Pandit Birju Maharaj (1938 – 2022)

On January 17, the world lost a monumental figure in the world of Kathak dance.

We are devastated to share that Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj has passed away at the age of 83. In addition to being one of the most revered Kathak artists of all time, Pandit Birju Maharaj was also the longtime guru of Rita Mustaphi and had a huge artistic impact on KDT. We were honored to have him as a visiting master teacher over the years, but the world will remember him for his incomparable talent, wisdom, artistry and leadership.

In the weeks to come, we hope to more formally memorialize the great Pandit Birju Maharaj. For now, the entire KDT family can think back on its personal memories of the Kathak guru and the lasting impression he made on the world of dance, taking comfort in the fact that he will live on through his artistic legacy.

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!

A Note About Summer 2021

Image source: cdc.gov

Dear KDT family,

We’ve come to the difficult decision to not resume in-person learning this Summer, meaning that classes will remain virtual through August.

I know this is disappointing to many of you who are growing weary of living your lives online. And I know that we had previously announced our intention to introduce limited in-person education starting this Summer. Due to recent developments, however, we believe this is the only way forward. Our reasons are as follows:

-COVID-19 case numbers: We’ve noticed with concern that case numbers in Minnesota are rising and in order to ensure the continued health and safety of our community, we feel congregating in-person would pose too great a risk––even with strict safety measures in place, as was our intention.

-Teacher vaccination status: As we’ve previously shared, we are committed to not beginning in-person classes until our entire teaching staff is vaccinated, and at this point, that will likely not happen until after Summer classes have begun.

-HVAC system: Again, because COVID-19 is airborne, we are committed to installing an upgraded HVAC system in our studio before in-person classes resume in order to ensure proper airflow. This will likely not occur until later than we had previously anticipated.

As I hope you’re all aware, we did not come to this decision lightly. We still hope to resume in-person classes this Fall (although virtual options will remain for our remote learners), but in order to ensure everyone’s continued health and safety as the pandemic persists, we feel we must keep Summer classes virtual. Let’s all continue to show each other patience and understanding and come together even stronger this Fall!

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have. For example, if you’re interested in using the studio for individual practice time this Summer, we’d be happy to help you arrange that. As KDT students, you have the option of renting the studio for $20/hour.

Either way, thank you all for your continued loyalty and support during this difficult time. We will get through this!

All the best,

Rita Mustaphi
Founder & Artistic Director
Katha Dance Theatre

Showcase 5: Coming April 23

Photo: Anjana Nair

This month, our penultimate student showcase explores the idea of journeys. Through celebrating both our Adult 1A students and some of their more experienced counterparts, we’ll demonstrate how the excitement and promise at the beginning of the dancer’s journey transitions into proficiency and confidence down the road.

Featuring recent KDT student performances at the Bharathotsav International Virtual Dance Competition. Click on the image above to watch starting on April 23!

Watch all of our past showcases here.