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

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!

Ritu – The Seasons: 2020 Tour

Performance Dates:

NOTE: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, our performance scheduled for Friday, May 22 at the Paramount Center for the Arts, St. Cloud has been canceled. All ticket holders will be contacted by the Paramount Center with information regarding refunds/exchanges. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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.

Photo: Erik Saulitis

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.