Sarah Morelli, Bio

  • Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Denver
  • Founder and Artistic Director, Sureela Academy and Ensemble
  • Core Dancer, Leela Dance Collective
 Photo: Rajan Subbaraman

 Photo: Rajan Subbaraman

Dr. Sarah Morelli was blessed to train with two of the greatest artists of recent generations: renowned kathak dance master, Pandit Chitresh Das, and legendary musician Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (from whom she studied Hindustani vocal music and the sarod). She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University with her dissertation on Pandit Das’s life and innovations. Her forthcoming book, Tales of a Modern Guru: Pandit Chitresh Das and Indian Classical Dance in Diaspora (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming), is the seminal ethnographic account of Pandit Das’s dance company and school, and his contributions to the kathak dance form. Active as a performer, teacher, and scholar, Sarah brings to all her classes a deep commitment to integrating practice and study. In kathak classes, this involves integrating Hindustani music as well as engaging related systems of knowing including philosophy, history, religion, mathematics, and literature through the performing arts. 

Sarah is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Chair of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. As a university professor, Sarah teaches various courses on ethnomusicology and music-cultures of the world, and leads a university kathak performance ensemble.

Sarah is also a member of the Leela Dance Collective of artists, including Seibi Lee, Rina Mehta, Rachna Nivas, and Shefali Jain, seeking to develop their individual creative voices while working collaboratively to forward a collective vision for kathak dance. Sarah also continues her music practice, and studied with Ali Akbar Khansahib’s disciples Pandit Rajeev TaranathDr. George Ruckert and Steve Oda.

She is thrilled to be building the Sureela Academy and Ensemble with her senior students as a way to share knowledge and appreciation of kathak with children and adults in the Denver Front Range community.

 Photo: Thomas Jennings

 Photo: Thomas Jennings