Artistic Directors

Leela Dance Collective boasts some of todays leading kathak artists and dancers representing a diversity of artistic voices and vision.

Rukhmani Mehta

Founding Artist, Artistic Director 

Rukhmani Mehta (previously Rina Mehta) brings a singular voice and vision to the art of kathak. 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.

Rukhmani is a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective. Her 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, Rukhmani 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 India.

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Seibi Lee

Founding Artist, Artistic Director

Seibi Lee is a consummate kathak artist known for her powerful mastery, refined musicality, and dramatic brilliance in character portrayal. Seibi is a distinguished disciple of the iconic kathak legend Pandit Chitresh Das. She is one of the founders of Leela Dance Collective and is the Dean of Leela San Francisco.

Seibi has toured worldwide earning accolades and deep respect for her artistry. She received an Isadora Duncan Dance Special Award as part of the performing ensemble in Das’s East As Center and received two subsequent nominations for performances in Pancha Jati and Shabd. As principal dancer of the Chitresh Das Dance Company, Seibi evolved a singular perspective and style through the development of virtuosic character roles in several of Das’s 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’s 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.

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Son of the Wind premiered at the Green Center in Sonoma in 2017, was featured at ODC Theatre in San Francisco in 2018, and in 2019 presented at the prestigious Royal Opera House in Mumbai, India and the Ford Theater in Hollywood.

Seibi has a profound passion for the expansive philosophy, dynamic range, and sophisticated rhythmic mathematics integral to kathak and is dedicated to bringing this art form to the world. Highly regarded for her teaching, Seibi has mentored many generations of dancers and in 2016, she was recognized by The Alliance of California Traditional Arts as 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, with the support of both the Haas Foundation and a 2-year Artist in Residence with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, conceived and choreographed the mesmerizing solo work Houyi and Chang’e, – the heart-rending tale of great heroism and of tragically star-crossed lovers.

 “Seibi Lee in the double roles of Marich, the retired roué, and as Hanuman, minister to Sugreeva, the wronged prince of the Monkeys, was magnificent” –Rita Feliciano, Dance View

Rachna Nivas

Founding Artist, Artistic Director

Rachna Nivas is a performing artist, choreographer, educator, community organizer, and activist of Indian classical art with a mission to uphold the authenticity of South Asian artistic heritage while thoughtfully advancing its modernity. She is one of the most accomplished kathak dance practitioners of her generation, called by critics “revelatory” and “charismatic” who “radiates power and grace”. Her work is rooted in elevating feminine consciousness and Eastern philosophies that challenge Eurocentric cultural paradigms.

As a founding artist of Leela Dance Collective, she is building and leading its New York City chapter. She was awarded the prestigious Dance Research Fellowship of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the NYC-based CUNY Dance Initiative Residency. Her original works include Reclaiming the Divine Feminine, an embodiment of the wild tantric Goddess Kali, personifying the paradoxes of feminine wholeness; Unedited, a risk-bound tour-de-force solo highlighting improvisation with live musicians; SPEAK, a cross-cultural collaboration of leading women in kathak and tap; Son of the Wind, a large-scale Ramayana dance drama; Meera, the story of a Hindu princess who liberates herself from patriarchy through poetry, song, and dance.

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Notable presentations of Rachna’s works include Broad Stage, Ford Theaters, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center, New York Live Arts, Green Music Center, Kimmel Center, Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Mumbai’s Royal Opera House, New Delhi’s Epicenter.  Her works have been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, California Arts Council, Zellerbach Family Foundation, and Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

As an educator and community organizer, Rachna’s has trained and mentored hundreds of students on both the West and East Coasts. Her vision is to foster the next generation’s lineage-bearers and engender a larger sense of pride and reclaiming of Indian artistic tradition within the South Asian community. She is currently directing Leela New York’s training program and she has taught in numerous educational residencies, most notably at Verdon/Fosse Legacy, New York’s Kuperberg Center for the Arts, New Orleans’ Treme Center, Miami’s Conservatory of Arts, Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and many more.

Leela Dance Collective

23650 Community Street
Los Angeles, CA 91304
P: 323.457.4522
E: info@leela.dance

Bookings

Carrie Jennings, Company Manager

P: 775.560.2598
E: bookings@leela.dance

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