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‘Shaamya – Of Equality’

“Of Equality, I sing: Where all barriers, differences among people have vanished.” A new dance work by JD Steele & Katha Dance Theatre

Overview

Inspired by the poem ‘Of Equality’ by Bengali revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, composer and performer JD Steele will collaborate with choreographer Rita Mustaphi and her company, Katha Dance Theatre (KDT), to create a new thematic dance work using original music, spoken word & dance to juxtapose the inequalities faced by communities of color today with those expressed by Nazrul in Bangladesh early in the 20th century. KDT was the first Asian Indian dance company in MN, and JD Steele is a legendary Twin Cities-based artist who has written, performed and recorded with the biggest names in the music industry. Building on the success of a previous collaboration between Mr. Steele and Katha Dance Theatre five years ago, the goals of this project are to:

  1. 1). Use “Of Equality” by Bangladesh poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899 – 1976) as inspiration to create an authentic blend of African American and Asian Indian cultures that merges a gospel/jazz/R&B-inspired. musical score with Kathak dance of North India.
  1. 2). Plan and present a work-in-progress showing to a diverse audience that includes African Americans, Asian Indians, other communities of color and the general dance-going public in November 2019.
  1. 3). Deliver a message that clearly echoes the poet’s words ‘Let us transcend all barriers, let us forsake all smallness and accept our differences to embrace each other!’
  1. 4). Gather feedback and information from the diverse audience and artistic peers that will enable Mr. Steele and KDT to make compositional and/or choreographic revisions, resulting in full production with accompanying intercultural activities during the Fall of 2020.

JD Steele will provide original musical compositions and musicians who will play for the live performances, and eventually record all his compositions. KDT will provide choreography, dancers, production elements and PR for the work-in-progress presentation. Mr. Steele and KDT’s resident choreographer, Rita Mustaphi, will begin their work together by discussing a variety of questions such as: What does Equality means? Doesn’t everyone in our society already have equal rights under the law? Why aren’t those rights upheld in all communities? Why is there tension between our communities? Why does discrimination appear to be motivated by a person’s ethnic identity?  They will then begin to weave together a tapestry of dance, music, imagery, and text to tell their story. The collaborators will then share the various rhythms and sounds of their respective mediums – gospel/jazz/R&B and Kathak dance – to find the similarities and differences. Next, they’ll explore the variety of ways that they can utilize this information to create the music and choreography that will effectively illustrate the concepts of “equality” they have identified for this work. Simultaneously, KDT will begin creating marketing materials and outreach programming to promote the performance to its existing constituents, JD Steele’s audiences, as well as to the wider African American and Asian Indian communities. This phase of the project will result in a work-in-progress showing in November 2019, with intercultural feedback incorporated into a full production scheduled for Fall 2020.

Project Media

“Float Him Away” from the dance opera, KARNA – The Abandoned Hero
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Composer and vocalist JD Steele teamed with award-winning Kathak choreographer and director, Rita Mustaphi to create the first-ever African American & Indian dance opera, KARNA – The Abandoned Hero. This 60-minute work tells a moving story of conflicting relationships between a queen, her secret son, a strong-willed princess, and the god who made him a legend. Based on an infamous Indian epic, it features an original score by JD Steele composed in the gospel and R&B music style, commissioned & produced by Katha Dance Theatre.

“Kauravas and Pandavas” from the dance opera, KARNA – The Abandoned Hero
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Composer and vocalist JD Steele teamed with award-winning Kathak choreographer and director, Rita Mustaphi to create the first-ever African American & Indian dance opera, KARNA – The Abandoned Hero. This 60-minute work tells a moving story of conflicting relationships between a queen, her secret son, a strong-willed princess, and the god who made him a legend. Based on an infamous Indian epic, it features an original score by JD Steele composed in the gospel and R&B music style, commissioned & produced by Katha Dance Theatre.

“Rumble in the Jungle,” from THE MOVEMENT REVISITED, an oratorio by Christian McBride

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Features: J.D. Steele

Teaming with choral director JD Steele, Christian McBride composed a bluesy and soulful oratorio for big band, gospel choir with soloists, and four speakers representing great figures of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s called THE MOVEMENT REVISITED and is inspired by the written words and speeches of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. In this section, Steele conducts the chorale and steps out to sing the lead vocal.

Start and End Dates

11/15/201911/30/2020

Location

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Project Created By

Minneapolis, Minnesota
J.D. Steele J.D. exploded onto the Minnesota music scene in the mid 1980’s along with Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Soul Asylum and The Steeles, putting Minnesota on the National music map forever. Mr. Steele began his career singing and arranging jingles for local and national spots including Kodak, Target, and other national brands. He…

In Collaboration With

Choreographer and dancers
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

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