Rita Mustaphi is a choreographer, dancer and instructor 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 began training with 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. He has attended International Kathak Festivals in Chicago (2004 & 2009) and multiple Kathak workshops led by Pandit Birju Maharaj. In addition to performing and touring extensively with KDT over the years, he has also toured as a guest artist with Anila Sinha Foundation in Chicago. In 2016, Anurag performed in a Kathak ballet version Romeo & Juliet 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 youth and adult classes at KDT’s school since 2009.
Derek Phillips has been a member of KDT’s company since 1991. He is a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program, and has danced and toured nationally with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and the Children’s Theatre Company. He also 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.
Monica Singh has studied Kathak with Rita for 20 years. She has performed in many KDT shows throughout the Twin Cities and North America since. Her selected performance credits include, Ritusamhara – The Seasons (2017), 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). She has also
Mukta Sathe first learned Kathak from Guru Sanjeevani Kulkarni in India, where she later won the national “Swar Sadhana” competition. She has studied Kathak with Rita Mustaphi since 2005, when she joined KDT’s company. Since then, she has performed in countless KDT productions as well as the prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival in India in 2017. She attended Chicago’s International Kathak Festival in 2004 and has participated in several workshops with Kathak masters. Mukta is an instructor of youth and adult classes at KDT’s school.
Nivedita Sahni has studied at the Jaipur school of Kathak dance and the Kathak Kendra School in New Delhi. In Minnesota, she has studied under Rita Mustaphi’s guidance for over six years and completed local workshops with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. Her performance credits with KDT include The Hungry Stones (2018), Pourush – the Masculine, Ritusamhara – The Seasons (2017), Sufiana – the Sufi Ecstasy (2016), Rubaiyat – Life in a Day (2014), and Karna – the Abandoned Hero (2013).
Sarika Haris began her dance journey in India, where she studied Bharatanatyam, the South Indian classical dance style, for over nine years. She has studied Kathak under the guidance of Rita Mustaphi since 1999. Her selected performance credits with KDT include Ritusamhara – The Seasons (2017), 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 the lead role in KDT’s production of Chandalika, The Untouchable. She has taken master classes with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Saswati Sen. In 2017, she performed in India’s prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival. She is an instructor of youth classes at KDT’s school.
Rupa Nair began her dance career by studying Bharatanatyam at Mumbai’s Sri Rajarajeshwari Dance Academy for ten years, for which she has won awards at state and district-level dance competitions. 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 youth classes at KDT’s school.