Principal Artists

Rina Mehta

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 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, New Music USA, 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), Tata Theater/NCPA in Mumbai, and the Shaniwarwada Dance Festival in Pune, as a soloist and with the Chitresh Das Dance Company.

Rina is also 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 initiative of its kind, aimed at providing the financial infrastructure necessary to advance India’s rich artistic heritage.

 

Seibi Lee

Seibi Lee is a dynamic Kathak artist known for the exceptional range and depth of her mastery, sophisticated musicality, and dramatic brilliance in character portrayal. Seibi is a leading disciple of the iconic Kathak legend Pandit Chitresh Das. She is a Co-Founder of the Leela Dance Collective and Dean of the Chhandam School of Kathak.

Seibi has toured worldwide earning accolades and deep respect for her artistry. She received an Isadora Duncan Dance Special Award for Pandit Chitresh Das and the performing ensemble for East As Center and received two subsequent nominations for performances in Das’ Pancha Jati and Shabd. Seibi has gone on to evolve her own distinct voice through the development of virtuosic character roles in Das’ critically acclaimed works: the scheming maidservant Mantara in Ramayana, the dual roles of the tormented demon Marich and beloved tribal prince Hanuman in Sita Haran, the belligerent General in Darbar and in Das’ final work – the electrifying Guru in Shiva. Her outstanding portrayal of Hanuman became the inspiration for the central character and creation of Leela Dance Collective’s Son of the Wind – the full length dance drama bringing to life Hanuman’s rarely told heroic and valorous adventures from the epic Ramayana.

Seibi has a deep and abiding passion for the art of Kathak and for continuing the legacy of Pandit Das. As Senior teacher at Chhandam, she has mentored many generations of dancers and in 2016, she was recognized by The Alliance of California Traditional Arts as a Master Artist. She has produced several featured shows including Pacific Pathways, Aarambh and Harvest Moon Festival. Seibi continues to forge her own unique path within the artistic tradition and has created, with the support of the Haas foundation and a 2-year Artist in Residence with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, the mesmerizing solo choreography for Houyi and Chang’e, a heart-rending tale of great heroism and of tragically star crossed lovers.

 

 

Rachna Nivas

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.