April 18th-21st, 2019

at Z Space in San Francisco

Join us for this spectacular festival of North Indian classical music and dance - a thrilling showcase of world art at its pinnacle. Be transported to an elevated state with rich, soulful music and captivating dance. Featuring a lineup of artists that has never been brought together before, Continuum shines a spotlight on a new generation of young masters who bring a fresh lens, contemporary voice, and new dimension to these ancient art forms. Come experience how this generation is carrying the torch of tradition forward and lighting the world on fire. With 6 unique shows over the course of 4 days, the Continuum festival will be the Bay Area’s ultimate music and dance event of the year!

Featured Kathak Artists

  • Seibi Lee
  • Rachna Nivas
  • Rina Mehta
  • Seema Mehta
  • Sarah Morelli
  • Shefali Jain

Featured Music Artists

  • Jayanta Banerjee, sitar
  • Samarth Nagarkar, vocal
  • Jay Gandhi, bansuri
  • Raaginder Singh Momi, violin
  • Saili Oak, vocal
  • Nilan Chaudhuri, tabla

Accompanying Artists

  • Debashis Sarkar, vocal & harmonium
  • Ben Kunin, sarod
  • Satyaprakash Mishra, tabla
  • Satish Tare, tabla
  • Vivek Datar, harmonium
  • Jonathan Kay, esraj

Festival Schedule

Thursday, April 18th, 7:30PM
Opening Night - Emerging Artists

Nilanjan Chaudhuri is an emerging tabla artist and educator based in the Bay Area. Initiated into the tradition of Tabla at the age of five by his father, Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri, Nilan has been performing as a soloist and accompanist for nearly two decades and has had the privilege of sharing the stage with some of Hindustani Classical Music’s most celebrated artists at venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Fillmore, The Monterey Pop Festival, The Fox Theater, and the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

Shefali Jain is an emerging Kathak artist who has trained for over 15 years with Gretchen Hayden and the late Kathak maestro, Pandit Chitresh Das. She has presented concerts at venues such as the Boston University Dance Theater and Alvin American Dance Theater, and has received funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Shefali is also a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective, performing in innovative works such as the Son of the Wind and California Gharana. In addition to performing, she is committed to passing on the rich tradition of Kathak to the next generation. She is a senior teacher at the Chhandika Institute of Kathak Dance and co-director of the Chhandika Youth Ensemble.

Ria DasGupta and Joya Kazi are both ensemble dancers with the Leela Dance Collective. Ria trained in classical ballet and modern dance for 14 years with the Academy of Dance Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey, and she also co-founded Kalamandir Dance Company, a troupe that she choreographed for and performed with internationally. Joya began studying indian classical dance at the age of 4, attended UC Davis as a Theatre & Dance major, and moved to LA to pursue a commercial career in both the Hollywood and Bollywood industries. Both dancers have found a love of kathak that has connected them to their classical roots and after years of intensive training, they were both honored to debut with the Leela Dance Collective in the San Francisco premiere of the Collective's acclaimed work, Son of the Wind.

Friday, April 19th, 7:30PM
Raaginder Singh Momi Violin Solo
Rina Mehta Kathak Solo

Raaginder Singh Momi is a young upcoming violinist and music composer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Hailing from the school of Maihar-Seni Gharana, Raaginder implements improvisation, rhythmic patterns, and the sounds of Indian Classical music on a modified five-string violin. He is deeply embedded into the tradition of Hindustani music through the teachings of great masters like Dr. Sisirkana Dhar Chowdhury and Ustaad Aashish Khan. While keeping that foundation, Raaginder is also immersed in contemporary music, and he has produced several contemporary albums in which the sounds of Indian classical violin and hip-hop music intermingle. These works bring forth lyrical and rhythmic sections which stem from traditional elements while also infusing a modern touch. Through these endeavors and experiences, Raaginder's art brings forth a new, intense, and interesting sound for his audiences to hear.

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 Isodara Duncan Dance Award for Company performance as part of the Chitresh Das Dance Company. Rina 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. Her most ambitious initiative yet 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.

Saturday, April 20th, 2:00PM
Saili Oak Vocal Solo
Sarah Morelli Kathak Solo

A native of Mumbai, Saili Oak began studying music at the age of 3, and is a senior disciple of Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, a leading vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. Her performances have been admired for her meticulous architecture of 'khayal,' her systematic and well-crafted raga exploration and impressive command over the 'laya.’ Saili is also known for her distinguished work in the Indian/Western Classical music crossover space. She has performed with notable western music ensembles including the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Tonality choir, Salastina Music Society. Saili serves as the Programs Director of a non-profit organization 'Shastra' and is also a Vocal Mentor for the non-profit organization Street Symphony in Los Angeles. A passionate educator, Saili maintains a vocal studio 'SailiMusic' where she trains the next generation of upcoming artists, and is a frequent guest speaker, panelist and workshop participant at conferences and universities across America.

Dr. Sarah Morelli has studied India’s performing arts since 1992 and is active as a kathak performer, scholar, and educator. Her dance is infused with a rich musicality and deep understanding of kathak’s past and present. Sarah was blessed to receive much of her artistic training from two legends of North Indian classical performance: renowned kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das and maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Sarah received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in Ethnomusicology in 2007, and her forthcoming book is an ethnographic examination of Pandit Chitresh Das’s contributions to kathak dance. She is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and serves as Chair of the Department of Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Theory at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. There she leads the DU North Indian Classical Ensemble, and also teaches kathak classes to members of the broader Front Range community through the Sureela Academy. One of five co-founders of the Leela Dance Collective, Sarah is among the growing group of artists from around the country and India working collaboratively to forward a collective vision for kathak dance.

Saturday, April 20th, 7:30PM
Samarth Nagarkar Vocal Solo
Rachna Nivas Kathak Solo

Samarth Nagarkar is a Hindustani classical vocalist, known for his captivating performances of traditionally rich music. Samarth has been featured in several prominent music festivals and venues around the world. He has two solo albums titled ‘Pravah’ and ‘Pranali’, a book titled ‘Raga Sangeet’ and several other collaborative albums such as ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Ragas Live Retrospective’, to his credit. He is Guru and Director of Academic Affairs at Chhandayan Center of Indian Music in New York and frequently presents lectures and master-classes at schools like NYU and MSM. Trained under distinguished gurus and performers, Ulhas Kashalkar and Dinkar Kaikini, he is a former scholar of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata. Pursuing a full-fledged career as a performer, composer, teacher and author, Samarth is described by critics as one of today’s most prolific performers and a torchbearer of the traditions he represents.

Rachna Nivas is an artist, choreographer, educator, and entrepreneur in Indian classical dance, bringing meaningful leadership to Kathak. Deemed “charismatic” and “revelatory” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Rachna is a fierce performer – a technical powerhouse with masterful creativity and infectious charm. Displaying the depth of her 17-year training under legendary Guru, Pandit Chitresh Das, she is a distinguished torchbearer of the treasured lineage. Rachna was principal dancer with the internationally touring Chitresh Das Dance Company for 15 years and received two nominations for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award. 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. In 2016, she co-founded the Leela Dance Collective, producing powerful works through the collective creativity of trailblazing women in Kathak. 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. She is Co-Director of the Bay Area based Chhandam School of Kathak, one of the world’s leading institutions for 38 years in classical Indian dance, art, and culture, and is also Artistic Director of the Chhandam Youth Dance Company, shepherding excellence, leadership, and creative discovery amongst teens. Rachna’s larger 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.

Sunday, April 21st, 2:00PM
Jay Gandhi Bansuri Solo
Seema Mehta Kathak Solo

A multifaceted artist, Jay Gandhi's music is at once reflective of his devotion to his Guru, the inimitable legend of the bansuri, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, as well as a diverse range of other musical influences. Jay’s initial training in Hindustani music was under Smt. Kum Kum Sanyal (vocal) and later in bansuri under Pt. Ronu Majumdar and Pt. Raghunath Seth. From his formative years, Jay’s musical inclinations were not limited to that of the Indian sub-continent and he was also strongly drawn to the music of the African diaspora and American Jazz in particular. With the desire to bring the sound and versatility of the bansuri into the jazz idiom in a meaningful way, he formally studied Jazz Performance at Oberlin College/Conservatory of Music (Ohio) and trained under such Jazz luminaries as Gary Bartz and the late Marcus Belgrave. A recipient of the prestigious AIIS Performing Arts Fellowship, Jay maintains a busy schedule performing for audiences across the globe. He currently is based out of New York City, where he is very active as both a teacher and performer and also as a founding member of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a prominent musicians collective.

A fine artist, Seema Mehta graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco specializing in painting. She has trained in a traditional setting with the legendary Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das under the Guru-shishya parampara for fifteen years. Her lineage dates back to the great Gurus of the Lucknow and Jaipur gharanas. Seema’s style therefore strikes an admirable balance between the two styles, the subtle and graceful versus the warrior like vigour through powerful footwork and chakkars. Her high energy captivates the hearts of the audiences. She has been training in Hindustani vocal with thumri expert Dhanashree Pandit Rai, and her vocal study continues to inspire her to create new works. Seema is the Director of Chhandam Nritya Bharati, where she teaches close to sixty students in Mumbai. Her passion lies in teaching the next generation and passing on the knowledge received by her Guru. Going beyond the traditional preview of dance, Seema’s vision is to create a movement by touching lives through her work. Her aim is to create an empowered next generation of artists who can make dance their livelihood by maintaining the highest artistic standards.

Sunday, April 21st, 6:00PM
Jayanta Banerjee Sitar Solo
Seibi Lee Kathak Solo

Jayanta Banerjee was born into a musical family, and started learning sitar from the late Amit Prosonno Mukherjee, and later with Pandit Santosh Banerjee and Pandit Robi Chakroborty through the Rampur and Maihar Gharanas. Among his many achievements, Jayanta won India’s National Youth Festival competition in 1997, which paved the way for further opportunities. He has performed as a soloist and accompanist extensively in over 13 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. He has accompanied some of the world’s greatest Indian classical dancers and musicians including Pandit Chitresh Das, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Dr. L Subramanium, Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Ustad Sabir Khan, Pandit Bhawani Shankar, and Pandit Ramesh Mishra. Jayanta is also a successful composer and arranger, and has worked extensively with the Chitresh Das Dance Company and Leela Dance Collective.

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 as part of 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. Son of the Wind premiered at the Green Center in Sonoma in 2017 and is premiering internationally at the prestigious Royal Opera House in Mumbai, India January 2019. 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.