Katha Dance Theatre Announces Premiere of “Kathak E-motion”

Katha Dance Theatre (KDT) is pleased to announce the upcoming world premiere of a brand-new dance work: Kathak E-motion. The show will premiere at the Park Square Theatre in downtown St. Paul, MN April 28 – 30, 2023.

With this production, director/choreographer Rita Mustaphi is creating a classic Kathak work in the vein of those performed for kings and emperors in 18th century India. Kathak E-motion embodies the grandiosity and opulence of Hindu and Islamic royal courts while also exemplifying the art form’s integral expression of emotions, known as Abhinya. Using Kathak’s complex rhythms, intricate footwork, graceful movements, pirouettes and gestural storytelling, KDT’s professional Kathak dancers and guest dancer Souvik Chakraborty of Kolkata, India will recount ancient tales of gods and goddesses, depict stories of love, as well as perform abstract, purely expressive dances.

Kathak E-motion perfectly exemplifies the Kathak tradition, as it not only features thrilling displays of dance mastery that epitomize the form, but will also be set to live music performed by world-renowned Hindustani musicians Kousic Sen of London, UK (Tabla), Chandrachur Bhattacharjee of Kolkata, India (Sitar), Anirban Bhattacharyya of New Delhi, India (vocals), Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan of Minneapolis, MN (vocals) and Pankaj Mishra of Toronto, Canada (Sarengi). It truly encapsulates the range through which Kathak can convey what Rita Mustaphi describes as the “magic” in the expression of emotions.

The production is the latest in the long list of Rita Mustaphi’s choreographic works, which have spanned a multitude of historical eras, musical genres and diverse cultural influences since KDT’s founding in 1987. Tickets and showtimes forthcoming.
Kathak E-motion, April 28 – 30, 2023. Park Square Theatre, 20 W. 7th Place, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul, MN 55102. For more information about Katha Dance Theatre and its programming, visit https://kathadance.org.

“Black Candle” Coming June 3 – 5, 2022

Black Candle Promotional photo
Photo by Erik Saulitis

We’re pleased to announce the upcoming revival of one of our classic repertory works, Black Candle. The new production is set to premiere at the Southern Theater June 3 – 5, 2022.

Based on the award-winning poetry of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Black Candle combines the elegant medium of Kathak dance with text and music to evoke female joy, love, pain and resilience. It pays tribute to the strength and tenacity shown by the women of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan in the face of adversity such as sexism, misogyny and repressive cultural norms.

In keeping with KDT’s artistic mission, Black Candle celebrates diverse perspectives and backgrounds while taking particular care to emphasize female empowerment. It is therefore strongly of-the-moment in its messaging and artistry. Although the show is technically a re-staging, it will feature new choreography by KDT’s award-winning Artistic Director, Rita Mustaphi, who calls Black Candle “a collection of stories of women’s journeys of loss, exploration, discovery and spiritual freedom through love.”

The show is based on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s poetry collection of the same name. Like most of Divakaruni’s work, Black Candle recounts pivotal moments in the lives of South Asian and South Asian-American women of all ages and backgrounds. “I created Black Candle to document the lives of South Asian women around the world,” she says. “The poems cover many of the challenges women continue to face today that are often ignored by western society. I’m thrilled to see that my friend, Rita Mustaphi, is bringing these tales back to life, and is once again offering these stories to the Twin Cities community.”

The final performance will be accompanied by an ASL interpreter and a post-show discussion. Tickets on sale beginning May 9 at southerntheater.org.
Gen. admission: $25 ($20 in advance). Student and seniors (65+) with valid ID: $18.

Black Candle. June 3 – 5, 2022 at the Southern Theater, 1420 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55454.

Showtimes:
Friday, June 3 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 4 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 5 at 2 pm (ASL-interpreted; 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 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning Indian-American author, poet, and the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Her short story collection Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award in 1995, and her novel Mistress of Spices was short-listed for the Orange Prize.

Divakaruni’s works are largely set in India and the United States, and often focus on the experiences of South Asian immigrants. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work has been published in magazines like The Atlantic and The New Yorker, included in over 50 anthologies, and translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. It is also made possible by general operating support from the RBC Foundation and the Archie D and Bertha H Walker Foundation, and by the generosity of KDT’s private donors.

“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 policies.

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 Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

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. Tickets are available 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. 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. Shaamya – Of Equality was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit my project page. It is also made possible by funding from the RBC foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Target Foundation, the A.B. Walker Foundation, and by the generosity of KDT’s individual donors.

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. 

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.