Sadanam Balakrishnan & Leela Samson

Dakshina is thrilled to welcome guest artists Sadanam Balakrishnan and Leela Samson.

Saturday September 21, 8 pm
Shakespeare Theatre, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St NW Washington, DC 20004
Buy Tickets Here

Sadanam Balakrishnan and Leela Samson present “Urvashi,” their collaborative work drawing on Kathakali and Bharata Natyam. Drawing on the myth of the nymph Urvashi, this piece depicts a scene of Urvashi bidding farewell to Pururava on the eve of her re-entering her heavenly abode. Exploring the universal binaries of love and loss, and duty and fate, this dance explores the complexities of Urvashi and Pururava’s emotions as they face the future of their impending separation, and their son growing up without a mother.

SadanamBalakrishnanSadanam Balakrishnan was initiated into the art of Kathakali at a young age and trained for many years under many famous gurus. It was during his training under preeminent guru Shri Keezhupadam Kuamaran Nair that Balakrishnan blossomed into a great artist and teacher. He has since become one India’s most outstanding Kathakali teachers, serving as the Principal and chief artist of the International Centre for Kathakali for many years.

Balakrishnan is also a celebrated performer and choreographer. He has choreographed and produced over 25 Kathakali plays, and his interpretation of “Othello” is among the most sought-after Kathakali works. Critics often praise his power, versatile range and his mastery of the art of expression. Balakrishnan “who took the role of Ravana shone, masterfully depicting the fascinating range of emotions from triumph to defeat.” (Review from ‘Indian Express’)  “Towering over all other performances was that of Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan as Rugmangada in the searingly powerful Rugmangada Charitam.” (Review from ‘The Hindu)

Leela Samson

Leela Samson is among India’s most dynamic and technically brilliant dancers, an outstanding representative of Kalakshetra, the famed institute for the classical arts founded by the late Rukmini Devi Arundale on the Chennai ocean front. She joined Kalakshetra as a young child and her formative years were spent in imbibing the nuances of Bharata Natyam and related arts at the feet of celebrated gurus.

Her personal style is unostentatious, serene and characterized by an impeccable technique that blends geometrical precision with vibrancy and an unfettered ease. Her rhythmic acumen is apparent in dance compositions containing varied and challenging percussion patterns. Among the many honors conferred on her, Leela Samson was awarded the prestigious Padmashri by the President of India in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the art of Bharata Natyam as well as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award instituted by the apex cultural body of the Government of India. She is also the recipient of the Nritya Choodamani award from the state of Tamil Nadu.

Two significant documentary films have been made on Leela Samson – ‘Sanchari’ by Arun Khopkar and ‘the Flowering tree’ by Ein Lall. She served as Director of the Kalakshetra Foundation from 2005 to 2012. She is chairman of the central Sangeet natak Akademi as well as chairperson of the central board of Film certification.

AlifUdaipurOpening artist and sitar player Alif Laila brings her musical display of serenity and emotion from the Sitar—the soul of South Asian classical music. Alif has been prolific in the studio, recording with world-renowned tabla artists like Pandit Anindo Chatterjee and Ustad Taari Khan. An accomplished artist in both music and water colors, Alif is a long time Dakshina friend and featured artist. Daniel considers Alif his older sister in the arts, and is excited to be featuring her again this year.

Alif Laila was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her connection with the arts has been very deep since early childhood. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, she began her initial training in vocal music, and was eventually inspired to learn the Sitar by her mother, Shehida. She was trained on a ‘one to one’ basis in the techniques and compositions of classical music by Ustad Mir Qasem Khan, nephew of Ustad Allauddin Khan, and founder of the Senia Maihar school of music. Alif’s passion for the arts was beyond music alone. She attended the College of Fine Arts in Dhaka where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and received several awards for her water color paintings. The world of rhythm and tone in drawing and painting gradually merged with her music and her love story with the arts began. She was fortunate to receive guidance from teachers like Partha Chatterjee and Krishna Bhatt and blessings from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. She has performed extensively in many prestigious venues in Bangladesh, India, Europe and the USA. World renowned Tabla artists like Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Ustad Taari Khan, and Pandit Yogesh Shamsi have performed and recorded with her. In 2007 her DVD ‘Hrydayaragam’ was presented at The Smithsonian. She has recently released another DVD, ‘Strings of Resonance’ with Anubrata Chatterjee, presenting Indian Classical music as the link to the heritage of the land from the past to the present.

With devotion and dedication Alif embraces the Sitar as the instrument of her soul. To know more about her and watch her video-clips please visit her website: and blog:

Nitin Mitta will accompany Alif Laila on the Sitar. Nitin is one of the most accomplished and distinctive tabla players of his generation, with a reputation for technical virtuosity, spontaneity, clarity of tone, and sensitivity to melodic nuances.

Apart from being a dynamic soloist, he is a highly sought after accompanist who has performed with some of India’s most celebrated Hindustani classical musicians, including Pandit Jasraj, Dr. Prabha Atre, Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Ustad Shahid Parvez, as well as many Carnatic musicians, such as Lalgudi G.J.R Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi.