Leela Dance Collective brings together leading artists to shape the future of kathak dance and connect audiences to the richness of Indian classical art.
As artists, we open ourselves to the world, reaching inwards and outwards to shepherd our emotional and spiritual quests
As artists we strive to rise above our fears, sorrows, and resentments
As artists we venture to engage with deep study, struggle, and grueling practice
As artists we reach for connection and communion
As artists, we hold faith in the limitlessness of human potential
At the core of Leela Dance Collective’s approach is collective creativity. Rather than being centered around one artistic vision, we bring together a multitude of artistic voices. We firmly believe that diversity of thought and open exchange advances and sustains our art. We support individual collective members in their creative journeys while facilitating collaboration. Productions such as SPEAK exemplify our values and approach. Through such productions we hope to bring together artists and communities across race, ethnicity, and religion. While our work is grounded in the kathak tradition, collaboration across genres is critical to our artistic process. It is through such exchange that we continue to engage with our own artistic tradition, remaking it for contemporary audiences.
Founded and led by women, Leela Dance Collective’s central aim is to advance the voices of women artists and choreographers. We provide a space for women to lead and create outside the confines of a traditional male-defined framework of leadership, mentorship, and artistic practice. Our vision is to re-invent and challenge these paradigms with our own instincts, creative abilities and life experiences. Productions such as Son of the Wind are emblematic of our work to elevate the place of women in kathak dance. The dance ballad features an all-woman cast of 20 dancers in the non-traditional roles of demons, princes and tribal warriors; an ironic twist on history given that traditionally all the roles in dance dramas were played by men. Leela Dance Collective draws upon the natural talents and strengths of women and celebrates their work as dancers, choreographers, entrepreneurs, oral historians, community organizers, and leaders.
Leela Dance Collective works to bring relevance to and evolve kathak dance for modern audiences, while sustaining its original intent and integrity. Through our productions and performances, we make visible the histories, herstories, and cultural heritage of the South Asian people. In doing so we hope to dispel stereotypes that define and confine South Asians in the West – from the image of the Indian woman as submissive and exotic to the idea of India as poor, backward, and the seat of all things spiritual. Through our artistic work, we hope to move our society beyond cultural consumption and hegemony towards cultural understanding and equity. Ultimately Leela Dance Collective’s work is to impact the performing arts field in America, challenging its Eurocentric paradigm and making space for aesthetically, artistically and culturally diverse voices.
Community engagement is at the very heart of Leela Dance Collective’s work. Some of our most rewarding experiences as artists come from the residencies we participate in across the country, connecting us to youth, dancers of different genres, and people of all walks of life. Our ongoing arts education programs in partnership with Music Center on Tour in Los Angeles and Young Audiences of the Bay Area allow us to connect with thousands of young and curious students each year. Our Academy’s comprehensive educational programs keep us grounded in diverse communities at the grassroots level. Community engagement at all levels fuels our understanding of the human experience and ultimately guides our artistic and creative vision.
Ultimately Leela Dance Collective’s vision is to connect artists, communities, and audiences to share in the joy and power of dance and music.