The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Rina Singha, teacher of Indian Kathak dance.
Kathak dancer Rina Singha was born in Calcutta in 1937. While attending university in Hyderabad, she was chosen for a government-sponsored project intended to revive and preserve India's classical dance styles. She subsequently became a soloist in India's premier Kathak dance company and an internationally acclaimed performer who has toured the world.
Rina Singha's extraordinary career as a solo Kathak performer and choreographer spans upwards of more than five decades. Recognized as one of Canada's eminent dance artists, she has earned international acclaim and recognition for the elegant beauty and purity of her technique and the skill and wisdom of her interpretative powers. .
Through a Government of India initiative for reviving and promoting the classical arts, promising young artists were given state scholarships to train under the great masters. Singha won the competition in 1957, it changed her life completely as she turned her back on a brilliant academic career and entered the world of Kathak. She chose to study under Shambhu Maharajji, renowned for the beauty of line, lyrical grace, and most of all, for his detailed and insightful portrayal of women. The training was individualized, rigorous, and disciplined. It carried an emphasis on the commitment both to excellence and to the ongoing endeavor to seek the essence of a movement and place it in the choreographic framework.
In 1960, while Singha was working on her PhD in geography in England, she was asked by Ram Gopal to become the lead female dancer in his company. Five years later, Singha and her family immigrated to Canada where she worked to improve the understanding of dance traditions from around the world.
Coming to Canada in 1965 at a time when most non-mainstream dance was seen as 'quaint' or 'exotic', Singha made it her life's mission to ensure that the beauty of her art form would be recognized and appreciated both for its depth of technique and its message. Two major influences have shaped Singha's artistic journey: the unique circumstances that enabled her to train under a living legend of Kathak and the fact that the practice of this carefully disciplined art would take place outside the soil that nurtured it.
In the 1970s she designed and taught a world dance course at York University and developed Heritage Canada, one of the first multicultural programs for the Toronto public school system. In addition, she created a "Cultural Clues Approach to Learning" program that has been implemented in numerous schools. She has also been involved in creating educational videos for UNICEF.
From 1971 to 1976, she was on faculty at York University teaching Kathak and a course in world dance.
Because of her own experiences as a struggling immigrant artist, Singha has reached out to other non-western dancers who shared the same struggles, worked hard with the arts councils at all levels with an advisory capacity to see that culture-specific dances are given their due respect and recognition.
In 1992, Rina Singha founded Rina Singha Kathak Dance Organization (RSKDO), which aims to share the lyrical beauty and subtleties that distinguishes Kathak from other dance forms, and to help provide a deeper understanding of the rhythmic and narrative elements of Kathak.
In the late 1990s, she collaborated with the Music Gallery in Toronto to create the "Legacies In Dance" festival, which presents and promotes non-Western dance. To increase awareness of Kathak dance, Singha founded the Kathak Institute as well as the Rina Singha Dance Organization.
Singha served on the Toronto Arts Council from 2002 to 2005 as chair of the Dance committee, acted as an advisor to the Canada Council and coordinated the pilot-funding program for the Ontario Arts Council. In 2008, Rina Singha started Kathak Mahotsav Canada to celebrate the art of Kathak, raise its profile and create a better understanding of its aesthetics in order to foster a strong sense of community among the Kathak dancers. With a M.A. in Geography and a M.Ed. in Curriculum Development, Rina has also distinguished herself as an educator training children to value their own cultures and look for the positive, life enriching aspects of other cultures.
As a dance ethnologist, Singha has researched dance narratives from around the world. As a choreographer, she is noted for blending her Christian faith with her Kathak training in works such as Yeshu Katha four women telling the story of Jesus (1991).
A solo Kathak performer for over 50 years, Rina has choreographed traditional and experimental works that reflect her life experiences and social issues related to life in Canada such as Songs From Exile Walls, Lullabye and Lament, Prithvi (an Earth Narrative), and full length Biblical works including The Seekers: from the Garden of Eden to the Walls of Jericho. She has also collaborated with acclaimed choreographer, Danny Grossman. Rina is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of Christian dance.
Rina Singha's career as a pioneer and trailblazer in many facets of dance has been recognized with numerous national and international prestigious awards including the Dance Ontario Award, the Pioneer Skills for Change duMaurier Award, the William Kilbourne Lifetime Achievement Award, the Grant Community Achievers 2008 award, the Internationally Juried Award for Excellence in Performing Arts for her Biblical dances, and the Canada Council Arts A Award for Choreography.
Dances Rina has taught include Dandiya Raas and Dorkiyand-Dorkiyang.
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