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 Concert Series

Available now:

Soul to Sole (2010)

Share your reactions by filling out our survey!

At KDT, we have been continually amazed by your positivity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we also know that social distancing is leaving many of us feeling isolated and anxious. That is why we’re announcing a unifying, community-building online dance experience: a virtual benefit concert series in support of our vital programming! Dress up, enjoy the beauty of dance, and even move along in your living room! Our offerings include:

A still from Mother/Daughter

Soul to Sole: Featuring the soulful musical stylings of legendary singer Robert Robinson and members of the Twin Cities Gospel Choir, this uplifting and inspiring show honors the importance of overcoming differences in order to achieve collective peace and harmony.

Mother/Daughter – On the Border: This dance/theater work features stories from KDT artistic director Rita Mustaphi and her daughter Semonti. It delicately balances honoring Rita’s upbringing in Kolkata, India and her family’s immigrant experience. With subtle humor, it deftly questions established cultural values. As Semonti says, “I search, I question – we search, we question!”

A still from Chandalika

Sufiana – The Sufi Ecstasy: featuring live music composed by 2016 McKnight Fellow Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan and choreography by Rita Mustaphi, Sufiana captures the Sufi concepts of spiritual devotion and love of all humanity. It is uplifting, vibrant, and ecstatically alive!

Chandalika – The Untouchable Maiden is based on a century-old dance opera by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. In telling the story of a woman condemned to be an outcast at birth, Chandalika uses dance and text to examine the ways in which we fight discrimination, grapple with spiritual conflict, and find love and salvation against unimaginable odds.

While the events are free of charge, we invite you to make a contribution equaling your passion for KDT via our website or GiveMN page after each show.

Due to COVID-19, we are simply losing out on much-needed income from performances, education and outreach that go toward sustaining our organization. Your gift, no matter the amount, helps us continue on our mission to preserve and promote this gorgeous dance form. It also provides a sense of normalcy to the dancers whose lives have been thrown off-balance by this devastating pandemic.

Now is the perfect time to show your support in the form of a tax-deductible gift. Remember: anything helps!

Thank you so much for your continued support of KDT, and enjoy!

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!

Spotlight on the Apprentice: Anisha Sharma

Katha Dance Theatre is a dance company and school run by some of the country’s finest kathak artists. Our dancers are passionate about the kathak tradition and have worked hard to reach their level of artistry, practicing daily in order to develop their skills. But apart from regular practice, what does it take to make a dancer? How do dancers achieve their personal and professional goals? For our apprentices, the answers to these questions come as a result of a lifetime in the classroom. These are hand-chosen students who have shown they have the talent, dedication, and aptitude to work toward eventually joining the company ranks.

In our new interview series Spotlight on the Apprentice, we’re checking in with our talented KDT apprentices – learning about their origins, the development of their dance technique, their goals in the classroom, and more – in order to better understand their individual approaches to practicing their art. This month, our spotlight shines on Anisha Sharma!

How long have you been dancing at KDT?

I have been dancing with KDT since 2009. I was introduced to kathak and the company by my dad and have been a part of KDT ever since then.

What led to you becoming a KDT apprentice?

A few years after joining KDT, I attended a summer workshop taught by Rita. That was when my interest in kathak first began to evolve into a passion. My love for kathak was solidified through attending a wide range of workshops, summer intensives, and classes over the years. I was invited to become an apprentice and perform in my first professional show, Rubaiyat – Life in a Day, in the fall of 2014.

What do you like best about KDT as a school/organization?

Katha Dance Theatre is more than just a studio; I consider it a second home and family. The school is set up in a way that a student can join with any dance background. My favorite times at KDT have consisted of end-of-the-year recitals like Sadhana and performing at professional and touring shows. I love having the opportunity to showcase my love of dance and the skills I have gained over time.

Do you have any specific methods for retaining technique and memorizing steps?

I found that repetition is the most effective way for me to learn the technique and choreography. 

What do you love most about dancing? And what is most challenging about it?

At the start of every session, Rita will perform the dance [technical or lyrical, depending on the session] we will be learning. Every time I watch her perform, I am in awe of her grace yet nervous about my personal execution. Without fail, each year I surprise myself with how much I have learned over the course of the session. The most challenging part of kathak is footwork; the intricate patterns are difficult to learn but all the more rewarding to master. Chakars (spins) are very challenging, especially when they are extremely fast. 

What are your goals as a dancer?

Even within the past year, I have learned so much, from improving my own technique to developing my expressions on stage. Going forward, I hope to continue building these skills and learn as much as possible. In the future, I strive to become a company member and perform in more professional shows. Eventually, my goal is to share my passion for kathak with others through teaching and touring!

Which of KDT’s past shows do you most wish you had performed in and why?

Along with learning kathak, I have also been learning Hindustani classical singing from Dr. Pooja Goswami for the last 12 years. For this reason, I would have loved to have been a part of Sufiana because Dr. Goswami was the lead singer in that show. It would have presented such a cool opportunity to bridge both of my passions in one show.

What advice would you give younger students about developing and progressing as a dancer?

The biggest piece of advice I would give is to make sure you are consistently going to classes and that once you are in class to make sure you are fully present. Understanding and applying corrections is the only way you will be able to improve.

Image courtesy of Anisha Sharma.