Virtual Concert Series

Available now:

Soul to Sole (2010)

Mother/Daughter – On the Border (1999)

Sufiana – The Sufi Ecstasy (2016) 

Chandalika – The Untouchable Maiden (2002)

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!

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.

Welcome to KDT’s 32nd Season!

Shaamya – Of Equality: January 5, 2020

J.D. Steele. Photo by John Wagner.

Of equality I sing:
Where all barriers and differences
Among people are vanished,
Where Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians
Have mingled together.
– An excerpt from Kazi Nazrul Islam’s “Of Equality”

Inspired by the poem “Of Equality” written by Bengali revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899 – 1976), Katha Dance Theatre (KDT) is excited to announce a new thematic dance presentation: Shaamya – Of Equality.

Of Equality infuses gospel and R&B music composed and performed by local musician and composer J.D. Steele (pictured at left) and poetry by Somali poet and playwright Ifrah Mansour (pictured at right) into original Kathak choreography inspired by Nazrul Islam’s poetry. Steele, an accomplished musician who has performed with Prince, Mavis Staples, and others, will be accompanied by pianist Billy Steele, drum artist Abhinav Sharma, vocalist Tonia Hughes. Mansour’s poem “I am a Refugee,” which she will perform during Of Equality, was featured in PBS’s Online Film Festival in 2018. She is also known for her autobiographical play How to Have Fun in a Civil War, which depicts her recollections of her childhood in war-torn Somalia. With this new work, our intent is to engage people of all cultures in valuable discussions about parallels between the experiences of today’s communities of color and those expressed by Nazrul Islam in his time.

Ifrah Mansour. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Select KDT dancers will perform a work-in-progress version of Of Equality at The Southern Theater on January 5, 2020. Remember that this is just a preview of what’s to come; the full production is set to debut at St. Paul’s Park Square Theatre next November with four performances, including a student-only matinee.
WHAT: Shaamya – Of Equality: Work-in-Progress Performance
WHEN: January 5 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: The Southern Theater, 1420 S. Washington Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55454
RUNTIME: 40 minutes + 20 minute post-show discussion
TICKETS: Gen. admission: $10, youth/students: $5. (Or, pay what you can–in person at the box office only). Go here to learn more: https://southerntheater.org/shows/shaamya-of-equality
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Local Tours: February and May, 2020

Photo by Erik Saulitis.

KDT will travel to Mankato and St. Cloud next year to perform Ritu – The Seasons and engage in community outreach activities. Ritu, which originally debuted in 2018, is a vivid portrayal of the Indian seasonal cycle, expanding and subverting American expectations. Based on the lyrical poem “Ritusamhara” by the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, Ritu depicts the six Indian seasons within beautiful and intricate Kathak movement, celebrating nature’s beauty through Kathak’s grace and subtlety. As always, our touring performances are open to the public. Please mark the following dates in your calendar, noting that ticket prices and showtimes are yet to be announced.

  • February 12: Minnesota State University – Mankato’s Ostrander Auditorium
  • May 22: This performance has been canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to reschedule soon.

Spotlight on the Teacher: Rupa Nair

Katha Dance Theatre is a dance company and school run by some of the country’s finest Kathak artists. Our instructors are passionate about Kathak tradition and have worked hard to reach their level of expertise, practicing daily in order to develop their skills. But apart from regular practice, what does it take to make a dancer? In our dancers’ experience, learning from inspiring teachers plays a huge role in helping artists achieve their professional goals.

In our series Spotlight on the Teacher, we’re checking in with our talented dance teachers – learning about their origins, the development of their teaching style, their goals for their students, and more – in order to better understand their individual approaches to teaching, dancing, and practicing their art. This month, our spotlight shines on KDT instructor and company dancer Ms. Rupa Nair! Rupa is currently on maternity leave following the birth of her daughter this past summer.

What is your dance background, both in terms of your training and your professional experience?

I have been drawn toward dance since I was a child in India. Due to my keen interest and love of dance, my parents decided to enroll me in a dance school when I turned 7. I studied Bharatanatyam for 12 years at Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, and was chosen to represent my school in various dance competitions. When I moved to the U.S. in 2007, the itch to get back to training was always there but I was never able to find the right school for myself. While visiting my husband in Minneapolis, we happened to attend a show where I saw KDT company dancers perform and it had made an impression in my mind. When I moved to Minneapolis for good in 2012, I decided to pursue Kathak and started training under the guidance of my guru, Rita Mustaphi. In 2014, I was graced with the opportunity to perform with the company dancers in KDT’s production of Rubaiyat, and there was no looking back. My journey with KDT started as a student, then an Intern and finally a company dancer and in the process I have had the opportunity to constantly learn under the guidance of Rita and my peers.

When and why did you begin teaching?  

Coming from a family of teachers, it isn’t very surprising that I naturally have a liking for teaching. I started interning as a teacher in the year 2016 and then, in 2017, I started teaching full-time.

Who and/or what have been your biggest inspirations as a teacher? 

My guru, Rita Mustaphi, has been a great inspiration. The trust and faith she placed in me encouraged me to take up teaching. I have learned a lot under her guidance and when she approached me about teaching, I felt it was time to take my learning to another level.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I am more of a mentor to the students than a teacher. I want everyone to be comfortable around me and feel free to approach me. I like to work closely with my students until they grasp the technique and understand the concept behind it.

“Everyone pursues a passion for a reason, and I want [my students] to believe in that reason and not feel intimidated.”

What do you hope your students take away from your class?

I hope my students feel more confident in themselves after each class. Everyone pursues a passion for a reason, and I want them to believe in that reason and not feel intimidated. Two people will not have the same goal, so I encourage my students to really enjoy the experience of dancing and in the process, feel more confident.

Do you have any key phrases or expressions you often use in your classes? 

The most common phrase I tend to use is “If I can do it, you can do it too. All it takes is hard work and perseverance.”

What do you love most about teaching? What’s the hardest part of your job?

I love the look of satisfaction I see in my students. I like the fact that through teaching, I learn a lot from my students too. When you are enjoying teaching it is hard to stop at the end of the hour.

What advice do you have for other dance teachers who wish to make an impression on their students? 

The only advice I have is: Believe in your strengths as a teacher, believe in your students and make teaching an enjoyable experience for the students and for yourself.

Photo: Rahul Nair

Spotlight on the Teacher: Sarika Haris

Katha Dance Theatre is a dance company and school run by some of the country’s finest Kathak artists. Our instructors are passionate about Kathak tradition and have worked hard to reach their level of expertise, practicing daily in order to develop their skills. But apart from regular practice, what does it take to make a dancer? In our dancers’ experience, learning from inspiring teachers plays a huge role in helping artists achieve their professional goals.

In our series Spotlight on the Teacher, we’re checking in with our talented dance teachers – learning about their origins, the development of their teaching style, their goals for their students, and more – in order to better understand their individual approaches to teaching, dancing, and practicing their art. This month, our spotlight shines on KDT instructor and company dancer Ms. Sarika Haris.

What is your dance background, both in terms of your training and your professional experience?

I began my dance journey in India where I studied Bharatanatyam, the South Indian classical dance style, for several years. While I was there, I performed in the Bhartanatyam dance ensembles Bhasmasur Mohini and Dashavatar. My mom recognized that I could dance at a very young age and decided that it might be a good idea to get me some training, and my dad was very supportive.

Fast forwarding a few years: when I came to the United States to pursue my PhD, I saw Rita Mustaphi’s company perform at the Indian Student Association’s Diwali show at University of Minnesota. It was love at first sight! I loved watching Kathak and was inspired to challenge myself to learn something new and different from what I had learned in India. That’s when I joined Katha Dance Theatre as a student in 1999. Right away, Rita took me under her wing and there was no turning back. Her compassion, humility, guidance and support have been instrumental to not only who I am as a dancer but also a huge influence on who I am as a person.

In 2002, I played the lead role in KDT’s production of Chandalika, The Untouchable. Over the years, I have performed in several KDT productions locally and nationally such as The Hungry Stones, Ritu – The Seasons, Sufiana – the Sufi Ecstasy, Pourush – The Masculine, Rubaiyat – Life in a Day, In Retrospect, Beauty and the Beast, Soul to Sole, Karna – The Abandoned Hero and many others. Over the years, I have continued my learning under the tutelage of Ms. Rita Mustaphi and have taken several workshops and master classes from Padma Vibhushan winner Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. In 2012, I had the honor and privilege of performing in India’s prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival in a fantastic KDT production Karna – The Abandoned hero. I have been a KDT instructor since 2017. 

 When and why did you begin teaching?

Early on, I was a teaching assistant and helped Rita on and off for a couple of years. I then took a break from Kathak when I had my kids. Once I came back from my maternity leave, I resumed as a company dancer and then eventually started teaching in 2017. I used to watch Rita and visiting artists teach over the years and always thought I would like to teach someday. I wanted to teach so I could give back to the community as well as to the dance company. I am glad that Rita had confidence in me and guided me to teach. Teaching kids has been a very fulfilling and satisfying experience. I believe teaching has made me more patient and from a dance perspective, made me analyze the dance movements and break them into simple pieces that kids can easily learn.

Who and/or what have been your biggest inspirations as a teacher? 

My biggest inspirations are my Guru, Rita Mustaphi, and my mom. Rita’s patience, compassion, empathy and willingness to share everything she knows have truly been motivational for me. My mom’s patience with the kids as an academic teacher has had a huge influence on me as well. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pt. Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. Pt. Birju Maharaj has a unique style of teaching and is very humbling for us all. He connects every dance movement to things in nature and provides analogies to actions we do every day, making them very simple for us to learn and follow. In addition, I have also learned a lot from my fellow teachers such as Mukta Sathe, Monica Singh, Anurag Sharma and Rupa Nair. Honestly, I am inspired by the kids I teach as well! They make me a better teacher and help me grow with their honest remarks!

How would you describe your teaching style?

I would like to describe myself as someone who is compassionate but also strict. I expect a lot from my kids and want them to learn and have fun at the same time. I am always trying to push them to do their best, so there are times when I am strict. But I also incorporate games so I can keep dance fun and engaging for the kids I teach. Like I mentioned before, the kids have taught me to be patient and become a better teacher, but I know I have a lot to learn as a teacher and am looking forward to it!

What do you hope students take away from your class?

My goal in my class is to be a true ambassador for Kathak. I would like each of my students to be true ambassadors of Kathak as well. I hope to fuel their passion for dance as they continue to learn Kathak. In addition, I want them to have fun and be motivated to keep dancing.

“The satisfaction I receive after I teach is the greatest reward. I feel like I have a chance to give back and make a small difference to the dance community.”

Do you have any key phrases or expressions you often use in your classes?

Yes, I do. Most commonly: “How do I know you are ready? Can I see Utpatti please?” Others include “Feet in a V – piece of a chocolate pie!”, “I love ice cream”, “I hate homework!” I use some of these phrases to help kids remember the basic movements and stances in Kathak and ensure that their foundation is strong.

What do you love most about teaching? What’s the hardest part of your job?

The satisfaction I receive after I teach is the greatest reward. I feel like I have a chance to give back and make a small difference to the dance community. In addition, I feel like teaching has made me a better dancer, since I must be detailed and analyze every movement to be able to teach. The hardest part of my job is to keep the kids engaged and not bored. Learning something new and difficult can be challenging and helping kids get over the challenge is what I look forward to. To hear “I got it!” from the kids in my class is super satisfying. To see the kids accomplish what they thought was difficult and challenging is very exciting.

What advice do you have for other dance teachers who wish to make an impression on their students?

I am incredibly blessed to be part of the KDT organization with Rita as the best teacher anyone could ask for. In addition, I have personally learned a lot from my fellow teachers. Based on what I have observed and now experienced as a teacher, my only advice would be to be patient, encouraging and honest. Remember that teaching helps unlock new potential!