Friday, March 27, 2020 • 7:30 p.m.
700 Terrace Heights
Winona, MN 55987
$27 seniors (62+) and students
$24 youth (17 and under)
Leela Dance Collective
Part of the Driftless Dance Festival
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.
Joined by the world’s leading Indian classical and jazz musicians, SPEAK promises to thrill, provoke and move your spirit.
Concept: Rina Mehta & Rachna Nivas
Choreography: Rachna Nivas, Rina Mehta, Dormeshia, Michelle Dorrance
Original Score: Jayanta Banerjee, Allison Miller, Carmen Staaf
Lighting Design: Dave Robertson
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
“…an evening of rhythmic magic.”
Michelle Dorrance is a New York City-based tap dancer, choreographer, director, teacher, performer, and is the founder and Artistic Director of Dorrance Dance. Mentored by Gene Medler, she grew up performing with his 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, Jason Samuels Smith’s Charlie’s Angels/Chasing the Bird, Jon Batiste and Stay Human on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and has toured the US, Europe, and Australia playing the bass for indie-pop sensation, Darwin Deez.
Most recently Michelle served as Vail Dance Festival’s Artist-In-Residence, curated Tireless: A Tap Dance Experience at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival while co-directing it’s tap education program with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and collaborated with Nicholas Van Young on Works and Process at the Guggenheim’s first site-specific commission for the Guggenheim Rotunda. Michelle’s choreography is performed throughout the world and has been featured at countless theaters, clubs, and festivals including choreographic commissions for The Martha Graham Dance Company, a high-fashion short film for Tabitha Simmons, and most recently new works for American Ballet Theatre.
Michelle is a 2018 Doris Duke Artist, a 2017 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, 2015 MacArthur Fellow, and is humbled to have been acknowledged/supported by the Alpert Awards, The Joyce Theatre Foundation, City Center, Jacob’s Pillow, the Princess Grace Awards, The Field, and the Bessie Awards. A passionate educator, Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts from New York University, she teaches on faculty at IFTRA, taught on faculty at Broadway Dance Center for over a decade, and teaches as a guest artist at universities, festivals, and arts organizations through the world. Michelle wishes to credit the master hoofers from whom she studied with in her youth for constant inspiration and influence.
Rina Mehta brings to the art form of Kathak, classical dance of North India, a singular voice and vision. An artist and an entrepreneur she displays on and off the stage her depth of training with legendary Kathak master, Pt. Chitresh Das, an unshakeable grounding in tradition and a pioneering spirit. Described as “regal” and “brilliant” by critics, her performances and artistic work are paving a path forward for the legacy of Pt. Chitresh Das and Kathak dance itself.
Rina is a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective, which brings together leading artists from around the world to advance a collective vision for Kathak. Rina’s original works include SPEAK, a kathak-tap collaboration; Chandanbala, the story of the revered Jain saint interpreted through the Kathak tradition; and Son of the Wind, the story of the India’s mythological hero, Hanuman, brought to life through dance-drama. She has received funding to create and tour her works by such prestigious institutions such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council and the Zellerbach Family Fund.
Prior to her work with the Leela Dance Collective, Rina was a principal dancer with the Chitresh Das Dance Company, performing and touring with the company’s critically acclaimed productions including Shabd, Pancha Jati, and Sita Haran across the United States and in India. She has received the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant and twice been nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Company performance as part of the Chitresh Das Dance Company. She has performed 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, Tata Theater/NCPA in Mumbai, and the Shaniwarwada Dance Festival in Pune, as a soloist and with the Chitresh Das Dance Company.
Rina’s work is grounded in the belief that Kathak dance can be a powerful tool for empowerment and social change. She is the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright award and researched the effectiveness of Kathak dance education as a social intervention in underprivileged communities in Mumbai, India.
Rina’s most ambitious initiative is The Leela Endowment, the first and only initiative of its kind, aimed at providing the financial infrastructure necessary for dancers to thrive and continue to advance India’s rich artistic heritage.
Rachna Nivas is a leading artist, educator, and 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 and icon Pandit Chitresh Das. She is a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective, an artist-owned and artist-led arts organization, producing powerful works through the collective creativity of trailblazing women in Kathak.
Rachna was principal dancer with the Chitresh Das Dance Company for 15 years and received two nominations for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award while performing worldwide in productions such as Shiva, Sita Haran, Pancha Jati, Darbar, Shabd and many more. Some of the most notable venues she has toured include Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater) and Getty Museum in Los Angeles, National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai, National Institute of Kathak Dance in New Delhi, Shaniwarwada Festival in Pune, and International Kriya Yoga Congress. Her original solo work, Meera, was featured at the ODC Walking Distance Festival in San Francisco and at Salvatore Capezio Theater in New York City. Rachna is currently touring her latest collaborative work SPEAK, bringing together leading women in kathak and tap and bridging Indian and Black-American/African art and and heritage. Her works have been funded by National Endowment for the Arts, Zellerbach Family Foundation, California Arts Council, and Alliance for California Traditional Arts.
As Dean of the Chhandam School of Kathak, Rachna has also been instrumental in building one of the world’s premiere Indian arts institutions, advancing a globally renowned pedagogy. She is artistic director of the Chhandam Youth Dance Company, shepherding excellence, leadership, and creative discovery amongst teens. Rachna currently splits her time between San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Mumbai, becoming one of the most sought-after teachers of her generation. Rachna’s broader vision is to raise awareness, through kathak dance, of the rich philosophies of the Indian subcontinent, and for it to be a tool for empowerment and social change.
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards is a two-time Bessie Award winner (as performer and choreographer), Princess Grace Award, and Astaire Award for Best Female Performer in Broadway’s After Midnight. Additional Broadway credits include 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 artist Fantasia and International Jazz Day featuring the legendary Al Jarreau and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Film credits include TAP with Gregory Hines, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (Assistant Choreographer/actress), and The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang (Best Lead Actress nomination). Choreography credits include Michael Jackson’s “Rock My World”, The Cotton Club’s Sophisticated Ladies, The Blues Project (co-choreographer/creator), and the Jacob’s Pillow debut And Still You Must Swing (New York Times’ The Best of Dance for 2016). With over 30 years touring the world, she also spent 11 years as Michael Jackson’s tap instructor.
Jayanta Banerjee, renowned sitarist and eminent composer, started his formal training under the guidance of Pandit Rabi Chakraborty at a young age. His talent and singular approach to the sitar garnered him early recognition in the field. In 1997, he received the prestigious National Youth Festival Award, paving the way for a prolific and enduring career in music and composition. A profound sensitivity, responsiveness and gravity makes Jayanta’s approach to music. Jayanta has performed with some of India’s greatest artists including the likes of Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pt. Birju Maharaj, Pt. Chitresh Das, Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri, and Pt. Kumar Bose. He has established himself as one of India’s leading composers and his musical compositions are seen in India’s leading dance and theatrical productions. His live performances and compositions have been featured across India and around the world at prestigious venues such as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, Meany Center for the Performing Arts, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai. He currently is a resident artist with the Leela Dance Collective and his recent compositions include the musical scores for SPEAK and Son of the Wind.
Austin McMahon is “one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in Boston.” Sought out for his versatility, he actively performs in an array of jazz and world music ensembles ranging from trio to big band. He recently recorded with the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra (featuring Sean Jones, George Garzone and John Fedchock), Macuco Quintet, Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet, Joe Davidian Trio, and Man On Land and has recently appeared with Kate McGarry & Keith Ganz and the Cape Cod Symphony, Jerry Bergonzi, Noah Preminger, Kevin Harris, Jason Palmer, and Grace Kelly and played at such iconic venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and numerous festivals, concert halls, theatres and clubs throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
Austin has recorded two albums as a bandleader (Many Muses, Many Muses vol. 2, Fractamodi) comprised solely of his original compositions for which, he was awarded Best Jazz Song in the 9th annual Independent Music Awards and nominated for Best Jazz Album in the 11th annual IMAs respectively. His music has been described as, “subtle, reverential to tradition and thoroughly new.”
An active educator in the Boston area, McMahon is currently on faculty at New England Conservatory (Preparatory and Continuing Education Division), and was previously at Harvard University for six consecutive years.
Satyaprakash Mishra is the son and disciple of critically acclaimed tabla artist, Pandit Kalinath Mishra of the Benares Gharana. Satyaprakash’s versatility and range makes him a sought-after accompanist amongst India’s most renowned dance and music artists. He has performed nationally and internationally with artists such as Chitresh Das, Sunayana Hazarilal, Suresh Wadekar, Shankar Mahadevan and Anup Jalota. His performances have been seen at some of India’s most prestigious festivals including Saptak, Chakradhar, and Harrivallabh and at international venues such as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Broad Stage, and the Green Music Center. An artist and entertainer alike, Satyaprakash’s style is marked by technical prowess and sophisticated layakari on the one hand and accessibility and universal appeal on the other. When he is not performing, Satyaprakash is working as an educator, training a new generation of students in the art of tabla through classes and workshops.
Debashis Sarkar (vocal) was born and raised in a musical family. In his early years he trained in classical and semi-classical music with a number of renowned artists including Shri Sukhendu Goswami, Ustad Sagiruddin Khan and Shri Sukumar Mitra. He received his formal and foundational training in Hindustani Classical Vocal Music with Ustaad Ghulam Mohammad Khan. Debashis has performed regularly for All India Radio as a top grade artists and numerous media outlets including Doordarshan. For more than four decades, Debashis has been a highly sought after artist amongst India’s classical dancers. He has accompanied some of India’s finest performers including the late Odissi master Guru Kelucharan Mahapatro, and notable Kathak artists such as Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Chitresh Das, Pandit Vijay Shankar, and Pandit Rammohan Mishra. Debashis was a core member of the Chitresh Das Dance Company’s musical ensemble for over 15 years participating in the composition and performance of full-length musical scores for dance productions such as Darbar, Shiva, Pancha Jati, Sita Haran, East as Center and Sampurnam. Debashis is a popular performer of light classical music including ghazals, thumris and bhajans. He has performed as a soloist and accompanist in prestigious venues in India, Europe, Japan and the United States. He is also proficient in a range of percussion instruments, having studied tabla under Pandit Hiralal Mishra. Debashis is currently a resident artist with the Leela Dance Collective. He regularly performs with the Leela Dance Collective’s major productions including SPEAK and Son of the Wind. His passion for music also makes him a sought after lecturer and visiting faculty member at numerous educational institutions around the globe including The Leela Academy.
Bassist, composer, and bandleader Todd Sickafoose makes rich, imaginative music which has been called “thoroughly original, endlessly creative” by JazzTimes and “stunningly brilliant” by Bassplayer. His band Tiny Resistors is a marvel of musical cross-breeding, pairing indie rock muscle and whimsy with the extended forms, timbres, and sophistication of a jazz orchestra. Perhaps best-known for his collaborations with singer/songwriters, Sickafoose has been “Ani DiFranco’s secret weapon” (New Yorker) on stage and in the studio for 15 years, playing with the folk visionary everywhere from punk clubs to Carnegie Hall, in addition to extensive music-making with Andrew Bird, Jenny Scheinman, Nels Cline, Allison Miller, Myra Melford and many others. Sickafoose is also an active producer/engineer, having helmed over 30 albums with Anaïs Mitchell and Justin Vernon, Rupa & the April Fishes, Erin McKeown, and more.
Pianist/composer Carmen Staaf is an active voice in the NYC and global music scenes. Her skills and approach have led her to perform in a wide range of settings, with some of the most influential and important musicians of our era. Currently, she is the pianist and Musical Director for NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. Her past major performances have included the Playboy Jazz Festival in a two-piano setting with the legendary Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center alongside Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch and Joey Alexander. She has been heard at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note, SFJazz and major jazz festivals around the world including the Montreal and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others.
Staaf co-leads the group Science Fair with drummer Allison Miller; the band’s eponymous debut features Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens and Matt Penman and has been called “one of the year’s best jazz albums” (Paste Magazine). She also performs regularly with Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, violinist Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s Parlour Game, and vocalist/composer Thana Alexa, in addition to her musical direction for Dee Dee Bridgewater. Carmen’s most recent solo album is Day Dream (2017). She is currently co-orchestrating the music of Ellington (along with Allison Miller) for the American Ballet Theater’s October performances choreographed by tap star Michelle Dorrance.
Carmen graduated with a double degree from Tufts University (Anthropology) and the New England Conservatory (Jazz Performance), and immediately thereafter became one of the youngest faculty members ever hired by Berklee College of Music, joining their piano department in 2005. After spending some years touring and recording while based in New York (including winning the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Pianist competition), she was accepted to the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, where she was mentored by the most important living jazz musicians.
An active educator, Carmen has held faculty positions at Berklee, the New School, Stanford Jazz Institute, Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (Chennai, India), Jacob’s Pillow, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and the New York Jazz Academy, and has led masterclasses around the globe. She was also tapped, with Herbie’s approval, to provide transcriptions for Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass performances and lessons.