Farah Yasmeen Shaikh is an internationally acclaimed Kathak performer, choreographer and instructor, and Founder & Artistic Director of Noorani Dance. As a performer, Farah is known for her evocative storytelling, technical precision, delicacy and grace, with two decades of training from the late Pandit Chitresh Das. She has gone on to develop a unique artistic voice, often addressing topics of historical and social relevance, while also maintaining the classical elements of Kathak. Farah performs her own traditional and innovative works, most notably, The Forgotten Empress - based on the life of 17th Century Mughal Empress Noor Jahan, and The Partition Project — based on the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition and Nazaakat aur Taaqat - Delicate Power. A TEDx speaker, and host of her own podcast, Heartistry Talk Show, Farah has received support and recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, New England Foundation for the Arts, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, California Arts Council, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, SVCreates and Dancers’ Group. See a full list of Press & Awards.
In addition to training students of Noorani Dance, Farah’s teaching experience includes ODC School and Along King LINES Ballet in San Francisco, India Community Center in the Silicon Valley, and various academic and arts institutions throughout the U.S. in addition to being a guest choreographer for the World Dance Program at Alvin Ailey Extension in New York City. Farah was also 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 Pakistani American filmmaker, Iram Parveen Bilal.
Since 2015, Farah has been consistently performing and teaching throughout Pakistan - engaging in meaningful exchanges with artists, organizations, students, and art-loving and desiring Pakistanis. Engagements in Pakistan include the International Faiz Festival, Islamabad Arts Fest, Indus Valley School of the Arts, and T2F (the Second Floor).
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.