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PAA Alumna Combines Arts Administration Skills and Artistic Talent to Bring Indian Arts and Culture to a Broader Audience

woman looking in mirror in dressing room

Mitali Sonar in the greenroom of Symphony Space, during the premier of The Mahabharata in 2019.

Mitali Sonar (‘20) started her graduate study of Performing Arts Administration at NYU with a goal of using the knowledge and skills she would obtain to promote Indian arts and culture. Mitali expected that it would take more than ten years until she would achieve this personal and professional goal. Graduating in May 2020 into a performing arts world that was severely impacted by COVID-19, she thought she would have to wait to pursue her goal. Ironically, she discovered the pandemic actually accelerated her career as the performing arts industry needed professionals who can do more than one job. She attributes her success to the synergy between the arts marketing skills she developed at NYU and her training as a dancer and teacher of Kathak, one of eight major forms of Indian classical dance.

woman in graduation cap

Mitali Sonar in a graduation cap on NYU Commencement Day in 2020

In the month she graduated, Mitali secured a full-time position at Navatman, Inc., a New York City-based Bharatanatyam dance company whose mission is to bring extraordinary, boundary-pushing productions to the stage. Their mission is to make Indian classical dance more accessible, understandable, and easler to experience without altering its wonderful tradition and history. These responsibilities required her to serve as an arts marketer and a Kathak teacher, a combination of jobs that is perfect for her. “I thought I'd need 10-15 years to land the perfect job, and that the pandemic would push this date out by another 2-3 years. The unexpected can produce surprising results,” says Mitali.

“Working for a small-to-mid sized company came as a blessing during a time like this because, unlike big players in the industry, Navatman, Inc. was able to pivot and not shut down its operation.” Interestingly, Mitali says, enrollment for the Kathak dance classes increased threefold during the pandemic. She is enthusiastic about getting back on stage as a performer: “I am also working on various projects that tell the tales of ancient India. Using my craft to spread Indian arts and culture to a broader audience is a personal goal that I’m achieving here.” In May, Mitali will present a pure Kathak repertoire choreographed by Guru Prashant Shah.

indian dance performance

Mitali Sonar (center, down) as Kunti in The Mahabharata 2019

The pandemic also has given Mitali a chance to enhance her digital production skills. She filmed and edited Navatman Inc.’s first black box performance of the year, Krishna & the Lost Boys. The show premiered via a live-stream event last month and introduced Indian mythology, classical music, and dance to young audiences through a mix of dialogue, storytelling, dance, and vocals.

To satisfy New York City’s appetite for Indian folklore and mythology, Mitali is also working on a project that brings to life Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, in time for the celebration of Diwali (the Festival of Lights). Mitali explained, “this production, with all-female scriptwriters and a majority-female cast, gives voice to all the female characters in the epic – roles that have been reduced to one line (or sometimes none) in all the versions that have been produced in the past.”

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Performing Arts Administration

Performing Arts Administration at NYU Steinhardt builds on your background in dance, theatre, music, opera, or film to help you become a leader in the field.

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