inferno, a Bellydance collective


  • IUGTE conference, Virtual

  • Presented Multidisciplinary video at Virtual Festival hosted by Mandala Makers, IL


Presented 'Ripple' as part of Rhinofest


  • Produced 'Ripple'- full length show at Prop Thtr Chicago

  • Commissioned to create the main show for Lions Club annual event

  • Guest artist with Chicago Danzetheatre Ensemble for 'Bindis & Bruises'


Guest artist with Chicago Danzetheatre Ensemble for 'Bindis & Bruises'


  • Presented work in progress at Chicago Dramatist

  • Dancer for Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble 


Guest choreographer and performer for Kalapriya Dance Company


Presented work at Dance Chicago Festival


Danced, Choreographed and Produced 'Wavering Paths' in Chicago


  •  Curator and performer for Indian Youth committee at BMM convention hosted by Maharashtra Mandal (non profit Org that promotes Indian culture and language)

  •  'A Carnival of Voices 2' at Prop Thtr, IL for 2011 Rhinoceros Theatre Festival 

  •  Actor/dancer/choreographer for the Opening ceremony at the BMM convention of Maharashtra Mandal (non-profit Org promoting Indian culture)


  •  MFA Thesis: 'A carnival of Voices' at Columbia College Chicago. 

  • Actor in 'Debris of Prophet' dir: Stefan Brun at Prop Thtr


Performed with La Pocha Nostra collective under the guidance of Guillermo Gomez-Pena


  •  ‘Looptopia’ event in USA in Chicago

  •  ‘ABONDANZA!’A 3-day showcase of contemporary  International dance at Chicago Cultural Center.

  • Invited to perform at Skokie Cultural festival


  • Invited to perform at Skokie Cultural festival

  • Presented original work at ‘Manifest’ and multi-cultural events at Columbia College Chicago.   

  • Dance Chicago and its various events: Dance  Chicago, Valentine Dances, Stars of Dance Chicago   


  • Presented by Asian Arts Department of Columbia College Chicago sponsored by and for Harris Bank corporate event         

  • Presented and Sponsored by Loyola College 

  • Choreographed and stage directed 3-act dance drama-  ‘Satyagraha’ for Kalapriya Dance Company; International House at University of Chicago

  • Presented work at Dance Chicago Festival   

  • Invited to perform and choreograph for FIA- The Federation of Indian Association


  • Presented and sponsored by Multicultural Department of Harper College. Produced 'Colors in me'- a full-length show

  • Work presented at ‘Stockyards Theatre festival 2004’ at Links Hall  

  •  Invited to perform for FIA- The Federation of Indian Associations from 2001-2005

  • Presented work at Dance Chicago Festival  

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