Millennial desi women on a mission to make Kathak a household name

New York Kathak Festival produced its first festival at the Ailey Studios and Ailey Citigroup Theater this weekend on April 19-21, 2019. The first of its kind, the New York Kathak Festival attended by over 750 was a confluence of artists and Kathak aficionados coming together as a community to learn, share, and connect over the 3-day event in the heart of Manhattan.

Originating in India, Kathak is a classical dance that carries history in its very form. The New York Kathak Festival is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by a team of 10 young professionals. “The NYKF organizing team is mostly millennial women who live and work in the New York + New Jersey area. The festival is our passion in addition to our careers,” said Meenakshi Lala, on behalf of the festival. Anisha Muni, also on the festival team said, “we created this event with the intention of using art to bring community together and create a platform for Kathak to blossom in New York City. We’re on a mission to make Kathak a household name.”

The festival created space for performance, teaching, and discussion. Raoul Bhavnani of the India Center Foundation, co-sponsored panel discussions on critical conversations relevant to Kathak dance. He commented: “An honor to co-host an expert panel on the present, past, and future of Kathak dance today during the Kathak Festival weekend. Well done to all the panelists who grounded us in the living tradition, gender, and the idea of the divine. Inspiring conversation.” Eminent artists contributed to the festival, including Pandit Divyang Vakil, Dr. Pallabi Chakravorty, Dr. Purnima Shah. Dr. Sitara Thobani, and many others. Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty and Air India supported this important event.

The concert lineup included 50 dancers and 10 musicians from all over the world. Prashant Shah, an Indian dancer now based in New York closed his showcase of traditional and contemporary Kathak to a standing ovation. Shivangi Dake Robert traveled the furthest—all the way from Singapore—and was electric. The weekend was closed with a finale by the festival’s guest of honor, legend Pandit Birju Maharaj and his foremost disciple, Saswati Sen. Speaking about the event’s organizers, Sen said, “what the seniors couldn’t do, these children have done: bringing everyone together for Kathak.” Maharaj, 81 years old and a highly celebrated 7th generation artist added, “now you must support them.” The FIA is a proud community partner of the New York Kathak Festival.

The New York Kathak Festival is a newly formed organization that presents and promotes dancers, scholars, and practitioners of Kathak, a classical dance tracing its origins to India. We produce a festival bringing together established and emerging artists from across the United States and beyond. The New York Kathak Festival is produced by the American Kathak community, inspiring creative exchange between local Kathak artists and diverse New York audiences.

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