Where it all began
Guru Indu Mitha (née Chatterji) was trained in the Uday Shankar style by Zohra and Kameshwan Sehgal at Lahore, during her high-school years. She then turned to Bharatanatyam, initially at Sangeet Bharrati, Delhi, with Vijay Raghava Rao, later taking private lessons in Madras from Shrimati Lalita Shastri (of Kalakeshetra, Adyar).
Having moved to Pakistan when she married after the partition of the Indian sub-continent, these lessons were resumed through the years till 1971 whenever Indu visited her parents in Delhi, as a loving gift to her pupil by Lalitaji. Indu graduated with her MA (Philosophy) from Delhi University in 1951, and taught at the Government College for Women, Rawalpindi.
However, since 1953, her main focus has been dance, which she taught and staged in one form or another to the present day. As a dancer/ choreographer, she has developed a style of Bharatanatyam all her very own. She has written, directed and received national awards for “historical musicals” with high school students and has produced a number of dance dramas as well as solo items, some of them with her daughter and disciple, Tehreema Mitha. Now 82, Indu Mitha continues to teach dance in Pakistan.
Mitha’s bridging dances span the gap between the centuries, maintaining the classical form yet presenting it in a contemporary format.
Tehreema Mitha grew up in Pakistan in a home full of music, dance, paintings, books and lively debate. Dancing under the tutelage of her mother, Indu Mitha, (a student of Lalitha Shastri of kalakshetra), since the age of seven, she performed her first full two-hour solo Bharatanatym program in Lahore in 1986.
Since then, despite all the political, religious and cultural obstacles, Ms. Mitha has continued to give full solo performances, besides performances with her company, to audiences in Pakistan, Afghanistan (December 2005), Norway, China, India, Germany, England, Guatemala, Canada and the United States. Ms. Mitha was invited to the American Dance Festival’s International Choreographers Workshop in North Carolina in 1990.
Tehreema Mitha is known for her three very particular and unique styles in the Classical, Classical/Contemporary and Contemporary. She added her contemporary dances to her classical repertoire in 1990. In 2000 she began presenting new choreography in the classical/contemporary styles as well.
She is the subject of an hour long documentary “And she dances on…” directed by the eminent Pakistani director, Shireen Pasha, which premiered in 1996. This documentary was selected at the 1997 Asian Film Festival to tour Europe, Asia and North America.
Ms. Mitha holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, English and French, as well as a MA in Fine Arts. After running the only dance company in Pakistan for five years, Ms. Mitha moved to the US in 1997, seeking to choreograph with more freedom and at present is the only Pakistani born and trained artistic Director of a Dance Company.
Ms. Mitha has choreographed more than sixty dances, (both solo and ensemble). To these she adds a repertoire of yet more items that have been passed down by tradition. Her professional career now spans over 26 years.
Ms. Mitha composes/produces the accompanying music for each dance, and designs the costumes as well. She also gives lecture/demonstrations and workshops at educational institutions, to the general public and works with actors and community activists.
Ms Mitha was awarded the Local Dance Commissioning Project by The Kennedy Center in 2009. Her Classical/Contemporary dance “Blue Jeans” premiered in September 2009.
She is, at present, the subject of a second documentary, “The Vigil”, by Arya Surowidjojo, which has won awards within months of its release in December 2011. She is currently engaged in writing a book from her unique perspective as a dancer from an unexpected background. Her work is also under study by Dr. Zulfikar Hirji, professor of Anthropology and Islamic Studies at ork University, Canada. Ms Mitha continues to paint and prepare for exhibitions of her work.