Rita Mustaphi is a choreographer, dancer and educator of Kathak dance. She strives to create works that provoke feeling, stimulate the senses and activate the mind. A native of Kolkata, India, she graduated from University of Calcutta with major in physiology and Rabindra Bharati University with a major in dance. She also studied intensively under the guidance of Pandit Birju Maharaj, the legendary master of Kathak dance. She began teaching in Twin Cities in 1978 and in 1987, she realized her dream of creating a professional company and school of Kathak dance—Katha Dance Theatre. KDT is Minnesota’s first Asian Indian dance company as well as one of only 12 professional Kathak companies in the U.S.
In 31 years, Rita Mustaphi has choreographed more than 50 evening-length works that have been performed locally, nationally and internationally. Notably, she has performed at India’s 50th Anniversary celebration at New York’s Carnegie Hall and several times over the years at the International Kathak Dance Festivals in New Delhi, India. Her choreography has been presented at the prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival in India. Her selected choreographic credits include, Sufiana – the Sufi Ecstasy (2016), the Kathak & Chhau dance collaboration Pourush – The Masculine (2015); Rubaiyat – Life in a Day (2014), Karna – the Abandoned Hero (2013), KDT’s 25th anniversary production In Retrospect (2012), and EKAM–The Supreme Oneness (2011). Her works have been set to everything from Persian music to traditionally American jazz, gospel, and R&B.
Mustaphi is a roster artist for COMPAS, Creative Classroom’s global culture Program. She is a recipient of 3 McKnight Fellowships for choreography, a Leadership award from the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans, a 2011 Lifetime Achievement award from the India Association of Minnesota and a 2012 Education award from the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in the category of Excellence in Vision.
Anurag Sharma’s passion for dance inspired him to begin learning Kathak from Rita Mustaphi in 2004. Recently, Anurag had the opportunity to complete six months of intensive training directly under the Kathak master Pandit Birju Maharaj in New Delhi, India. Anurag has attended International Kathak Festivals in Chicago (2004 & 2009) and Kathak workshops conducted by Pandit Birju Maharaj. Anurag has performed and toured extensively with KDT over the years. He also toured as a guest artist with Anila Sinha Foundation in Chicago (2007, 2009). In 2016, Anurag performed in Romeo & Juliet as a Kathak ballet choreographed by Saswati Sen, which was set to a unique blend of music composed by Pandit Birju Maharaj and Louis Banks. In 2017, he performed the lead role in Karna: The Abandoned Hero at India’s prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival. Anurag has also taught Kathak at KDT’s school since 2009.
Derek Phillips has danced and toured nationally with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and the Children’s Theatre Company. He has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program. He performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris, and is a teaching artist for CTC’s Neighborhood Bridges Program, the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, and the Perpich Center’s Dance Course for Educators. Derek has performed in many KDT shows since joining the Company in 1991.
Monica Singh has studied Kathak for 16 years under the guidance of Rita Mustaphi. Since 2006, she has performed in several KDT shows throughout the Twin Cities and North America. She has also taken master classes with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen.
Mukta Sathe learned Kathak from Guru Sanjeevani Kulkarni in Nasik, India, and won the national “Swar Sadhana” competition while touring throughout the country. She has studied Kathak with Rita Mustaphi for over eleven years. Her performance credits with KDT as a company member stretch back to 2005, including a chance to perform at the prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival in India (2017). She attended Chicago’s International Kathak Festival in 2004 and participated in workshops conducted by Kathak Maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj, Ms. Saswati Sen, and Kumudini Lakhia. Mukta also teaches Kathak at KDT’s Edina location.
Nivedita Sahni studied at the Jaipur school of Kathak dance with guru Benny Kalra and later from Smt Bharti Gupta at Kathak Kendra School in New Delhi. In Minnesota, she has studied under Rita Mustaphi’s guidance for over six years and completed workshops with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. She performed in one of the lead roles in KDT’s 2015 production of Pourush – the Masculine.
Sarika Haris began her dance journey in India, where she studied Bharatanatyam, the South Indian classical dance style, for over nine years. Her passion for dance motivated her to learn Kathak under the guidance of Rita Mustaphi since 1999. She has also taken master classes with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. She has performed in numerous KDT productions, including the lead role in Chandalika, The Untouchable. In 2017, she performed in India’s prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival. She teaches Kathak dance at KDT’s Hopkins location.
Rupa Nair studied Bharatanatyam at Mumbai’s Sri Rajarajeshwari Dance Academy for ten years. She has won awards at state and district-level dance competitions for her school. In 2012, she began training in Kathak dance with Rita Mustaphi and has since attended workshops with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. She performed in one of the lead roles in KDT’s 2015 production of Pourush – the Masculine. Rupa teaches Kathak dance at KDT’s Hopkins location.