The Leela Dance Collective, a Los Angeles-based Indian-American dance company, is bringing Kathak, one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance, to Old Pasadena’s Memorial Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, in an outdoor performance intended to re-engage with the community after over a year of canceled live performances and tours.
The Pasadena event is part of “ReSound: Kathak in the Streets,” a 10-day celebration of Kathak dance, featuring street performances and workshops to educate and inspire audiences of all ages in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“ReSound” is conceived and choreographed by Rina Mehta, a senior disciple of Kathak legend Pandit Chitresh Das and co-founder and artistic director of the Leela Dance Collective. Mehta says the concept came out of the experience of COVID-19, and of having been isolated and quarantined for about a year and a half.
“We’ve been living in so much anxiety and fear and isolation that for us, we knew that anything we wanted to do coming out of the pandemic, we wanted it to really pull us out of that frame and kind of really inspire joy, inspire connection,” Mehta said. “That’s the reason we decided that, instead of doing something in a theater where people still have to drive to come to see us, buy a ticket, we wanted to be amongst our communities in the places where people live, where they work, where they play, kind of be a part of people’s everyday life and really use our dance form to re-engage and revitalize our neighborhoods and communities.”
Before the pandemic, the collective had been performing North Indian classical dance in theaters throughout California and touring the U.S. and internationally. In addition, it conducts arts education programs that reach more than 5,000 K-12 and university students, introducing them to India’s rich artistic traditions. With these performances and the educational programming, Leela Dance Collective attempts to bring the joy of Kathak dance to audiences and communities worldwide.
With the free performance at Memorial Park, Mehta said they wanted people, especially fans of Indian classical dance, to know that they intend to come back to the live performance space.
“We wanted to do something that was outdoors,” Mehta continued. “We want to be mindful that audiences and communities might not be ready to gather indoors. So we want to be really mindful of where our audiences are at. We also want to be safe and make sure that we’re being mindful and safe and taking care of public health.”
Preceding the live outdoor performance at Memorial Park, the collective is holding an in-person workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at The Vault Dance Studio, located at 57 Palmetto Drive, from 7 to 8 p.m. Titled “Before Bollywood,” the workshops will introduce students of all levels and backgrounds to the movement, music and expression of the dynamic art form. The fee for the workshop is $10.
Other Leela Dance workshops are given online.
Aside from the Pasadena event, Leela Dance Collective is holding outdoor performances throughout the month of September at iconic locations throughout the state including Union Square and Japantown Peace Plaza in San Francisco, Grand Park in Los Angeles, and Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. Each performance date follows a workshop which Mehta said allows participants to come out and actually try the dance form.
“ReSound” showcases Pandit Chitresh Das’s original compositions and choreography, while featuring a new generation of emerging Kathak dancers trained in his iconic style. Some of the dancers listed on the Leela Dance Collective website include Sonali Toppur, Ahana Mukherjee, Carrie McCune, and Ria DasGupta.
To RSVP for “ReSound” and purchase tickets for the workshop, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/resound-
For more information, visit https://leela.dance/collective