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.
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 touchwith 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
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.
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.
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.
Our final showcase celebrated our apprentices and Company. Learn more.
Our Virtual Diwali Festival streamed on Vimeo Nov. 13 –15, featuring a different performance each night from 7 – 7:30 pm CT. The event showcased our past collaborative works and new performances by some of our interns and advanced students that encapsulate the true meaning of Diwali – celebrating the triumph of light over dark, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
Viewers were asked to consider donating in support of this and other KDT programming on Give to the Max Day (Nov. 19).
Friday, Nov. 13: Intro: Excerpt from Pourush Bhagwati Bandana and highlights from The Ramayana Project
Bhagwati, or Ma Durga, is synonymous to Shakti, who is the personification of beauty, creativity, wisdom, mystery and profundity. Bhagwati Bandana is an invocation to the goddess: Victory to You, O Divine Goddess, My Salutations to You.
The Ramayana Project, a Pan-Asian collaboration produced by KDT in 2006, is based on the Hindu epic “The Ramayana.” Artists from India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka came together in celebration of Southeast Asian dance and music for this project, which attempts to highlight these cultures’ shared traditions and shared roots.
Saturday, Nov. 14: Intro: Asato Ma Sad Gamaya Highlights from Pourush
KDT based Pourush (2015) on award-winning artist and writer Rabindranath Tagore’s dance-drama Chitrangada.It was an international collaboration featuring Kathak choreography by Rita Mustaphi and Chhau choreography by India-based choreographer Ms. Maitreyee Pahari.
Sunday, Nov. 15: Intro: Mangalam Let there be Lights
On Sunday, we presented excerpts from the following collaborative works. KDT collaborated with internationally-renowned composer J.D. Steele to produce and premiere the world’s first African American & Asian Indian dance opera, Karna – The Abandoned Hero (2013).
EKAM – The Supreme Oneness(2011) celebrated the commonalities in all religions. Translated from Sanskrit, it means “one truth, many paths”, meaning there are many ways to access the Truth, or to realize God. Rita Mustaphi collaborated with renowned Gospel singer Robert Robinson and his company of musicians, blending classical North Indian Kathak dance with gospel music and spoken word poetry.
“The Airport”(2012) is a fusion of Kathak and Flamenco in collaboration with Zorongo Flamenco DanceTheatre that debuted as part of our 25th anniversary show, In Retrospect.