In 2016, Los Angeles-based kathak company Leela Dance Collective announced their vision for an endowment fund called the Leela Foundation. Seven years later, the dance company has achieved their initial goal of raising a million dollars for the fund thanks to individual and institutional donors. This fund is the first of its kind in the United States.

Apart from offering classes, training, and intensives through studios in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and New York, the collective also provides direct support to artists through the Artist Awards. According to Co-Artistic Director Rukhmani Mehta, this fund will go a long way in helping the dance company realize its vision of helping kathak dancers and Indian Classical musicians in the United States.

“Currently, it is virtually impossible for kathak dancers and classical Indian musicians to pursue a full-time career in their chosen field,” she said. “Without such support, these artists and artistic traditions are at risk.” 

As of now, the collective will distribute 4% of the fund every year to artists. Artistic directors Mehta, Rachna Nivas and Seibi Lee hope to raise more funds through investment income, new donations, and/or bequests. 

Tanay Gokhale is a Community Reporter at India Currents through the California Local News Fellowship cohort of 2023. Born and raised in Nashik, India, he moved to the United States for graduate study in...