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2019 Artist Profiles

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Arno Kamolika is a Vancouver based Bharatanatyam dance artist and instructor. She has studied Bharatanatyam and Manipuri under esteemed Gurus in Bangladesh, India and Canada including C.V. Chandrasekhar, Jai Govinda, Bragha Bessel, Sharmila Banerjee and Belayet Hossain. A graduate in Architecture, her experience and training in various art disciplines and dance styles like music, mime, theatre, other contemporary dance forms, has complemented her work as a dancer. Over the past few years, Arno has been an integral part of Mandala Arts as an instructor and as a solo performer. Arno’s rich repertoires of performances have taken her across the globe at various festivals in USA, Germany, India and Bangladesh. She is currently working on projects that create a bridge between the traditional framework of Bharatanatyam and Bengali poetry and music of Rabindranath Tagore.



Mohamed Assani is a celebrated sitar player and composer, known for being a proactive ambassador for his rich musical tradition. He has brought the sitar to new audiences through innovative collaborations that have stretched the boundaries of his instrument. Mohamed has performed Hindustani classical music as well as his own original music across the globe — with orchestras, string quartets, hip-hop artists, DJs, world music ensembles, jazz artists, Indian & Pakistani classical artists — and as a soloist. According to the Georgia Straight, "Assani is both a musician who’s deeply rooted in the artistic traditions of South Asia and a one-of-a-kind innovator.



Born in the family of musicians, Gurdit Singh Namdhari promises to be a good Tabla player. He started Tabla training at the age of seven under the guidance of Ustad Late Shri Avtar Singh Namdhari Ji. Thereafter, he continued training at the age of nine under the guidance of Late Padma Bhushan Pandit Samta Prasad Ji alias Gudai Maharaj Ji. He gave his first tabla performance with Guru Ji at the age of eleven at Kamai Auditorium. Now, he is an approved artist with All India Radio and giving his best performances for solo tabla recordings. At present, He is also performing with different artists in the field of music, this includes vocal, instrumental, dance etc. He is also performing with the band titled “Mystique”. He had given performances at different places like Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Banglore, Punjab, Delhi, Kanpur, Pillani, etc. He had won many titles under tabla solo and group performances and also played for fusion music at the college time. He has been given many prizes for his mesmerizing performances at various places. He had also performed in live concert with Shubha Mudgal Ji at Celebration Gardens in Gurgaon for the launch party of Lladro. He had accompanied with various artists like Meeta Pandit, L.K. Pandit, Shubha Mudgal, Rajan Sajan Misra, Sukhmoy Banerjee, Jiternder Pal Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Gurdev Singh and Sukhdev Singh etc. Words by different artists include, “he is a humble, quite, promising and an intelligent tabla player”.

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Ashvini Sundaram is a Bharatanatyam performance artist receiving ongoing training from multiaward winning and highly sought after danseuse, Guru Rama Vaidyanathan, in India. Ashvini began her journey in dance at the tender age of 2 and completed her arangetram in year 2008 in Singapore. She is also trained in ballet, contemporary dance and Carnatic music, and is the recipient of Mihika Arts Award for Special Recognition in dance.

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Dr. Milan Singh aims to draw attention to and create a platform for the stories and experiences of marginalised communities. With a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Simon Fraser University, she has collaborated on consultations and public engagement projects with several organizations. Milan is member of B.C.’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, an advisor to the Royal BC Museum, and one of the voices on the Nameless Collective Podcast. Milan worked as a lead researcher on SFU’s Komagata Maru archive and is currently the Associate Director of the Carnegie Classification Office for Community Engagement at SFU.



Rup Sidhu is an interdisciplinary artist, musician, producer and composer. Specializing in vocal percussion and live looping, his sound blends the rhythms of poetry and spoken word with a dynamic range of cultural hybridity. Inspired by folk and classical forms of music from around the world, his musical expressions range from groove oriented hip hop beats, to contemporary fusions of classical ragas; scores for the National Film Board of Canada and experimental compositions for dance and theatre productions. In addition to working over the past eight years as a guest curator with Indian Summer Festival and the City of Vancouver, Rup has facilitated and taught musical programs in universities, public schools, youth prisons, and communities throughout Canada, USA, UK, and India. Rup has produced fourteen albums with emerging artists, including American Pie, Shane Koyzan’s debut release. Current collaborative projects include: Aluma Sound, Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors, and Jhalaak. Rup’s solo live looping show, RupLoops, has toured over 500 locations across Canada.



The SHIAMAK VANCOUVER DANCE TEAM: Representing the biggest Bollywood dance academy in the world, the SHIAMAK Dance Team in Vancouver consists of some of the brightest and most promising talented performers in the Lower Mainland. Handpicked by Shiamak Davar himself, they have made a mark with power packed performances at the Indian International Film Academy Awards (IIFA Awards), the Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA), The opening ceremony for the World Police and Fire Games, Canadian Tourism Commissions Rendezvous Canada as well as many more high profile community events. The SHIAMAK Group continues to unite cultures and build bonds of friendship between India and Canada through dance. 



Nyla Carpentier (Tahltan, Kaska, French, Scottish) is a multifaceted performing artist currently residing in Vancouver. She is a poet, a powwow dancer and workshop facilitator. Acting highlights include: the theatre for young audience show Raven meets the Monkey King with Axis Theatre, Savage Society’s productions of The Boy who was Abandoned and Battle of the Birds, The Flats/Les Flats by Ginny Collins, a co-production with Prairie Theatre Exchange and Theatre Cercle Moliere, the Blyth Theatre Festival’s production of The Berlin Blues by Drew Hayden Taylor and Ipperwash by Falen Johnson and the verbatim theatre piece God’s Lake produced by Casterleigh Productions. Drawing on her experience as someone of mixed heritage – her goal is to blend the past, present and create new works for the future.  



A three-time Canadian National Dance champion, Karima Essa is Vancouver’s very own Bollywood star. An incredibly charismatic and passionate performer, choreographer and instructor, she has used her one-of-a-kind Bollywood talent to entertain diverse audiences at festivals, theatres and in schools across Canada. In 2014, her love for Bollywood took her to the screens in Mumbai, India, as a two-time finalist on Omni TV’s reality show, Bollywood Star. With style, grace and a flair for the dramatic, she has been captivating adult and young audiences for decades.


2016 South Asian Wedding Awards – Best Entertainment
2014 Shakti Woman Award – Artistic Achievement
2007, 2008, 2009 Canadian National Dance Champion

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Originally from Cameroon, Jacky Essombe grew up in Paris and now lives in Vancouver. She has toured in Canada, the United States and Europe with major recording artists and has appeared on television and radio in Canada and France. She loves to share the traditions, history and culture of Africa, and the wisdom of her ancestors, and she truly believes that the Western world can benefit from the ancient wisdom of Indigenous people.

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Canada’s most recognizable Indian Classical musician, the globally renowned Cassius Khan is a performer of combining the Classical styles of Ghazal/Thumri singing and the Tabla, the North Indian pair of drums and presents both, simultaneously. He is the senior disciples of the late Malika e Tarannum Mushtari Begum (Dec 25th 1934-March 14th 2004) and Tabla maestro Ustad Rukhsar Ali, who belongs to the Delhi Gharana of Tabla playing. 

Combining Indian Classical singing with Tabla, for a single artist, is a first in Indian classical music. Many noted Indian Classical Music gurus have proclaimed that singing and playing Tabla in unison is a difficult feat to master as Tabla playing requires skill and strength, as well as an absolute concentration on the kaleidoscopic rhythm patterns of the repertoire, and singing requires absolute skill in the execution of notes and vibrations of the voice and excellent breathing control. Khan’s trademark is performing the extremely rare and difficult “Tarannum Ang Gayaki style” in which the lyrics share a different metre from the rhythm but they join at the Sum point in a certain phrase.

Outside of Indian Classical Music Khan has also lent his hands and voice to literally every genre of music spanning from Pop, Rock & Roll, Heavy Metal, Electronica and Rap to Asian, African, Aboriginal and South American Contemporary and Classical music genres, to Roots and Blues, Country and Jazz, to Indian Classical, Ballet, Flamenco and Tap Dance. This has resulted in him being hailed as “Canada’s Multifaceted Musician” by the Edmonton Journal.

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Amika Kushwaha is a performer, choreographer and instructor of Kathak. She is one of the few Kathak artists in Canada who pairs her performances with live musical accompaniment. This live collaboration between dancer and musician enables moments of spontaneity and thus no two performances are ever the same. Her interactions with her audiences and her style of explanation of dance compositions have made her a delight to watch on stage. She has performed in notable festivals such as the Next Step Dance Festival, the Indian Electronica Festival, Vancouver Island, SXSW, Canada Music Week, Mission and Vancouver Folk Music Festivals.

Apart from showcasing this dance form in its traditional glamour, Amika has choreographed Kathak to many different musical genres and can intuitively interface with dancers from a variety of other dance forms, whether it be Flamenco, Canadian Step, Tap, African, or Ballet all while staying true to the art of Kathak.

Amika Kushwaha is also the Artistic Director and Co-Producer of the Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance, which was founded to maintain and showcase classical Indian music in Western Canada.

In addition to dancing and performing music, Kushwaha holds an M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering and is a sought after Kathak instructor in Western Canada.  She currently accepts all levels of students and teaches in New Westminster, BC Canada.


Jivesh is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist, and facilitator of Indo-Caribbean descent. His work has toured Nationally and Internationally. Jiv is the founding Artistic Producer of Pandemic Theatre, and became the Artistic Director of Rumble Theatre following three years as the Associate Artistic Producer at Theatre Passe Muraille. He was a member of the Cultural Leader Lab with the Banff Centre and Toronto Arts Council. His public service work has included collaborations with the Ad Hoc Assembly, The Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and as an advisor to the National Arts Centre. Jiv has received numerous recognitions for his contributions to the sector including the Toronto Arts Council Emerging Artist Award, Two Harold Awards, and A Herald Angel from the Edinburgh Festival as part of the CanadaHub programming in 2018. His current cultural practice centres decolonization through aesthetics.


Tom Arthur Davis is the founding artistic director of Pandemic Theatre, a theatre collective with a mandate for socio-political work. As an artist, he is interested in elevating marginalized voices through facilitating the creation of new work. Tom also works with the Toronto Fringe as the director of TENT, a program designed to provide emerging theatre artists with the tools to produce their own work. Works for the stage include: Mahmoud (co-writer), Take d Milk, Nah? (co-creator/dramaturge), The Only Good Indian (co-creator), and Situational Anarchy(dramaturge). 


Graham Isador is a writer/theatre artist. He is a contributing editor at VICE and a senior writer at CBC Arts. His work has also appeared in GQ Magazine and the punk rock satire site The Hard Times.  Isador trained as a part of the playwright unit at Soulpepper Theatre Company. Select playwriting credits include: White Heat (Summerworks, 2019), ...And You'll Never Believe What Happens Next(Summerworks, 2018), and  Situational Anarchy (Summerworks, 2016). 


Anahita Dehbonehie is an Iranian stage designer, production designer and installation artist, currently based in Toronto. Her practice is founded on the principle that works of art return us to truths more powerfully by their relationship to evocative sensory experiences. She is precisely interested in the creative tension that exists between innovation and creative expression on one side, and tradition and structure on the other, in any medium.

Her design work has been featured across Canada and internationally, including at the Prague Quadrennial, The Vilnius Capital of Culture, and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Since making Toronto her home in 2012, Anahita has been recognized with a variety of nominations and awards in design, including two Dora Mavor Moore awards and six nominations. She was a finalist for the Virginia Myrtle Cooper award in costume design 2016-2018 and was named one of Now Magazine's top theatre artists in 2015.


Rebecca Vandevelde is an arts worker focused on design, production, installation, curation, and management. Rebecca builds and curates spaces, events, and experiments - like Flip the Table and Blanket Fort - with Art is Hard; and works as a freelance lighting designer and production manager. Most recently: lighting for Pandemic x Buddies Shove It Down My Throat, lighting/touring for New Harlem x Theatre Passe Muraille Sound of the Beast, lighting/touring Pandemic Take d Milk, Nah?. Upcoming: production management for Soundstreams x Signal Two Odysseys, producing/production management for Theatre Centre x ECT Collective residency project.


Heather has worked in stage management on 70+ shows throughout Canada and internationally, ranging from small-scale Fringe productions, to pieces in festivals such as World Pride and Panamania, to large scale shows at the Stratford Festival and Mirvish. She has even stage managed a private performance for royalty.  See credits at Follow @blue84HB 

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