featuring Rina Mehta, Rachna Nivas, Michelle Dorrance & Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards
“…an evening of rhythmic magic.”
– Los Angeles Dance Chronicle
Indian Kathak dance and American tap dance, continents and ages apart, share parallel stories of struggle and perseverance. They come together in this sensational collaboration that is rhythm, poetry, storytelling, music and dance. SPEAK carries forward the legacy of iconic artists like Pandit Chitresh Das, Dr. Jimmy Slyde and James Buster Brown, while bringing to the forefront the voices of powerful female artists. Serving as the bridge between tradition and innovation, history and progress, Rina Mehta, Rachna Nivas, Michelle Dorrance, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards create nothing short of magic on the stage.
SON OF THE WIND
Artistic Direction: Seibi Lee, Rachna Nivas, Rina Mehta
“With its technical brilliance, emotional power, and reverent yet creative reinterpretation of sacred epic,‘Son of the Wind,’…was world-class transnational dance theater that celebrated Indian performance traditions even as
it innovated within them and challenged cultural stereotypes.”
— Dr. Philip Lutgendorf, author of Hanuman’s Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey
This tour-de-force kathak dance drama brings to life the hidden hero at the heart of the great Indian epic, Ramayana. Hanuman, son of the celestial female spirit, Anjana and Vayu, the mighty wind god, proves to be an integral force behind the rescuing of the kidnapped princess Sita, through his mischievous ingenuity and indomitable vigor. It is Hanuman’s actions that leads to the victory of Ram, King of Ayodha, over the arrogant and powerful King of Lanka, Ravan. Told through dramatic storytelling, powerful movement, and exquisite costume design and lighting, this production exposes the contemporary relevance of a timeless story while capturing the hearts of all.
THE TRADITIONAL SOLO
Performed by Rina Mehta
“The solo is a treat for those art lovers and connoisseurs looking for an immersive experience with India’s ancient and timeless art form of kathak.”
— Audience Member
The traditional kathak solo is a tour-de-force performance of dance, music, poetry and storytelling. Unproduced, highly interactive and in large part improvised, the traditional solo is kathak dance in its most raw and unadulterated form. The solo, as the name implies, features a single kathak artist in performance along with an ensemble of hindustani classical musicians (usually including tabla, strings and vocals) for anywhere between 90 to 120 minutes. As kathak evolves into the 21st century, the traditional solo is increasingly being replaced by group productions that are choreographed, and supported by recorded music and high-production value lighting and staging. The Leela Dance Collective works to preserve the core of the kathak tradition while evolving it to make it relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences. As such, it works to create and tour large scale works from SPEAK to Son of the Wind, while investing in presentation of the traditional solo by established and emerging kathak artists in strategic venues around the globe.
RESOUND: KATHAK IN THE STREETS
Artistic Direction: Rina Mehta
"In the midst of a crowded shopping street, everything stopped for a moment while the artists exploded in sound and color...This community experience of watching kathak with strangers was badly needed after living through the isolation of the pandemic"
— Audience Member
ReSound brought the grandeur and magic of kathak dance to sidewalks, parks and storefronts in neighborhoods and communities across Los Angeles and San Francisco. A 10-day celebration of dance music, ReSound featured more than 15 free performances and 10 workshops for all ages, at iconic locations from Union Square and Japantown Peace Plaza in San Francisco, to Grand Park and Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade in Los Angeles. Conceived and choreographed by Rina Mehta, ReSound showcased kathak legend Chitresh Das’s original compositions and choreography, while featuring a new generation of emerging kathak dancers trained in his iconic style
Artistic Direction: Rina Mehta, Rachna Nivas, Seibi Lee
“An incredible display of dance and music. California Gharana elegantly shepherds the past into the future as it pays homage to legendary kathak artist, Chitresh Das and his legacy, while giving voice to a new generation of women artists”
— Audience Member
California Gharana celebrates the living legacy of kathak legend, Pandit Chitresh Das, offering three compelling pieces that embody his style, aesthetic and vision for the art form. Percussive feet, dynamic movement and rich music weave seamlessly together to tell of story of India – her history, struggles, spiritual discoveries, and evolution. The performing artists of California Gharana come together from around the world to create not only a compelling work of performance art but a living connection between generations and continents.
Concept & Choreography: Rina Mehta
Chandanbala is a solo tour-de-force performance grounded in the dynamic tradition of Kathak, classical dance of North India and based on the life story of Jainism’s most revered female saint, Chandanbala. Born as the princess Vasumati, Chandanbala’s enduring compassion and faith stand in stark contrast to the injustice and violence that surrounded her life. Rina’s voice is powerful and evocative as she interprets this ancient tale, bringing to it a contemporary resonance. Rina Mehta’s Chandanbala weaves together dance, music, rhythm, mime and song in a performance that is simultaneously compelling storytelling and a call to social action. She asks of her audiences to pay heed to the terrible violence against women that plagues our modern world and dig deep to find their own reserves of compassion and faith.