Movers & Shapers: Rukhmani Mehta

By October 31, 2023Podcast

PODCAST 166: Rukhmani Mehta 

Release Date: 10.30.23


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Creating a Vision for Kathak with Rukhmani Mehta

Episode 166: Show Notes

Today on Movers & Shapers, we are joined by Rukhmani Mehta (previously Rina Mehta). Rukhmani is a choreographer, dancer, educator, Artistic Director of Leela Youth Dance Company, and the Co-Artistic Director of Leela Dance Collective, which brings together leading artists from around the world to advance a collective vision for kathak, a classical North Indian dance. In this episode, Rukhmani speaks about her love for creating community through dance and her deep interest in and curiosity for collaborative projects and processes. What stands out most is Rukhmani’s resounding passion for her work and art form, despite the struggles she has had along the way, as well as the thoughtfulness with which she has built her life in dance, from co-leadership of her company to teaching to creating the first-ever endowment to support kathak dance and music in the US and more. Tune in today for an inspiring conversation about the power of collaboration, community, and preserving culture!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Rukhmani started dancing and when she fell in love with kathak.
  • What she learned about the art form from kathak master, Pt. Chitresh Das.
  • The profoundly transformational experience that studying kathak afforded her.
  • How she learned to follow her heart and commit to starting a professional dance company.
  • Steps Rukhmani took to build a life in dance, including teaching and the Leela Foundation.
  • Audience development and creating a future for kathak as an educator.
  • Unpacking Rukhmani’s belief in the power of collaboration.
  • Where the name Leela comes from and how it speaks to spontaneous creativity.
  • Insight into Rukhmani’s love for creating communities of young women through dance.
  • The process of building Leela as a collective and how it was impacted by COVID.
  • Joys and challenges of a dance career and what you can look forward to from Leela!
  • The heartwarming story of why Rukhmani changed her name from Rina.

“My work is about being an artist and putting the art form out in the world but – it has also become about creating the infrastructure that the artists who are carrying these traditions forward need.” — Rukhmani Mehta

About Rukhmani Mehta

Rukhmani Mehta (previously Rina Mehta) –pronounced RUUKH-muh-nee – brings a singular voice and vision to the art form of kathak, classical dance of North India. She is a senior disciple of the legendary kathak master, Pt. Chitresh Das, and was a principal dancer in his company, the Chitresh Das Dance Company, for over a decade. As Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Leela Dance Collective, Mehta has created numerous original works that bring kathak dance to contemporary audiences. These works include SPEAK, a kathak-tap collaboration; Son of the Wind, a dance drama based on India’s epic, the Ramayana; and Encounters with Beauty, a collaboration between kathak and contemporary chamber music. She has performed at prestigious venues across the United States and India such as NC State Live, The Broad Stage, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Green Music Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, National Centre for Performing Arts Mumbai, and more. Her artistic works have been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, California Arts Council, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, and more. She has received the ACTA Apprenticeship Grant and has been twice nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award. Mehta is also Artistic Director of Leela Youth Dance Company, a pre-professional performing group that empowers young women to develop their voices and be artists and leaders. The Leela Youth Dance Company has been featured at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Youth Festival, and LA County’s Annual Televised Holiday Celebration.


Connect with Samantha Géracht

Leela Dance

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Leela Dance Collective on Facebook


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:


Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton