“Of Equality” World Premiere: Nov. 19 – 21

At left, Rita Mustaphi. Center, Equality performers Amanda Dlouhy, Kortland Jeray Jackson, and Madhulika Srikanth. At right, J.D. Steele. Photo credits L to R: Erik Saulitis, Kalyan Mustaphi, John Wagner

Read about the Park Square’s health and safety policy before you attend. And want to get more involved in this show? Submit your photo here by Oct. 22.

Crystal, MN – Katha Dance Theatre (KDT) has announced the world premiere of Shaamya – Of Equality, their latest collaboration with composer J.D. Steele. The event will take place at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN on November 19 – 21, 2021. It is choreographed by Rita Mustaphi, KDT’s Artistic Director, and features original poetic contributions from artist and playwright Ifrah Mansour.

Inspired by the poetry of writer and activist Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), Of Equality attempts to draw parallels between the experiences of today’s communities of color and those expressed by Nazrul Islam back in the early 20th century. Using a mixture of dance, music, and spoken word poetry, it juxtaposes past and present fights for racial, cultural and gender equity. 

Through his writing and activism, Nazrul Islam shared his anger about and attempted to find solutions to various forms of oppression. By enacting his ideas decades after his death, Of Equality demonstrates that this great writer’s work is relevant to today’s artistic and political climates, transcending time and place.

With her choreography, Rita Mustaphi aims to seamlessly blend the various cultural and thematic ideas at play into a cohesive dance piece incorporating traditional Kathak idioms. Of Equality is just one in a long line of original works choreographed by Rita over the course of KDT’s three-decade history. Her work’s quality speaks for itself, having won her three McKnight Fellowships for choreography, a 2011 Lifetime Achievement award from the India Association of Minnesota, a 2012 Education award from the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and a 2021 Nari Shakti Award for Women’s Empowerment from the Urvashi Dance, Music, Art and Culture Society in New Delhi.

Equality will be set to a live rendition of original compositions by Twin Cities musical legend J.D. Steele, with whom KDT previously collaborated back in 2013 on the critically acclaimed Karna – The Abandoned Hero. Steele, an accomplished musician who has performed with Prince, Mavis Staples, and others, will be accompanied by pianist Billy Steele and vocalist Jevetta Steele, as well as drum artist Abhinav Sharma. J.D. Steele’s compositions include elements of North Indian, East African and African American musical styles. They were also inspired by taals, which are rhythm cycles used in North Indian classical music and dance. His intent as composer is for all of these elements to unify in support of the dancers’ performance.

Ifrah Mansour
Ifrah Mansour. Photo courtesy of the artist

Equality will also include written contributions by Somali poet and playwright Ifrah Mansour, who will perform the poem “I am a Refugee” onstage alongside Mustaphi and Steele. Mansour is perhaps best known for her autobiographical play How to Have Fun in a Civil War, which details her memories of her childhood in war-torn Somalia. 

Contributions from dancers of multiethnic backgrounds will fill out the show, including ballet, flamenco, tap, and hip-hop. Incorporating cross-cultural artistic and narrative elements within a classical Indian dance performance is in keeping with Rita Mustaphi’s mission to expand upon the Kathak tradition while preserving its authenticity and cultural integrity. 

The premiere comes following a 2020 work-in-progress showing at Minneapolis’s Southern Theater.

Shaamya – Of Equality. November 19 – 21, $16-30, 80 minutes, Park Square Theatre, Historic Hamm Building, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul, 55102. Single tickets are available now here.

*Please note that anyone who enters the Park Square is asked to be masked at all times, and all audience members are required to either show proof of vaccination or a negative test result within 72 hours of the performance to be admitted.*

Showtimes:
November 19: 7:30 pm
November 20: 7:30 pm
November 21: 2 pm | American sign language (ASL); post-show discussion

About Katha Dance Theatre

Katha Dance Theatre (KDT) creates, performs and educates through the art forms of dance, music, poetry and storytelling. Rooted in Kathak, the classical dance style of Northern India, KDT is dedicated to making dance accessible, inclusive and relevant. It enhances the local community by bridging diverse cultures and audiences to contribute to life’s infinite artistic expressions.

About Kathak Dance

Kathak (pronounced “Kah-tahk”) is an Indian classical dance tradition native to North India. Its origins can be traced back to as early as 400 BCE, when it began as a form of sharing stories, myths, and Hindu scripture in temples and royal courts. Characterized by both rhythmic and lyrical elements, it features graceful hand gestures, pirouettes, and complex footwork, performed with expressiveness and precision. Over the centuries, it has grown to incorporate diverse influences and viewpoints with KDT at the forefront of its artistic evolution. 

About Kazi Nazrul Islam

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was a Bengali writer, musician and activist whose advocacy for India’s economic and social independence from Britain solidified his reputation as “the rebel poet.” Apart from addressing socio-political issues through writing and protest, his work also touched on themes of natural beauty, romantic love, and humanity’s right to freedom and autonomy. He was also prolific, having written thousands of poems and songs during his lifetime. Today, Kazi Nazrul Islam is officially known as the national poet of Bangladesh.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov. It is also supported by a grant from St. Paul’s Cultural STAR program.

Katha Dance Theatre Reopening Policies

Image source: cdc.gov

On September 11, 2021, we will reopen our St. Louis Park studio for in-person classes and rehearsals. We also plan to resume in-person performances in the coming months, starting with the premiere of Shaamya – Of Equality at the Park Square Theatre this November. While these are exciting steps forward, our top priority is to ensure everyone’s ongoing health and safety during the pandemic.

With that in mind, we will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, which we acknowledge could change at any moment as the pandemic evolves. We are excited to be using a hybrid classroom set-up, allowing us to make all of our classes available both in-person and virtually (apart from classes taught by Rita Mustaphi, which are all virtual). Below are further details surrounding our reopening process this Fall:

Studio

As stated on our studio safety and student code of conduct page, we are requiring anyone who enters the studio to wear a mask at all times, regardless of one's vaccination status. Masks have been proven to be effective in lowering transmission of COVID-19, and we feel this is the best way to protect our community against the threat of the Delta variant. In addition to masking, we ask all who enter the studio to try as best they can to maintain a six-foot distance away from those around them.
Following the example of many other dance studios and theaters around the country, we are requiring all in-person students over the age of 12 to provide proof of vaccination before the start of the Fall session. Our registration form provides a place to do this. Students under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated (but as stated above, must wear a mask in-studio) and students learning via Zoom are exempt from this.
If a teacher or student is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and tests positive for the virus, or if they have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive, we ask that they immediately inform Mukta Sathe (School Manager, muktas.kathadancetheatre@gmail.com) and refrain from entering the studio for two weeks after the positive test. If there is a chance that any other teachers or class members were exposed, the class will move online for two weeks before returning to the studio.
In order to ensure our studio's safety, we have added a state-of-the-art air purifying system to our HVAC. The iWave C Air Ionization System reduces the flow of particles in the air, helping to stop the spread of certain viruses and bacteria. Read more about it here.
KDT's teaching staff will thoroughly sanitize doorknobs and any other frequently touched surfaces before and after each class. There will also be a bottle of hand sanitizer in the studio that we will require everyone to use before and after each class.
Hybrid Learning Policy: All classes this session (apart from those taught by Rita Mustaphi, which will remain virtual) will follow a hybrid learning model, meaning that students will have the option of learning in person or on Zoom. Each student's preferred learning model must be shared upon registration, with the knowledge that changing CDC guidelines or a rise in cases could move all classes to Zoom at any time. We have upgraded our studio technology to include a television equipped with an HDMI plug-in that will broadcast Zoom learners into the classroom, visible and audible to all in-person participants.

Performances/Outreach

We will work with every presenter to follow individual venues' policies regarding mask-wearing and social distancing. However, we will insist that all audience members at our performances and outreach programs keep their distance from those outside of their group and wear a mask at all times within the venue.
Again, we will work to follow each venue's specific vaccination policy, but we will require all audience members at our performances and outreach programs to either show proof of prior vaccination (with the last dose having been administered at least two weeks beforehand) or proof of a negative COVID-19 test at least 48 hours before attending.

If you would like to sign up to be vaccinated against COVID-19, please do so here.

If you would like to schedule a COVID-19 test, please do so here.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have regarding these policies or any of the measures we are taking to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Ganga to Mississippi – A Confluence of Waters

World Premiere Work-in-Progress Performance
June 25 – 27 on Vimeo

Rita Mustaphi on the banks of the Ganges river. Photo: Kalyan Mustaphi

We’re pleased to announce the work-in-progress premiere of an exciting new performance concept two years in the making!

Ganga to Mississippi – A Confluence of Waters is an original dance work that juxtaposes the roles of the Ganges and Mississippi rivers in their respective environments. Spanning continents and cultural traditions, Ganga uses Kathak dance and spoken word elements to highlight the important role that rivers play in our ecosystems, emphasizing the impact of river pollution on climate change and advocating for universal access to clean, drinkable water.

Filmed on the banks of the Ganges and Mississippi riversGanga features original Kathak choreography by KDT Artistic Director Rita Mustaphi, who will perform solo in this in-progress look. As portrayed through Kathak’s elegant lyricism, Ganga is a moving and powerful ode to these majestic rivers and an urgent call for their eternal preservation.

A full filmed performance, set to premiere this August, will include performances by KDT lead dancer/choreographer Rita Mustaphi with Company members Mukta Sathe and Madhulika Srikanth; live music by an ensemble that includes Praful KelkarAbhinav SharmaRitika Ganguly and Shinjan Sengupta; poetic and musical contributions by Sharon M. Day, the Executive Director of Indigenous Peoples Task Force; live vocals by One Voice Mixed Chorus Artistic Director Jane Ramseyer Miller, and more.

The work-in-progress premiered on June 25. Watch below!

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

Showcase 6: Tarana-Sargam / In Retrospect

Photo: Anjana Nair

To everyone who has watched and enjoyed our Showcase Series over the past few months, thank you! We hope you’ll join us for our last hurrah as we celebrate our apprentices and Company and look back at how we made the best of our pandemic year.

We’re so grateful to all members of the KDT family who have helped bring these showcases to life! Thank you to Aaratrika Mondal and Jalpa Mathur for their editing skills, to our teachers for their recorded contributions and leadership, and to our wonderful students for working so hard to make their performances the best they could be.

Watch with us May 28 – 30 on Vimeo!