Asha Bala, Director
An accomplished dancer and teacher, Asha has been training students in Bharata Natyam since 1984. She began her teaching career in Mumbai where she established her first school of dance, Nritya Shala, in which students received meticulous instruction in the demanding technique of Bharata Natyam.
Having received extensive training under eminent gurus, Kalaimamani Mahalingam Pillai and Kalaimamani Kalayana Sundaram of Sri Raja Rajeshwari Bharata Natya Kala Mandir, Asha’s quest for knowledge led her to further her dance education at the highly acclaimed performing arts college Nalanda Nritya Kala Maha Vidyalaya. The five-year BFA & MFA programs in Bharata Natyam, under the guidance of Padmabhushan Dr. Kanak Rele and Guru Soundararajan gave her a tremendous appreciation and understanding of the rich dance tradition of India. A second Master’s in Modern dance at American University under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Prevots further widened her perspective and respect for the different genres of dance.
As a skilled performer, Asha received worldwide recognition for her performances at prestigious theatres such as The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, The Smithsonian in Washington DC, Music Academy in Chennai, and The National Center for the Performing Arts in Mumbai to name a few.
With her in-depth knowledge of the dance form combined with her passion for teaching, Asha has tirelessly imparted her knowledge to aspiring students, and guided many towards their Arangetram and beyond. Through the teaching methodology that she has evolved, students come to know and appreciate the culture and tradition of classical Indian dance.
Leela School of Dance is the culmination of her life’s work and the realization of her goal to open a center for quality dance education, where instruction in dance will be structured to combine practical training with an academic foundation. She is excited to share her passion of dance with young dancers and to take them on this journey in an environment that is nurturing and inspiring.
Hema Seshan, Teacher-in-Training (Bharata Natyam)
Hema was introduced to Bharata Natyam from a very early age, and her love for this art grew as she watched many great performances over her growing years. She began her own training in Mumbai with Asha Bala, under whose watchful eye her natural talent for dance was honed and developed. After her Arangetram in 1993, she continued her dance studies under Ms. Bala strengthening her skills and passion for dance. To augment her learning, she attended extended workshops under renowned teacher, Kalaimamani K.J. Sarasa in Chennai. In 2009, she became a part of Kalashristi School of Dance in Morrisville, NC. Under the direction of Meena Rajagopal, the artistic director, she performed at several major events in the Triangle Area.
Since 2013, she has been training to teach Bharata Natyam under Ms. Bala. Learning to teach the complex but structured technique of the dance form requires as much dedication, commitment and patience as learning to dance. She is learning these valuable lessons as the Teacher-in-training at Leela School Dance.
Hema enjoys working with young minds and she looks forward to share her knowledge with them. She lives in Morrisville with her husband and two lovely girls who share her same passion for dance.
Smitha K. Prasad, Program Director, Music for Dancers
Smitha is a US based Indian Carnatic classical vocalist. A senior disciple of renowned musician and musicologist, Vidushi T.S. Vasanthamadhavi, Smitha is a regular performer both in the US and in India. Recipient of the 2013 Regional Artist by the United Arts Council in North Carolina, Smitha is the first Carnatic musician to have achieved this distinction. She released a CD of traditional Carnatic music compositions as an initiative of the Regional Artist Project Grant.
Smitha has worked on many collaborative projects with artists from different genres. Additionally, she has written a number of articles on Carnatic music for both print and web publications.
To learn more about Smitha, please visit her website: http://www.smithakprasad.com/