The Page Series at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is now offering a virtual residency with the Leela Dance Collective and world-renowned tap dancers Dormeshia and Michelle Dorrance from April 21 through May 1.
Residency activities and a virtual performance of their original dance and music production SPEAK will replace an in-person residency originally scheduled for March 23-28.
Bridging tradition and innovation and history and progress, Indian kathak and American tap dance, continents and ages apart, share parallel stories of struggle and perseverance. In SPEAK, kathak dancers Rachna Nivas and Rina Mehta (torch bearers of the late master Pandit Chitresh Das’ famed lineage), as well as jazz tap dancers Michelle Dorrance (a MacArthur Award winner) and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards (of the Tony Award-winning “Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk”) bring to the forefront the voices of a new generation of powerful female artists.
SPEAK breaks creative barriers, celebrates two contrasting forms of expression through cross-cultural performances, and highlights the vacuum of female artists in two male-dominated dance genres. The production serves as an example for intercultural collaboration and global citizenship, a dialogue of rhythm, poetry, storytelling, music, and dance.
“It is heartwarming that we will still be able to make these experiences available to our community, thanks to the dedication and creativity of these thoughtful and talented artists, as well as the flexibility and understanding of our funders,” said Theresa Remick, managing director of the Performance Center at Saint Mary’s. “I truly hope that these activities will bring some joy and inspiration to Winonans during this difficult time.”
Beginning on Tuesday, April 21, members of the SPEAK cast will offer online workshops, artist talks, and events designed to share the history and background of their work. All are invited to participate in free events throughout the week, including:
• Women in dance panel discussion
Wednesday, April 29, at 2 p.m., moderated by Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts alumna and Ananya Dance Theatre dancer Renée Copeland
• Introduction to Kathak workshops
Thursday, April 29, at 5 p.m. for dancers
• SPEAK Virtual Performance
Friday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m.
In addition, the artists will offer an adaptive dance class for Home and Community Options programs. Area school groups and families are also invited to participate in two youth-oriented modules that will be available to stream beginning on April 27, including rhythm and movement workshop for families and a SPEAK student matinee.
Full program descriptions and registration links are available at the Page Theatre’s Facebook and at pagetheatre.org.
All activities are offered free of charge to the Winona community, but some require advance registration. Free-will donations are appreciated and can be provided at registration or by visiting pagetheatre.org.
Kathak comes from the word “katha” which means story. The kathakas were storytellers who travelled from village to village in ancient India telling the stories of the great Hindu gods and goddesses. While the depiction of Hindu iconography remains visible in modern-day kathak, the tradition of telling epic tales through kathak has been left behind by most contemporary practitioners of the art form in favor of more contemporary, abstract, or accessible explorations.
Tap is an indigenous American dance genre that evolved over a period of some 300 years. Initially developing out of West African musical and step-dance traditions — along with influences from other rhythmic forms such as Irish step dance — tap emerged in the southern United States in the 1700s.
About the artists
Rachna Nivas is a charismatic performer, mentor, and powerful leader amongst today’s generation of Indian classical artists, bringing a contemporary voice to kathak. She has an extensive performance career to great acclaim across the U.S. and India. She is a senior disciple of the late legendary master, Pandit Chitresh Das, and the former director of the Chhandam School of Kathak, one of the largest classical Indian dance institutions in the world. Find more at rachnanivas.com.
Rina Mehta, founder and artistic director of The Leela Institute, is one of the most powerful Kathak artists of her generation. She is a senior disciple of the late Pandit Chitresh Das and has performed to great acclaim across the U.S. and India, both as a soloist and principal dancer with the Chitresh Das Dance Company. She received a Fulbright Award for Dance and is a pioneer and strong leader amongst her generation, taking Kathak forward and carving a place for the ancient art form in modern times. Find more at rinamehta.dance.
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards has been a part of almost every major tap movie or show that has appeared in the history of tap dance since the ‘80s, including the Tony-winning “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.” Accolades include an Astaire Award for Best Performance, the Bessie Award, and the Hoofer Award. She is founder of Harlem Tap Studio and performs extensively at shows and festivals around the world. Sumbry-Edwards was also Michael Jackson’s private tap instructor for 11 years. Find more at divinerhythmproductions.com/DormeshiaSumbryEdwards.html.
Michelle Dorrance is a New York City–based artist who has appeared in “STOMP,” Derick Grant’s “Imagine Tap!,” Jason Samuels Smith’s “Charlie’s Angels/Chasing the Bird,” Ayodele Casel’s “Diary of a Tap Dancer,” and Mable Lee’s “Dancing Ladies.” Company work includes: Savion Glover’s Ti Dii, Manhattan Tap, Barbara Duffy and Co., JazzTap Ensemble, and Rumba Tap. Solo work ranges from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to commissions for the Martha Graham Dance Company and American Ballet Theatre. A 2018 Doris Duke Artist, 2017 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, and 2015 MacArthur Fellow, Dorrance has received honors and support from United States Artists, the Joyce Theater, New York City Center, the Alpert Awards, Jacob’s Pillow, Princess Grace Foundation, The Field, American Tap Dance Foundation, and the Bessie Awards. Find more at dorrancedance.com.
The Leela Dance Collective was founded in 2016 by Rina Mehta, Rachna Nivas and Seibi Lee, senior disciples of legendary kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das, along with leading kathak performers Sarah Morelli and Shefali Jain. It is the only one of its kind Indian-American dance company that brings together leading kathak artists from around the world representing a multitude of voices to articulate a clairvoyant vision for kathak. The collective is distinguished by an artistic practice that centers around collaboration and collective creativity and a body of work that is at once grounded in tradition and boldly innovative. In its two-year history, the collective has already begun to make an indelible mark on the field of kathak and world dance with its rigorous technique, dynamic choreography, fashion-forward costuming, and sophisticated musical scores.
The collective has garnered critical acclaim across the United States and internationally for its groundbreaking productions from SPEAK, a collaboration that brings together leading female artists in kathak and tap, to Son of the Wind, a traditional dance ballad based on India’s epic, the Ramayana. With home season performances in San Francisco and Los Angeles along with national and international touring, the collective performs for more than 10,000 people annually. Past highlights include appearances at The Broad Stage, the Green Music Center, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The collective’s productions and performances have been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the Zellerbach Family Fund, the Esper Petersen Foundation and New Music USA. Find more at theleelainstitute.org.