Edward Casati

Photo by Edward Casati

Pandit Chitresh Das

A virtuosic master Kathak dancer, Pt. Das is one of the most dynamic and far-reaching artists to have emerged from Modern India. A choreographer, composer, and director, Pandit Das has developed on the concept of “innovation within tradition” and has created compelling new works that are inventive, yet deeply rooted in the Kathak tradition. In 2009, Pandit Das was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor bestowed on a traditional artist by the U.S. Government – an award given to other major Indian artist such as Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain. He also received an award from Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, a national arts institution inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, for outstanding contribution in the field of Kathak dance, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the prestigious San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. His groundbreaking technique, Kathak Yoga, has been the subject of a doctoral dissertation at Harvard University and is pushing the edge of Kathak. Das has appeared on television on PBS, BBC, as well as Door Darshan and CNN-IBN. Das institute is one of the largest Indian classical dance institutions in the world, with over 500 students worldwide, and his professional dance company, the Chitresh Das Dance Company has toured internationally to award-winning performances.

Eduardo Patino

Photo by Eduardo Patino

Jason Samuels Smith

In less than a decade, Jason Samuels Smith (performer, choreographer, director) has emerged as a multi-talented leader in the Art form of Tap. He received the 2009 Dance Magazine Award and won both an Emmy and American Choreography Award for “Outstanding Choreography” for the opening number of the Jerry Lewis/MDA Telethon in a tribute to the late Gregory Hines. He has created the First Annual Tap Festival in Los Angeles and has received a Proclamation from the City of Shreveport, Louisiana declaring April 23rd “Jason Samuels Day”. Some of his recent television appearances include a special guest spot on Fox’s hit series ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ a choreographer for Grammy Artist Mya on ‘Secret Talents of The Stars,’ and as an associate choreographer for ‘Dancing With The Stars.’

Matt Sumner

Photo by Matt Sumner

Hoku Uchiyama

Winner of a Cannes Young Director Award while still a student at the Art Center College of Design, Hoku has directed several award-winning films. His short film, Rose, has screened in over twenty-six film festivals world wide, and won awards in twelve. The film was also featured in American Cinematographer magazine. His work has also screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In addition to Upaj, Hoku is also directing a music video for Evelyn Evelyn, (aka Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls and Jason Webley).

Brian Johnson

Photo by Brian Johnson

Antara Bhardwaj

uggling two full-time careers, Antara is a filmmaker and a Kathak dancer, trained since childhood under Pandit Chitresh Das. After completing her film studies at the New York Film academy, she worked as an assistant director for acclaimed director Jagmohan Mundhra, on films such as Provoked (Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews, Nandita Das). She went on to direct her own feature film at the age of 25, a British suspense thrilled titled Telling Lies, starring Spice Girl Melanie Brown and Jason Flemyng (Curious Case of Benjamin Button). She was a producer on Jag Mundhra’ s political thriller Shoot on Sight (Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri) and is now producing Upaj, her first documentary. As a Kathak dancer and teacher,  Antara tours extensively, and has performed all over the U.S. and India.


Rina Mehta

Rina began her career in development and fundraising in 1999, writing grants for nonprofits dedicated to improving the health and well-being of low-income women. That same year, she began her study of Kathak under Pandit Chitresh Das. While undergoing her initial training and study in Kathak, she developed her career in development and acquired her Masters in Public Health from her alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley. Rina joined the Chitresh Das Dance Company and since then has performed in award-winning productions with the company across the United States and in India. She eventually moved out of the public health field, joining the Center for Asian American Media as Director of Development. In 2007, with the support of CAAM’s production team, she launched Upaj, bringing together her two distinct worlds of development and dance. She serves as the documentary’s Executive Producer, garnering funding and support for the film as well as providing oversight on the project’s development. Rina is emerging as an exceptional dancer, performing both with the Chitresh Das Dance Company and as a soloist. Through teaching, performance and special project such as Upaj, Rina strives to advance Kathak dance and advocate for the art form as a vehicle for community building, cross-cultural understanding, and social change.


Shaun Jefford

Shaun Jefford is an Australian born writer & director that has worked in film and television in Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Beijing, Nairobi, Sydney and now Mumbai and Kolkata.  Behind the camera on Upaj, he learned, first-hand, the rich and magnificent history of dance through the eyes of master performers Pandit Das and Jason Samuels Smith — a life changing experience for him. Shaun has produced such films as Edge of the World, Fink (Sam Worthington) and most recently written & directed the award-winning documentary Beijing Punk, which has featured at over 20 film festivals and has won critical praise from Rolling Stone Magazine, the Huffington Post and Spin Earth.