ARTS .ORG UPDATE – MDO Kathak & Toronto Tabla Ensemble – alive and well!



I recently sat down with Joanna De Souza and Ritesh Das at their new home at the Bickford Centre at Christie and Bloor to mull over the ‘world music’ and dance scene in Toronto, past, present and future.  It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with two powerhouse performers who have virtually devoted most of  their adult lives to their crafts, and who show no sign of letting up.

You’d be hard pressed to find two more dedicated teachers of Indian Kathak dance and tabla than Joanna and Ritesh.   Since the early 1990s, through the non-profit organization M-Do and the Toronto Tabla Ensemble, they have paved the way for young artists with a passion for North Indian arts, stirring up interest within Indian and non-Indian communities alike.  In fact, Joanna and Ritesh can take pride in making these arts accessible to everyone, both in performance and instruction across the country.   They have influenced the lives of countless eager learners, from the very young, to the less young.

These days, in terms of classes for both kathak and tabla, they are excited about the interest that’s spreading across Toronto, Mississauga and Scarborough.  In spite of being forced to close studios including those on Spadina Avenue and College Street over the past two decades, the pair never seem to give up or tire of spreading their enthusiasm.  Look closely at the subway ads next time you are onboard, and you might just see them high above the weary commuters.  I know when I saw their new advertising campaign, I was delighted and couldn’t help smiling at my good friends!


M-Do and the Toronto Tabla Ensemble were not alone in their ground breaking work.  Along with other local dance institutions such as Ballet Creole, Arabesque, Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company, and COBA,  they have all maintained a powerful presence in Toronto’s arts community for over twenty years.  But what of the future? It’s certain they are not alone in wresting with this question!  I asked both Joanna and Ritesh if they see new leaders emerging from within the ranks.  They are, indeed, hopeful that there will be young people who will come forward and take over when the time comes.  Their efforts to maintain tradition and to instill discipline and commitment in their students seems to be paying off.

Ritesh is looking forward to forming a youth tabla ensemble in 2014, and the pair will continue mentoring teachers in the artforms.  They also have plans for a performance next summer as well as recording.

As Ritesh remarks, “My brother (the amazing kathak master and Joanna’s guru, California-based Pandit Chitresh Das) is still performing and teaching at 70 years old!”

So don’t expect Joanna and Ritesh and their beloved M-Do and Toronto Tabla Ensemble to disappear any time soon. And that’s good news for us all.

joanna  tabla classes

Copyright © 2018 TWAS – Toronto World Arts Scene. Icons by Wefunction. Designed by Woo Themes