SPEAK: Tap & Kathak Unite With Michelle Dorrance, Rina Mehta & More At The Broad Stage

Article Pixel

SPEAK: Tap & Kathak Unite With Michelle Dorrance, Rina Mehta & More At The Broad StageIndian Kathak dance and American Tap dance are continents and ages apart, yet they share parallel stories of struggle and perseverance. They join forces in a unique and sensational collaboration - as The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage presents SPEAK: Tap & Kathak Unite, a program that brings together MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance, Founders of Leela Institute for the Arts Rina Mehta and Rachna Nivas, and Broadway performer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, for three performances only, March 22 - 24.

The music is composed by Jayanta Banerjee and Allison Miller. Additional musicians include Vaibhav Mankad (vocals), Satyaprakash Misra (tabla), Carmen Staaf (piano) and Tabari Lake (bass). These dancers and musicians, performing in their separate traditions, come together in a sensational collaboration that is rhythm, poetry, storytelling, music and dance.

Nivas explained the origins of Kathak in a feature with SF Weekly, "Kathak evolved from roving story tellers miming the epics. It flourished during the 400 years, beginning in the 15th century, when the Persians settled in India, and the Muslim kings were lavish patrons of the arts. When the British came, they worked to dismantle the performance culture that had been cultivated in the palaces and temples. The dancers and the form sort of went underground until the 1940s, when it experienced a resurgence, particularly after India's independence."

Nivas adds that the art of tap dance was also shaped by oppression, with tap's roots going back to the slave plantations, as a mode of expression and making music when instruments were forbidden. With similar origins, both forms are also deeply integrated with music and work directly to complement the rhythm section.

In an interview with NPR, Dorrance explains, "To be able to be a dancer and a musician at the same time, there's nothing like it. There's something that's really organic in your footfall. There's something organic in your biorhythms, your heartbeat. And to be able to demonstrate that inside of a moving form is phenomenal."

SPEAK bridges the cultures of these storied dance artists and dance styles: it 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. Executive director of The Broad Stage, Jane Deknatel said, "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 and they are joined by the world's leading Indian classical and American jazz musicians."

Tickets are on sale at www.thebroadstage.org or by calling 310.434.3200. SPEAK: Tap & Kathak Unite at The Broad Stage is made possible in part by a generous gift from Ann Petersen and a grant from the California Arts Council.

About the Artists
Michelle Dorrance, founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance, is one of the most sought after tap dancers of her generation and "one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today" (The New Yorker). A 2015 MacArthur Fellow, 2014 Alpert Award Winner, and 2013 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award Winner, Michelle performs, teaches and choreographs throughout the world.

Mentored by Gene Medler, Michelle grew up performing with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble and has since performed with: STOMP, Savion Glover's ti dii, Manhattan Tap, Barbara Duffy & Co, JazzTap Ensemble, Rumba Tap, Ayodele Casel's Diary of a Tap Dancer, Mable Lee's Dancing Ladies, Harold Cromer's original Opus One, Derick Grant's Imagine Tap and Jason Samuels Smith's Charlie's Angels/Chasing the Bird. Michelle's choreography has been featured on stages throughout the world as well as in a high-fashion short film for Tabitha Simmons' 2011 Fall line.

Michelle embodies a true passion for teaching and strives to share this passion wherever she goes. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from NYU, played bass for Darwin Deez, teaches on faculty at Broadway Dance Center, is a Capezio Athlete and has been featured on the covers of Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher Magazine. Michelle wishes to credit the master hoofers from whom she studied with in her youth for constant inspiration and influence.

Rina Mehta began studying Kathak under internationally renowned Kathak master and guru, Pandit Chitresh Das in 2000. Since joining the Chitresh Das Dance Company shortly after, she has performed in such critically-acclaimed productions such as Pancha Jati, Shabd, and Sita Haran. She has received the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant and twice been nominated for an Isodara Duncan Dance Award for Company performance as part of the Chitresh Das Dance Company. She has performed as a soloist and with the company at such prestigious venues/festivals nationally and in India as REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater), Meany Hall for Performing Arts (University of Washington), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, UCLA's World Festival of Sacred Music, National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, and the Shaniwarwada Dance Festival in Pune. Rina Mehta's original works include Chandanbala, the classic Jain story interpreted through the Kathak tradition and Speak, a collaboration with Rachna Nivas (kathak) and tap dancers Michelle Dorrance and Dormeisha Sumbry-Edwards.

Rina is the Executive Producer of UPAJ, a documentary on Pt. Chitresh Das' groundbreaking collaboration with tap star Jason Samuels Smith, India Jazz Suites. She is also a 2013 Fulbright Scholar in Kathak dance. She received her Bachelor of Arts in immunology and her Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards is a two-time Bessie Award winner (as per- former and choreographer), Princess Grace Award, and Astaire Award for Best Female Performer in Broadway's After Midnight. Additional Broadway credits in- clude the Tony Award winning productions of Black and Blue and Bring In Da'Noise, Bring In Da'Funk. Dormeshia was integral to Noise/Funk's International Tour (dance captain/principal) and performed as special guest for Grammy Recording artist Fantasia, and for International Jazz Day at The Kennedy Center collaborating with the legendary Al Jarreau and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Film and TV credits include "TAP" with Gregory Hines, Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" (Assistant Choreographer/actress), "The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang" (Best Lead Actress nomination), Superstars of Dance (representing the USA), Tops Commercial, and onscreen coach for MTV's Made to name a few. Dormeshia was also the Tap advisor for Dance Magazine and the face of Capezio's national Tap campaign. Choreography credits include Michael Jack- son's Rock My World, The Cotton Club's Sophisticated Ladies, The Blues Project (co-choreographer/co-creator), and Jacob Pillow debut And Still You Must Swing with leading collaborators Jason Samuels Smith, Derick K. Grant and Camille A. Brown (named New York Times' The Best of Dance 2016).

With over 30 years touring the world, she also spent 11 years as Michael Jack- son's tap instructor. Throughout her career Dormeshia has established high standards for the art form of tap performance, choreography and instruction, where there is an emphasized balance of musicality, technicality, grace and pre- sentation. She specifically credits her teachers and mentors Paul & Arlene Kennedy for giving her the foundations to succeed across diverse platforms.

Rachna Nivas is a leading artist, educator, activist in Indian classical dance, bringing a relevant voice to kathak. Deemed "charismatic" and "revelatory" by the San Francisco Chronicle, Rachna is a fierce and passionate performer, displaying the depth of her 17-year training under legendary master Pandit Chitresh Das. She is a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective and was an Isadora Duncan Dance Award nominee as principal member of the Chitresh Das Dance Company. She has performed worldwide in award-winning productions, most notably at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater in Los Angeles, National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai. Her original solo work, Meera, has been featured at ODC's Walking Distance Festival in San Francisco and at Salvatore Capezio Theater in New York City. She is currently touring her collaboration SPEAK, bringing together leading women in kathak and tap - a cross-cultural expression of identity, gender, race, and heritage.

As Artistic Director of the Chhandam School in the Bay Area, Rachna has also been instrumental in building one of the world's premiere arts institution. As one of the most sought-after teachers in her generation, Rachna splits her time between SF, LA, NYC, and Mumbai, Rachna's vision is to raise awareness of the rich philosophies of India through kathak, and for it to be a tool for empowerment and social justice.

Allison Miller, Drums and Composer
Carmen Staaf, Piano
Tabari Lake, Bass
Jayanta Banerjee, Sitar and Composer
Vaibhav Mankad, Vocals
Satyaprakash Mishra, Tabla

Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You