Chitresh Das Institute Staff
Artistic Director: Charlotte Moraga, Co-Founder
Executive Director: Celine Schein Das, Co-Founder
Managing Director: Preeti Zalavadia, Co-Founder
Teachers: Charlotte Moraga, Anita Pai, Preeti Zalavadia, Asavari Ukidve, Anshu Manchanda, Rucha Khisti, Celine Schein Das, Gauri Bhatnagar
Director of Percussion & Tabla Teacher: Nilan Chaudhuri
Teaching Assistants: Srija Bhattacharya, Urjaswee Debnath, Anusha Kothari, Samyukta Patil, Sanjana Rao, Aarti Shah
Board of Directors: Ramen Chakrabarti, Lori Laqua, Charlotte Moraga, Celine Schein Das, Preeti Zalavadia
Charlotte Moraga, Artistic Director, Youth Company Director
Preeti Zalavadia - Kathak Instructor, School Director
Preeti Zalavadia began studying with Pandit Chitresh Das in 2003. She began teaching in 2006 and went on to become branch director of one of Panditji's largest branches. She has performed in many of Pandit Das' school shows, community performances and has participated in Arts Education programs, teaching in schools. Preeti is a dancer, instructor, School Director and Co-Founder of the Chitresh Das Institute.
Preeti feels eternally grateful to Pandit Chitresh Das for sharing his knowledge and showing students of all ages a world full of rhythm and whisking them into a beautiful mathematical dance adventure!
Anita Pai - Kathak Instructor
Anita Pai started learning kathak under the great kathak master artist and guru, Pandit Chitresh Das, in 2004 and began teaching in 2007. She has since taught students of all ages: kids, teens & adults, and all levels: beginning to advanced. Anita has performed in many of Pandit Das' school show productions and Bay Area dance and community events. She has helped prepare her students for performances, talent shows and auditions. Anita's two daughters Ritika and Shruti are both Chitresh Das Youth Company alumni.
Pt. Das always encouraged his young students to be strong, independent and to value authenticity and integrity. Anita is very grateful that her daughters were blessed to have him as a role model in their young lives and feels that CDI staff will continue his teaching legacy with the integrity and authenticity he stood for.
Asavari Ukidve - Kathak Instructor
Asavari began her study of Kathak at the age of 7 in India and trained for about 8 years. Years later she revived her Kathak training with Pandit Chitresh Das in 2000. Asavari has performed in many of Pandit Das' school show productions and Bay Area dance and community events. Her daughter, Avani is currently a student at CDI. Asavari started teaching at the Cupertino branch in 2011 and hopes to continue sharing and growing Pandit Chitresh Das’s legacy along with other CDI teachers.
Anshu Manchanda - Kathak Instructor, Youth Company Assistant Director
Anshu began dancing at the age of six, training in the Manipuri and Bharatanatyam styles in her early years. She began her study of Kathak at Pandit Chitresh Das’ Chhandam School of Kathak in 2003 and became a first year teacher in 2005. She is committed to furthering her training under the guidance of Pt. Das’ dazzling and talented disciple, Charlotte Moraga. She looks forward to nurturing future generations of Kathakas, as well as sharing the meditative and therapeutic benefits of Kathak dance with the community.
Rucha Khisti - Kathak Instructor
Celine Schein Das - Kathak Instructor, Executive Director
Celine began studying ballet at age 5 and as a child and teen, studied intensively through her early twenties. She studied with Natalia Borisova at Ballet Russe studio in San Francisco, where she also learned Russian character dance. When she was 12, she and her brother performed Russian Character dance with Ballet Russe at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. It was at San Francisco State University that she discovered the beauty of traditional forms of dance. She studied African Haitian dance for five years with Alicia Pierce, two years of contemporary dance and a year of jazz dance, and continued her study of ballet under Marsha Wales-Brown. She began her study with Pandit Chitresh Das in 1991 and performed in her first school show in 1992. She began assisting Pandit Das’ SFSU class in 1993 and to teach kathak in at Pandt Das’s school 1996 (she and Pandit Das were married in 2000). After a knee injury in 1995, Schein Das began studying yoga, which she has continued (in the Iyengar tradition) and has been studying pilates seriously for the past year. She continued to study kathak with Pandit Das in his class for injured students, which he titled the “knee jerk class”. She feels honored to have returned to teaching, as Pandit Das had often told her she should teach after she had left it to focus on building his organization, serving as Executive Director with him for 20 years. Schein Das is amazed at how what her late husband taught continues to light up the lives and kindle the curiosity of new learners, a gift he has given beyond measure.
Gauri Bhatnagar - Kathak Instructor
Gauri began learning kathak at Pandit Chitresh Das’ institution in 2006 at the age of six, and auditioned and was accepted in to the youth company in 2009 when she was nine. She has since performed at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco Opera House, Zellerbach Hall, with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble in Toronto, in Los Angeles, and many other prestigious events. .
Nilan Chaudhuri - Director of Percussion, Tabla Faculty
Nilan Chaudhuri has spent his entire life immersed in the tradition of Indian Classical Percussion. The son of Maestro Swapan Chaudhuri and a disciple of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Nilan received his first Tabla lesson from his father at the age of five.
Drawing inspiration from his father’s innovative and revolutionary approach to classical Tabla solo, Nilan was determined from a young age to be proficient as a soloist. He presented his first public Tabla solo at the age of eleven, at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael in the presence of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Within months of his first recital, sensing his passion and devotion to the art form, Nilan was accepted as a ganda bandhan disciple of Khansahib’s and underwent the sacred ceremony in which the Guru ties a thread around the disciple’s hand, initiating a lifelong bond and blessing. Over the course of the next decade, Nilan would go on to lead the AACM youth Tabla Ensemble, performing various arrangements of his father’s compositions in ensemble format throughout the United States and India. It was during these formative years that Nilan was introduced to the world of Tabla accompaniment by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, providing rhythmic support for his vocal and instrumental classes at the College.
As a teenager, Nilan was deeply inspired by the Jazz-fusion Band ‘Oregon’ a group spearheaded by his cousin, percussionist Colin Walcott, a student of Ustad Alla Rakha. The band’s music inspired Nilan to dive deeper into the world of rhythm, and in 2003 Nilan began studying the Drumset with legendary Bay Area soul drummer, Sly Randolph. He would go on to perform in Jazz Ensembles throughout High School and University, winning awards for his unique cross pollinations in eastern and western music – specifically his innate ability to transcribe Tabla rhythms, referred to as ‘Bols,’ to the Drumset.
In 2005, Nilan made his debut duet performance in concert with his Father and sarangi master, Ramesh Misra, in Queens, New York; Later that year, the duo would go on to perform for the momentous occasion of Basant Bahar’s 25th anniversary celebration.
For the last decade plus, Nilan has continued to perform as a Tabla soloist and accompanist. He has had the privilege and honor of sharing the stage with Hindustani Classical Music’s greatest treasures, such as maestros Alam Khan, Shujaat Khan, Ramesh Misra, and Amjad Ali Khansaib in a constantly growing list of prestigious venues, such as Carnegie Hall, The Fillmore, The Monterey Pop Festival, and The Fox Theater. His collaborations also include crossover work with celebrated artists, Arjun Verma, Manik Khan, Gaayatri Kaundinya, Jack Perla, The Toronto Tabla Ensemble, members of Brooklyn Raga Massive, Dennis Chambers, Miles Schon, and DJ Teeko. In addition to maintaining a busy performing schedule, Nilan teaches Tabla throughout the Bay Area as a faculty member at the Ali Akbar College of Music, and as the Director of Percussion at Chitresh Das Institute. It is his lifelong mission to maintain, preserve, and share the art of Indian Classical Music with the world.