Maya Rao was an Indian classical kathak dancer, choreographer and an educator. She was Born on 2nd May 1928 in malleswaram, Bangalore. She finished her schooling in 1945 and joined Maharani’s College, Later she started training under Guru Sohanlal of Jaipur Gharana, followed by Guru Sunder Prasad also of the Jaipur Gharana, and went to train under Guru Shambhu Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana at National Institute of Kathak Dance in Delhi. Her Pioneering works in Kathak choreography, especially in dance ballets is credited for bringing Kathak, a North Indian-dance style to South India, She opened a dance school ‘Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (NIKC) in Malleswaram, Bangalore in 1987. She was also the founder director of her Bangalore based dance company, “Natya and Stem Dance Kampani”.
She was awarded Rajyotsava Award, Second highest civilian honour of the Karnataka state in 1986, She was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, The National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama in the year 1989. In 2011, The Akademi awarded her the Tagore Akademi Ratna, as part of celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, for their contribution in the field of performing arts. She became the chairperson of Karnataka Sangeet Nritya Academy, state academy for music and dance (1987-1990). She also started National Performing Arts Festivals at heritage monuments of the state, like Somanathapura, Pattadakal and Halebidu. The Shantala Award for the year 1999, by Government of Karnataka. In 2011,she received the lifetime achievement award for her contribution to dance and choreography at the Epic Women conference. Over the years, she has trained over 3,000 students, notably, Nirupama Rajendra, Satya Narayana Charka, Akul Balaji. She continued as s a consultant choreographer at her institute till her last days. She died of heart on 1st September 2014, at M S Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, Bangalore.