Announcing “MASK,” a New All-Virtual Project

Rita Mustaphi

We are pleased to announce that KDT Artistic Director Rita Mustaphi has been awarded a Creative Support For Individuals grant by the Minnesota State Arts Board to fund an exciting new virtual project.

MASK is specifically designed for the internet age. Ms. Mustaphi describes it as “a dance of change – creating social awareness about the catastrophic physical & emotional tolls of 2020, and reimagining the situation as an opportunity for positive changes, attaining desires & achieving dreams.” The project is in keeping with KDT’s history of using dance and performance to convey emotional truths and address important socio-political issues.

According to the MSAB, “Creative Support for Individuals is designed to help Minnesota artists and culture bearers adapt to changes in their working environment caused by the global pandemic … This grant program aims to help Minnesota artists and culture bearers maintain their visibility and financial sustainability by using their creativity and connections to community.”

The social justice-focused project is set to debut as a streaming performance later in 2021. Read about the other grantees and their projects here.

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Rita Mustaphi is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. 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.

Monthly Student Showcase

Photo by Anurag Sharma

This 33rd anniversary year is made all the more unusual by the cancellation of Sadhana (a Sanskrit word translated as “methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge”), but we’re determined to celebrate our students’ achievements! With that in mind, we’re pleased to announce a virtual Student Showcase series, recurring online the fourth weekend of every month.

This monthly virtual event will not only highlight our students’ recent learning and artistic growth – it will also build their confidence, spark their creativity and allow them to celebrate each other. We hope you’ll watch with us as each weekend as it debuts and share your thoughts.

In January, we’re highlighting Grades 1B, 2B and 3A (children’s classes). Watch anytime starting on the 22nd.

Missed the December showcase? Watch here.

Virtual Diwali Festival: Nov. 13 – 15

Rakesh Sai Babu and Nivedita Sahni in Pourush (2015) – all rights reserved

Our Virtual Diwali Festival streamed on Vimeo Nov. 13 15, featuring a different performance each night from 7 – 7:30 pm CT. The event showcased our past collaborative works and new performances by some of our interns and advanced students that encapsulate the true meaning of Diwali – celebrating the triumph of light over dark, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Viewers were asked to consider donating in support of this and other KDT programming on Give to the Max Day (Nov. 19).

Performance Schedule

Friday, Nov. 13:
Intro: Excerpt from Pourush
Bhagwati Bandana and highlights from The Ramayana Project

Bhagwati, or Ma Durga, is synonymous to Shakti, who is the personification of beauty, creativity, wisdom, mystery and profundity. Bhagwati Bandana is an invocation to the goddess: Victory to You, O Divine Goddess, My Salutations to You. 

The Ramayana Project, a Pan-Asian collaboration produced by KDT in 2006, is based on the Hindu epic “The Ramayana.” Artists from India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka came together in celebration of Southeast Asian dance and music for this project, which attempts to highlight these cultures’ shared traditions and shared roots.

KDT interns and advanced students performed traditional Diwali dances.

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Saturday, Nov. 14:
Intro: Asato Ma Sad Gamaya
Highlights from Pourush

KDT based Pourush (2015) on award-winning artist and writer Rabindranath Tagore’s dance-drama Chitrangada. It was an international collaboration featuring Kathak choreography by Rita Mustaphi and Chhau choreography by India-based choreographer Ms. Maitreyee Pahari

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Sunday, Nov. 15:
Intro: Mangalam
Let there be Lights

On Sunday, we presented excerpts from the following collaborative works. KDT collaborated with internationally-renowned composer J.D. Steele to produce and premiere the world’s first African American & Asian Indian dance opera, Karna – The Abandoned Hero (2013).

EKAM – The Supreme Oneness (2011) celebrated the commonalities in all religions. Translated from Sanskrit, it means “one truth, many paths”, meaning there are many ways to access the Truth, or to realize God. Rita Mustaphi collaborated with renowned Gospel singer Robert Robinson and his company of musicians, blending classical North Indian Kathak dance with gospel music and spoken word poetry.

“The Airport” (2012) is a fusion of Kathak and Flamenco in collaboration with Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre that debuted as part of our 25th anniversary show, In Retrospect.

A Sanskrit prayer from The Upanishads

Asato ma sad-gamaya,

Lead me from — illusion to reality,

Tamaso ma jyotir-gamaya,

Lead me from — ignorance to knowledge,

mrityorma amritam-gamaya,

Lead me from — death to immortality,

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Let there be peace…

Have a happy, safe and prosperous Diwali!

KDT to Receive Art Works Grant

Crystal, MN—National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $84 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2020. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $15,000 to Katha Dance Theatre (KDT) for a 2021-22 tour of their critically acclaimed dance work Kathak Yatra: The Journey of Kathak Dance. This is one of 1015 grants nationwide that the agency has approved in this category.

“These awards demonstrate the resilience of the arts in America, showcasing not only the creativity of their arts projects but the organizations’ agility in the face of a national health crisis,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “We celebrate organizations like Katha Dance Theatrefor providing opportunities for learning and engagement through the arts in these times.”

“We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for its support of bringing our work, Kathak Yatra, to rural communities of Minnesota,” says KDT Artistic Director Rita Mustaphi. “This grant award is deeply meaningful to us since with this funding we will be able to not only offer performances but also enrich each community with the arts and culture of India. Much gratitude to the NEA!”

Kathak Yatra follows Kathak’s artistic and cultural evolution through time, beginning with its inception in Hindu temples, through its evolution as a form of entertainment for kings and emperors, and culminating in its contemporary multicultural incarnations. It explores Kathak’s duality as both classic and modern. Through this tour, KDT hopes to further its mission to make Kathak accessible and relevant throughout Minnesota.

For more information on this National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

Organizational Updates Regarding COVID-19

Image source: cdc.gov

KDT has made the following changes in response to the pandemic:

  • KDT’s office and studio locations have closed until further notice. All employees are working remotely and all classes have moved online via Zoom.
  • We have made the difficult decision to cancel our upcoming performance of Black Candle, which was scheduled to take place at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in May.
  • Our tour stop to St. Cloud has been canceled due to Paramount Center for the Arts’ decision to postpone all scheduled events through May. We hope to reschedule this performance as soon as possible.
  • We have decided to postpone Sadhanaour annual school showcase. The performance will take place this Fall on a date TBA.
  • Throughout May, we offered a Virtual Benefit Concert Series in support of our programming. We created the event with the intention to bring the KDT community together to bond over a shared love of the arts. For one week, a benefit version of one of our recorded performances streamed on Vimeo, donation-optional. All shows are still available to watch in full here.
  • In conjunction with our venue, the Park Square Theater, we have decided to postpone our performance of Shaamya – Of Equality to the fall of 2021. Final performance dates are forthcoming.
  • We have introduced a Student Showcase series celebrating our students’ hard work. The monthly showcase takes the place of Sadhana until in-person events can safely resume. Learn more here.

This post will continue to be updated as the situation evolves. To our beloved community members, thank you so much for your continued support of KDT during these uncertain times!