The NOCCA Institute & NOBA Present Indian Kathak Dance Master Pandit Chitresh Das & Emmy Award-Winning Tap Star Jason Samuels Smith

The NOCCA Institute & NOBA Present Indian Kathak Dance Master Pandit Chitresh Das & Emmy Award-Winning Tap Star Jason Samuels Smith

The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and The NOCCA Institute are honored to present India Jazz Suites for three performances at NOCCA’s Freda Lupin Memorial Hall on Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 10 at 2 p.m.

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In an explosive East-meets-West dance and music event, India Jazz Suites features Pandit Chitresh Das, one of India’s foremost Kathak dance masters, and Jason Samuels Smith, an Emmy-award winning tap star, accompanied live by three classical Indian musicians and a stellar jazz trio that drive the program. The performance celebrates the stars’ classical Indian Kathak and American-based tap dance styles, and the blending of the two in a blast of incredible speed and power, grace and beauty, epic storytelling and the pure joy of dance. In addition to the performances, Das and Smith will conduct  a series of residency activities open to the community November 5 through 9, including workshops, master classes, a special documentary screening of UPAJ: Improvise, and post-performance Q&A discussions.

What started as an impromptu dance session at the 2004 American Dance Festival ultimately became the full-length India Jazz Suites production, blending the intricate stylizations of centuries old Kathak dance and the entirely original American art form of tap. Kathak dance is known for its highly refined rhythmic structure, subtle neck, head, wrist and eyebrow movements and rapid footwork, and is considered the only dance form in the world that blends Hindu and Muslim cultures. Tap is rooted in African dance, rhythm and inspired by many other styles, transforming a dancer’s shoes into a percussive instrument and musical form. Das and Smith embody cultural and artistic backgrounds spanning opposite corners of the globe, but share a similar approach to dance by deeply exploring the possibilities of rhythmic improvisation.

The evening is divided into four acts with each artist performing both solo and together along with live musical accompaniment.  The Voice of Dance raves that “alone they are captivating. Together, they are magic.” The Hindustan Times (Kathakali Jana) calls Das “a performer who has opened new avenues for his form, [and] it is easy to see why [he] has been acknowledged as a phenomenon,” while The Dartmouth praises Smith’s “quick, subtle motions [that] produced sounds so fast and unusual – all… by a simple pair of shoes.” The chemistry and rapport forged between the two masters is not only undeniably charming, but also humorous and fun.

Tickets are selling fast. Single tickets are $50, and students with a valid ID can purchase tickets for $35. Tickets may be purchased by calling the NOBA Box Office at 504-522-0996 or online at through 4:30 p.m. Friday, November 8. The NOCCA Box Office will open at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday for sales and will-call, and then at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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NOBA and The NOCCA Institute will present a series of community residency activities with the artists November 5 – 9.

Open to the Public

Free Introduction to Kathak Dance Workshop

  • Tuesday, November 5, at 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • The Chevron Studio in the Lyons NORDC Center (624 Louisiana Ave.)
  • Das will lead a free workshop for seniors ages 55+ to include an Introduction to Kathak dance.

Free Percussive Movement Workshop

  • Wednesday, November 6, at 6:30 – 8 p.m.
  • Treme NORDC Center Gym (900 N. Villere)
  • Das and Smith will teach a free workshop open to all experience levels ages 6 to 80+. No tap shoes are required.

Intermediate/Advanced Tap Master Class

  • Saturday, November 9, at 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
  • Tulane University, McWilliams Hall
  • Smith will teach an intermediate/advanced tap master class open to the community for ages 14+. A registration fee of $10 applies; limited spaces available and advance registration is required. For details, visit or contact Millette White at 504-522-0996 x. 213 or

Classes for NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance and NOCCA Students

Master Class with Jason Samuels Smith for NOCCA Students

  • Thursday, November 7, at 1:30 p.m.
  • NOCCA (2800 Chartres St.)

Kathak Master Class for NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance Students

  • Saturday, November 9, at 10:15 a.m.
  • Tulane University, McWilliams Hall

Additional Programming

UPAJ: Improvise Free Screening Open to the Public

  • Tuesday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Freda Lupin Memorial Hall, NOCCA (2800 Chartres St.)
  • A special free screening of the award-winning documentary, UPAJ: Improvise with a discussion with Das and Smith immediately following the film. This award-winning documentary takes audience members behind the scenes of the birth and journey of India Jazz Suites and captures the exhilaration and magic of these extraordinary artists on tour and offers a kaleidoscopic view of Indian history, culture and tradition. Seating for the film is general admission, and doors open at 7p.m.

Post-Performance Discussion with the Artists

  • Immediately following each performance of India Jazz Suites November 8-10, there will be a post-performance Q & A with the artists.


Pandit Chitresh Das
A child prodigy, Pandit Chitresh Das has become one of the most dynamic and far-reaching artists to emerge from modern India. A prolific artist, his traditional performances, choreography and evolution of Kathak, the classical dance of North India, have influenced the art form world-wide.

Pandit Das is first and foremost a master and virtuosic performer of the classical Kathak tradition. As a committed guru, he has trained many dancers who have gone on to establish their own careers in Kathak dance. Based on his concept of “innovation within tradition,” Pandit Das explores the boundaries of Kathak technique and performance, creating compelling, new works and techniques that are inventive, yet deeply rooted in the Kathak tradition. His groundbreaking technique, Kathak Yoga, was the subject of a doctoral dissertation at HarvardUniversity.

Trained from the age of nine by his guru, Pandit Ram Narayan Mishra, Pandit Das was schooled in the two major Kathak traditions, embodying each in his artistry: the graceful and sensual elements of the Lucknow school combined with the dynamic and powerful rhythms and movements of the Jaipur School. His performing career was launched in India when he was invited by Pandit Ravi Shankar to perform in the first Rimpa Festival in Benaras.

He has since performed throughout India and internationally in prestigious festivals and venues, including the LincolnCenter, the Olympics, Surya Festival, Chennai, Dover Lane Conference, Kolkata, the National Kathak Festival in New Delhi, the American Dance Festival, for the Maharaja of Jodhpur and many others. In 2004, Pandit Das was featured in a national PBS television program and his performance in a historic court in Kolkata was broadcast on BBC national U.K. television. His collaboration with Emmy-award winning tap star Jason Samuels Smith, India Jazz Suites (IJS), placed first in the top ten dance productions of 2005 by the S.F. Chronicle and was named one of the top ten productions of the year in 2010 by the Boston Globe. The production has become an international sensation and toured all over the U.S, Australia and India many times over. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Cultural Affairs is sponsoring an IJS tour of India’s tier two cities, hailing the production as an exemplary of Indo-American collaboration.

In 2009, Pandit Das was chosen as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor a traditional artist can receive from the U.S. Government, and in 2011 he received the prestigious Sarba Bharatiya Sangit Parishad award in Kolkata, India.

Pandit Das now spends a large amount of time in India performing, giving workshops and teaching at his school, Chhandam Nritya Bharati, in Kolkata and Mumbai. In April 2010, Chhandam Nritya Bharati opened its second Indian branch in Mumbai. In order to make the knowledge and self-awareness that comes with learning Kathak accessible to all, he and Chhandam Nritya Bharati offer free, ongoing classes to underprivileged children in Kolkata and Mumbai, India in partnership with organizations such as Akansha and SMILE.

Jason Samuels Smith
Jason Samuels Smith (performer, choreographer, director) has emerged as a multi-talented leader in the Art form of Tap. He received a Dance Magazine Award as well as an Emmy and American Choreography Award for “Outstanding Choreography” for the opening number of the Jerry Lewis/MDA Telethon. Smith has also received the Gregory Hines Humanitarian Award; Certificate of Appreciation by the City of Los Angeles for creating the First Annual Los Angeles Tap Festival in 2003; a Proclamation declaring April 23rd Jason Samuels Day from the City of Shreveport, Louisiana; the Ivy of Education from Brainerd Institute; the President Kenny Award from Stony Brook; an Alpert/McDowell Residency Award; an Arts International Grant; National Performance Network and Map funding among others in support of his work.

Choreography and performances include Mya on CBS’s Secret Talents of the Stars, twice as a special guest (soloist and company appearance) on Fox’s hit series So You Think You Can Dance, and Dancing with the Stars to name a few. Other television and film credits include co-starring in Dean Hargrove’s award-winning short film Tap Heat; Outkast’s feature film Idlewild; and Debbie Allen’s AMC series Cool Women. Performances include Sammy (tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.); Soul Possessed (leading role); Tony Award winning Broadway show Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’Funk (principal and lead roles); and Imagine Tap! (leading role).  Smith continues to tour the world with his own tap company A.C.G.I (Anybody Can Get It), India Jazz Suites co-starring with Kathak Master Pandit Chitresh Das, YouthSpeaks, JaJa Productions Band, and Charlie’s Angels: A Tribute to Charlie Parker.

As a humanitarian, his work has supported organizations such as Dancers Responding to Aids, Tied to Greatness, Career Transitions for Dancers and Tap Into A Cure, and has helped to develop Tap Dreams, a worldwide documentary/global exchange which auditions young tap dancers in other countries and offers scholarships to attend the most popular tap festivals within the U.S. He is also one of the only tap dancers to fully design, develop, and promote the Jason Samuels Smith professional tap dance shoe produced and sold exclusively by BLOCH. Smith aims to promote respect for the art form and create opportunities for tap dancers, as he continues to provide leadership as a spokesman for tap around the world.


Debasish Sarkar, Vocals & Harmonium
Sri Debasish Sarkar received his training in the Ghazal genre under the guidance of Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Khan. He has accompanied some of India’s finest performers including the late Odissi master Guru Kelucharan Mahapatro, and notable Kathak artists such as Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Chitresh Das, Pandit Vijay Shankar, and Pandit Rammohan Mishra. He is also an accomplished harmonium accompanist and percussionist.

Jayanta Banerjee, Sitar
Jayanta Banerjee was born into a musical family, and started learning Sitar from the late Amit Prosonno Mukherjee, and later with Pandit Santosh Banerjee and Pandit Robi Chakroborty through the Rampur and Maihar Gharanas. He has performed as a soloist and accompanist extensively in over 13 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. He has accompanied some of the world’s greatest Indian classical dancers and musicians including Pandit Chitresh Das, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Dr. L Subharamonium, Pandit Rajan & Sajan Mishra, Pandit Swapan Chawdhuri, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Ustad Sabir Khan, Pandit Bhawani Shankar and Pandit Ramesh Mishra. Banerjee is also a successful composer and arranger, including work with Pandit Chitresh Das on his production of Sita Haran.

Biplab Bhattacharya, Tabla
Biplab Bhattacharya was introduced to Indian Classical Music through the Tabla by his father Pt. Kanai Bhattacharyya at the age of three. He began his official study under the tutelage of legendary Tabla Maestro Pt. Shankar Ghosh. He has participated in many of India’s top musical concerts, including Doverlane Music Conference, Indo Occidental Symbiosis, ITCSangeetResearchAcademy, Uttarpara Sangeet Chakra, and Gurupurnima Festival in Patna, Bihar. He has performed as an accompanist for SPIC MACAY and represented the ICCR (Government of India) as an accompanist in Mongolia, Jordan, Egypt, Argentina and Chile.


Theo Hill, Piano
Theo Hill is emerging as one of the top young voices in jazz piano. Born in Albany, NY, he began to study classical piano at the age of five with Taubman technique specialist Mary Moran before focusing on jazz piano studies with Lee Shaw and Barry Harris. He graduated from the Jazz Conservatory at SUNY Purchase in 2004 where he studied with Charles Blenzig and Hal Galper. Since arriving on the New York scene, he has become increasingly prominent, performing in clubs such as The Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, The Jazz Standard, Smalls, Zinc Bar and The Jazz Gallery. Hill has also performed at concerts and festivals in over 40 states. Hill has worked with artists as diverse as Ralph Peterson, Gregory Porter, JD Allen, Roy Ayers, Frank Lacy, Essiet Essiet, Joe Sanders, E.J. Strickland, Obed Calvaire and Marcus Gilmore. Hill performs regularly in New York with his own trio and as a sideman, tours around the world and is released his debut record in 2012.

Ryan Berg, Bass
Ryan Berg was born near Minneapolis, MN, into a family with a rich history of musical performance. He started playing music as a child and by age 14 he was gigging regularly, playing the bass alongside his father. He graduated college magna cum laude from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music in 2002. After graduation, he stayed in New York City as a working musician. In his professional career, Berg has collaborated with many world-renowned musicians. As well as performing with great artists, Berg also leads his own group, cPhour with Stacy Dillard, Craig Magnano, and Jeremy Clemons.  cPhour has honed their sound while running one of the most inspiring jam sessions in New York City. They have played extensively together, building up a language and level of communication that is unique and truly their own. Their music pushes the envelope of the jazz idiom with due respect to the music that came before them. This band appeals to broad audiences from the hardest core jazz-heads to people that have never heard jazz in their lives. It is with that appeal, energy, and love that he brings his music to you: “Always striving for something new. Always fresh.”

Andrew Atkinson, Drums
Andrew Atkinson is that rare type of musician who can play just about anything, and play it all with gusto. His drumming draws on the seductive beats of his native Jamaica, the percolating rhythms of his childhood home Miami, and the world of jazz that has beckoned and captivated him in all his travels. After graduation, Atkinson would find himself becoming one of the most in demand young drummers in Miami, playing with every type of band imaginable. With reggae-ska band The Monjees, Atkinson got his first taste of life on the road by performing on the 2002 Warped Tour and opening for James Brown at the 2002 Sunfest. Of course, he stuck close to jazz, his first musical love, and wound up doing gigs with luminaries such as Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Danilio Perez, and Donald Harrison.  “I’m very lucky to be a musician,” says Atkinson, who since moving to New York has continued to play with standout artists in the industry, including 2010 nominee for Best Jazz Vocalist, Gregory Porter. “I can bring anything to the table and we come together and make it sound easy. I truly believe we can get all kinds of people excited about jazz.” It certainly helps that he makes it so much fun for himself and his audience. Atkinson continues to play with Gregory Porter, and his Quartet is constantly adding more tour dates to its calendar. There’s a lot on Atkinson’s plate, but there always has been, and there’s plenty more to come. He wouldn’t have it any other way. “The plan is to always play good music,” says Atkinson. “Always.”

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NOBA is the Central Gulf region’s premiere presenting and service organization dedicated solely to the art of dance.  NOBA’s dynamic Main Stage season annually features a diverse array of world-class companies and artists.  Each year NOBA provides concerts, classes, workshops and lectures to more than 25,000 area dance enthusiasts of all ages.  In addition, NOBA’s nationally recognized award-winning education programs provide the youth of our community access to quality arts programs with over 3,000 free dance classes and workshops annually at ten sites throughout the Greater New Orleans area.

The New OrleansCenter for Creative Arts (NOCCA) is a tuition-free arts conservatory for high school students and an agency of the State of Louisiana. The NOCCA Institute, a non-profit organization, provides support and advocacy for NOCCA. The Institute offers access to excellence in the arts for students, faculty, and the community-at-large. For information, please visit and

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans (ACNO); a Community Arts Grant made possible through the City of New Orleans as administered by ACNO; a grant from the Louisiana State Arts Council through the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the NEA; and a grant from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation

OR CALL 504-522-0996!