Kathak is among the eight major classical dances of India and one of the most dynamic theatre arts in the world. The word Kathak is derived from “katha,” meaning the art of storytelling. Highly improvised, the traditional solo is considered the highest level of mastery in Kathak. The solo is performed in a series of specific sections, ranging from invocational, to pure dance, to fiery rhythmic exchanges, to dramatic stories (gat bhao) in which the soloist portrays all of the characters. A true master of the form can improvise within each section.
Seibi Lee has established herself as a dynamic solo Kathak artist known for the exceptional range and depth of her artistry, sophisticated musicality, and depth in dramatic character interpretation. She is a leading disciple of the legendary Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das and has evolved to create her own unique and compelling expression of this classical art form. In 2013, she created and premiered the enchanting solo work Houyi and Chang’e, telling the beloved Chinese myth in traditional Kathak style. She has earned great respect for her dramatic roles of the demon Marich and the beloved monkey prince Hanuman in Das’s critically-acclaimed Sita Haran. More recently, she has received accolades for her embodiment of the electrifying character of the Guru in Das’s final work Shiva; she reprised this role at the internationally renowned Zellerbach Theatre in 2016.
“Seibi Lee in the double roles of Marich, the retired roué, and as Hanuman, minister to Sugreeva, the wronged prince of the Monkeys, was magnificent.”
– Rita Feliciano, Dance View
“As the Indian general, Seibi Lee drew a clear character arc from subject to betrayer to fool, a remarkable achievement.”
– Claudia Bauer, SFGate
In 2015, Seibi was the artistic director and principal soloist with the Chitresh Das Dance Company. Currently, in 2023, she is the co-founder and artistic director of Leela Dance Collective, as well as the artistic director of Leela Academy SF (formerly Chhandam School of Kathak).
During this apprenticeship, Seibi will teach Sonali Toppur to develop a story involving Ganesh, the elephant god from Hindu mythology. Toppur will translate the story into dance through interpretations of footwork and rhythmic patterns that fall within the character study of Ganesh; later, she will present it as a solo performance in her local community.
Seibi guided her apprentice Poonam Narkar in Kathak to maintain the legacy of master artist and past Apprenticeship Program participant Pandit Chitresh Das.
Seibi Lee (left) and 2023 apprentice Sonali Toppur (right) as Hanuman and Sita in Leela Dance Collective's "Son of the Wind." Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Master Kathak dancer Seibi Lee. Photo: Marty Sohl.