ARTISTIC WORKS: NOW TOURING
featuring Rukhmani 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, Rukhmani Mehta, Rachna Nivas, Michelle Dorrance, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards create nothing short of magic on the stage.
ENCOUNTERS WITH BEAUTY (IN DEVELOPMENT)
Artistic Direction: Rukhmani Mehta, Seibi Lee
“Collaboration asks you to step outside of your comfort zone, reach and connect across differences, and expand your art practice. At Leela, collaboration is how we rediscover and remake our art and ourselves.”
Rukhmani Mehta, Artistic Director
Indian classical dance meets Western classical chamber music in Leela Dance Collective’s new collaborative work. Conceived of by kathak artist Rina Mehta, this work weaves together evocative sounds of the string quartet and Hindustani classical vocals with the percussive footwork and dramatic movement of kathak dance. Commissioned in part by The Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Encounters With Beauty crosses genres, cultures, and communities.
THE TRADITIONAL SOLO
Performed by Rukhmani 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. As the name implies, the solo 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. Nevertheless, the solo continues to be highly dynamic and entertaining and ever relevant to contemporary audiences.
PREVIOUS ARTISTIC WORKS
RESOUND: KATHAK IN THE STREETS
Artistic Direction: Rukhmani 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. 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.
SON OF THE WIND
Artistic Direction: Seibi Lee, Rachna Nivas, Rukhmani 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.
Concept & Choreography: Rukhmani Mehta
Chandanbala is a solo performance based on the life story of Jainism’s most revered female saint. Born as the princess Vasumati, Chandanbala’s enduring compassion and faith stood in stark contrast to the injustice and violence that surrounded her life. Rukhmani weaves together dance, music, rhythm, mime and song to bring to life this ancient tale, making it relevant for contemporary audiences. Chandanbala is performed along with live music and narration.