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, the heart-rending tale of great heroism and of tragically star-crossed lovers. Most recently, she featured as a solo artist at the Continuum Festival in San Francisco and Drive East Festival in New York.
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. In 2016, she co-founded the Leela Dance Collective, producing powerful works through the collective creativity of trailblazing women in Kathak. She is also Co-Artistic Director of the Bay Area based Chhandam School of Kathak – one of the world’s leading institutions for 39 years in classical North Indian dance, art, and culture. 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. She has performed 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 Broad Stage in Los Angeles, National Center for Performing Arts and Opera House 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, New Music/USA, Alliance for California Traditional Arts. In addition to leading the Chhandam School of Kathak, Rachna is also Artistic Director of the Chhandam Youth Dance Company, shepherding excellence, leadership, and creative discovery amongst teens. She currently splits her time between San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Mumbai, becoming one of the most sought-after kathak artists and teachers of her generation. 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 elevating women’s voices.
Guest Artistic Advisor
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.
Chhandam School Director
Lavina Mehta began dancing at the age of five, training in Bharatanatyam and then Kathak in Singapore. In 2008, she started her Kathak studies with the Chhandam School of Kathak and later volunteered as administrative coordinator for the Chhandam Youth Dance Company, eventually coming on board as school director. Both her daughters started learning Kathak at Chhandam at a young age and are currently dancing with the Chhandam Youth Dance Company. Lavina is the retirement plans manager for Bechtel’s retirement plans group. Her primary responsibilities include the oversight of various retirement plans including 401(k), non-qualified and international plans with over $6 Bil in assets. She provides investment and administrative support for the Bechtel Group Foundation, VEBAs and all other non-U.S. Bechtel retirement plans and sits on various fiduciary committees of Bechtel affiliate companies. She also volunteers on the Asset Management Committee of the Chevron Federal Credit Union. Lavina has her B.Sc. in Management Science from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), in the U.K. and has received the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) designations. Lavina is passionate about the principals taught at Chhandam by the senior disciples of Pt. Chitresh Das, Seibi Lee, Rachna Nivas and Rina Mehta, and grateful to them for continuing this great legacy and being strong role models for her daughters.
Nilima Dave joined at Chhandam in 1999 and received training directly under Pandit Chitresh Das starting in 2003. She has performed in multiple CDDC productions, Darbar (2012) and SHIVA (2016), and she participates in San Francisco Bay Area Schools “Young Audience” program. She is currently a teacher and Director of Student Affairs and Enrollment. Nilima Dave is a Senior Software Quality Engineer at Oracle Corporation champions the high standard of product quality of Oracle Fusion Enterprise Resource Planning, Supply Chain Planning and Financials cloud application suites. She is also an active member of the Oracle Bay Area Volunteer team impacting community initiatives around eradicating hunger, educating girls in technology and building partnerships with bay area tech companies to educate low-income students in careers in Engineering. Nilima extends her commitment and passion to dance as a teacher and a performer to being a part of the Chhandam Leadership Team continue to grow Chhandam as a vital organization in the community as a cultural ambassador of arts and Indian classical dance.
Development & Operations Coordinator
Carrie McCune began her study of kathak with Professor Sarah Morelli at the University of Denver in 2013. Together they founded the Sureela Academy & Ensemble of Kathak in 2016, where she teaches and works as the Ensemble Coordinator. Carrie is an administrator for the Chhandam School of Kathak and assists with marketing, general operations, and organizational development. She is very passionate about working to help preserve and promote this lineage of kathak and is an advocate for all performing arts. Carrie received her Bachelors of Music in Classical Trumpet Performance from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music in 2014. She tours the country as a professional musician with her band Mama Magnolia, teaches privately, and works as a freelance musician throughout the Colorado front range.
Performance & Artistic Development Coordinator
Ria DasGupta has served as an administrative coordinator for Chhandam, managing central office functions and inquiries. Her current role supports school performances and the development of Chhandam students as performing artists in the making. Ria received a doctorate in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco, where she has served as a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional since 2015. She has over 10 years of experience working in higher education administration with a focus and has taught critical educational theory, women’s studies, sociology, and anthropology for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Assistant Youth Company Director
Ahana Mukherjee began studying kathak at the age of ten at the Chhandam School of Kathak and was a part of the inaugural Chhandam Youth Dance Company from 2001 through 2009. After being a member of CYDC herself, she is honored to serve as the youth company’s Assistant Director under Rachna Nivas. Ahana serves as an instructor, mentor, assistant choreographer, and logistics coordinator for the youth company. Ahana received her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. She currently works as a design engineer at Sherwood Design Engineers on a variety of projects ranging from university and medical campuses to mixed-use developments to public playgrounds. Her work involves grading and drainage design, utility routing, and stormwater management design. She is also actively involved in construction administration, interfacing with and maintaining relations between the project client, contractor, and other design teams. She is a LEED AP accredited professional with a specialization in building design and construction.
Site Manager and Student Affairs Coordinator
Seema Barua began her journey in Indian Classical Dance at the age of five, studying Kuchipudi with the Nritya Sikhara Academy under Smt. Sumathy Kaushal in southern California. Upon moving to the Bay Area in 2015, she began her study of Kathak with the Chhandam School of Kathak and later volunteered in an administrative role for the school. She continues to grow her involvement by currently serving as the Site Manager and Student Affairs Coordinator for the Chhandam School of Kathak. Seema received her B.S. in Civil Engineering and M.S. in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a Project Engineer at ENGEO Incorporated, were she manages a multitude of residential, commercial, infrastructure, and environmental projects for the Bay Area community. She is an active member of ENGEO’s community service outreach committee, promoting STEM in local Bay Area elementary and middle schools. She also completed Safety Awareness Program (SAP) training so she may be eligible to serve as an engineer during emergency response events. Seema is committed to serving the community and is eager to continue to do so with the Chhandam Leadership Team.
Vasuki Narasimha Swamy
Social Media Coordinator
Vasuki grew up in India where she received training in Bharatanatyam. She is now receiving training in Kathak at Chhandam under the guidance of Seibi Lee. In addition to dancing, she loves bringing people together and form communities. She founded BiasBusters at Cal -- an organization that is committed to improving the climate at UC Berkeley by addressing the biases in our everyday lives as well as bringing structural changes. Vasuki got her B. Tech from IIT Madras and moved to the US to get her M.S and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley. She is a research scientist at Intel Labs.
Minal Mehta Doshi
Parent Association President
Minal Doshi began studying Bharatanatyam at the age of 7 in Los Angeles, under the tutelage of Smt. Viji Prakash, founder of the Shakti Dance Company. She continued learning with Kalyani Shanmugarajah of Kala Peetham Dance Academy where she discovered the famed Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam. She completed her Arangetram in 2005 under the tutelage of Katherine and KP Kunhiraman (Kalanjali Dances of India), disciples of Shanta and VP Dhananjayan. She has performed at various venues throughout the Bay Area, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and the Himalayan Fair in Berkeley. Through close friends, she became familiar with Pandit Chitresh Das and Chhandam and has seen the school grow and change over the past 20 years. She has been involved as a parent for the past 6 years, watching both of her older girls participating both in class and through summer camps and intensives at both Leela Dance Academy in Los Angeles and Chhandam. As a trained classical dancer herself, Minal appreciates Chhandam's dedication to teaching discipline, tradition, art, and culture to her two daughters, and looks forward to her youngest daughter beginning her journey with Chhandam in the coming year. Minal is currently the president of CAPS, Chhandam Association of Parents and Students, whose goal is to build a vibrant community among Chhandam's students, parents and teachers. She has a background in early childhood development, specifically in the area of developmental disabilities and infant mental health, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, working in Pediatrics at Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
Chhandam’s leadership team is comprised of talented and passionate women who are committed to working
collaboratively to elevate kathak dance through cutting-edge performances, training of dancers at the highest
level of excellence, and a sustainable infrastructure that financially values artists at the center of our work.
Board of Directors