Farah Yasmeen Shaikh is an internationally touring Kathak artist, and the Founder and Artistic Director of Noorani Dance, having received her training for two decades by the late Pandit Chitresh Das.
Displaying a passion and compassion in all of her work, Farah is known for her powerful and evocative storytelling, technical precision, delicacy and grace - bringing a clairvoyant voice to the contemporary stage, while simultaneously maintaining the traditional aspects of Kathak.
Farah is a former member of the Chitresh Das Dance Company and former instructor of the Chhandam School of Kathak. Touring extensively with the company nationally and internationally since 1998 and later as a soloist with her first solo performance in 2007.
In 2015, Farah presented her first full length production of her own original choreography - The Twentieth Wife - a performance of Farah as the solo dancer through an adaptation of a novel by Indu Sundaresan of the same title, including live musical accompaniment and multimedia. The premiere was commissioned by Z Space in San Francisco, and introduced Farah to the performing arts world as an artist with a uniquely powerful voice.
Farah continues to tour the follow up to this project, The Forgotten Empress, with an original script written by playwright and director, Matthew Spangler, having performed it throughout the U.S. with performances at LACMA, Asia Society Texas Center, Wellesley College, and multiple performances in the Silicon Valley presented by Z Space in San Francisco, EnActe Arts and Sangam Arts, with support from the New England Foundation for the Arts. The Forgotten Empress made its international premiere in 2017 with a tour throughout Pakistan.
In 2016, Farah founded her own organization, Noorani Dance, providing in depth training to students ages 5 and up. Noorani Dance offers traditional and innovative training and performances, and collaborative partnerships across other forms of performing arts, displaying Farah’s unique artistic expression and vision coupled with the classical and innovative style of her Guru, the late Kathak maestro, Pandit Chitresh Das.
In 2018, Farah’s organization, Noorani Dance, co-produced her newest work based on the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan - The Partition Project - in collaboration with EnActe Arts. A multilayered production of multiple forms of dance, an original musical score, a cast of actors, and multimedia - The Partition Project is a provocative and compelling performance weaving innumerable true life accounts through a retrospective lens into the greatest mass displacement in human history.
Farah and Noorani Dance have received recognition and awards for her work from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, New England Foundation for the Arts, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, San Francisco Foundation, California Arts Council, SVCreates and Dancers’ Group. Read more about Farah's Press & Awards.
Farah has been a guest choreographer for the World Dance Program at Alvin Ailey Extension in New York City, the Mona Khan Company, a consulting choreographer for the theatrical adaptation of Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair, and the lead choreographer for I'll Meet You There, a feature length film directed by Iram Parveen Bilal.
In addition to training students of Noorani Dance and performing throughout the U.S., Farah performs and teaches extensively in Pakistan throughout the year with performances at the Faiz International Festival in Lahore, the Urdu Conference in Karachi, and the Islamabad Arts Festival, including many other prestigious venues and institutions.
In 1971, Farah’s parents, Amjad and Najma Noorani moved to the United States from Karachi, Pakistan, both of whom were born in Bombay, India and moved to Pakistan post-partition of India and Pakistan.
Born in 1977 in Salinas, California, Farah, along with her siblings were always encouraged by their parents to follow the path that called out to each of them. Each child found a career in social service, which for Farah, has been through the arts.
When Farah was in her first year of college, she was eager to continue dancing, of which she had been doing since the age of 5, and she enrolled in an unexpected course of Indian classical dance offered at her school, San Francisco State University. This was to be Farah’s introduction to study a classical dance form of South Asia, and it was her extreme good fortune to have that introduction come from a world renowned master of the form – Pandit Chitresh Das. This decision in January of 1996 would forever shape Farah’s future.
In addition to continuing to take the kathak course at SFSU, and becoming Pandit Das’ teaching assistant, Farah enrolled in his institution, Chhandam School of Kathak. In 1998, Farah joined Pandit Das’ company, the Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC) and began her career as a performer of kathak, touring throughout the U.S. and India. Farah also became an instructor at Chhandam, and now boasts over 20 years of teaching experience.
In 2007, Farah debuted as a kathak soloist, and continued to perform to great acclaim throughout the U.S. and India with the Chitresh Das Dance Company until she embarked on the next phase of her dance journey as an independent artist in 2014.
Farah’s teaching experience began when she was just a teenager, having taught other forms of dance to children prior to her kathak training. In 1998, Farah began assisting Pandit Chitresh Das in his classes at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Soon thereafter, she began teaching at his institution, the Chhandam School of Kathak, along with continuing to assist him at San Francisco State University and Stanford University, as well as his various teaching engagements world-wide.
In addition to being a senior instructor at Chhandam, Farah has taught classes and given numerous lecture demonstrations and master classes at various institutions throughout the United States, including Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Program, ODC School, the India Community Center in Silicon Valley, the Oakland School of the Arts, St. Mary’s College, San Francisco State University, University of California, Santa Cruz, the San Mateo Parks and Recreations Department, and many more.
In 2016, Farah founded her own organization, Noorani Dance, teaching students ages 5 and up in the style of kathak as passed down to her from her GuruJi, while simultaneously developing her own approach to the art form.
Farah also performs and teaches in Pakistan through partnerships with various educational and cultural institutions.
Learn more about classes offered through Noorani Dance.