Aakash Odedra

Choreographer, Dancer

Aakash Odedra Headshot

Originally from Birmingham, Aakash undertook Kathak training with Smt Nilima Devi in Leicester and Bharat Natyam with Smt Chitraleka Bolar in Birmingham. To further his interest in both forms, he undertook further tutelage from Chhaya Kantaveh (Bharat Natyam) and Asha Joglekar (Kathak) in Mumbai, India. Whilst in Mumbai, he trained in indo-jazz with famous Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar. On his return to the UK in 2004, Aakash continued his training and worked on various dance projects including Sonia Sabri, Urja Thakore, and Kumudini Lakhia.

Aakash has worked with illustrious artistic collaborators including choreographers Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant (“Rising”, 2011), Ars Electronica Futurelab, Lewis Major and Damien Jalet (“Mumur” and “Inked”, 2014); Aditi Mangaldas (“Echoes”, 2015), Sabrina Mahfouz and David Poznanter (“I Imagine”, 2015).

In 2016, Aakash created his first children show “Hanuman the Hero” which toured Leicestershire schools. Also, in the same year, the company partnered with Dance Umbrella to tour Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company to English regional venues. These works formed part of Aakash Odedra Company’s Diwali 2016 project and marked the beginning of the company’s involvement in Leicester’s Diwali celebrations which are the largest outside of India.

Currently, Aakash and his producer, Anand Bhatt, are developing a new international collaboration exploring the changing climate of freedom of expression in Turkey and on the Syrian/Iraqi migrant crisis. #JeSuis will premiere in February 2018 at The Arts Center, NYU Abu Dhabi. (https://www.aakashodedra.co.uk/the-people/)

Alana Baraj

Senior Producer, NYUAD Arts Center

Alana Barraj has been working at NYU Abu Dhabi since it’s administrative inception in 2008, writing policy and building several office units from the ground up. A classically trained singer and an active member of the local arts and music scene in Abu Dhabi, Barraj joined the Arts Center as the current Chairperson of the longest-standing community music group in the UAE, Abu Dhabi Choral Group (ADCG). With ADCG, she served as Producer for five of their most commercially successful productions to date. She is proud graduate of NYU in New York, earning her degree in Communication Studies with two sets of honors. (https://www.nyuad-artscenter.org/en_US/about/meet-our-team/)

Alexei Manheimer-Taylor

Collaborator,  New York University / Hemispheric Institute

Alexei Taylor lives in Brooklyn NY and works as a web developer/designer/illustrator. He is a recent graduate of the interactive telecommunications program at NYU. Alexei joined the program with a background in fine art and illustration, and during his time in the program, began drawing digital illustrations. The goal being to make interactive digital murals. The automatic teller of fortune combines elements of physical computing with illustration.

Ana Karneza

For biography
Ana Karneža, student, class of 2020, NYUAD

Ana is a second-year student at NYUAD whose interest is mainly singing, producing music and theater, hence she decided to embrace those interests through a double major in music and theater. She does not have much dance experience but was very interested and eager to get the most out of this dancing j-term experience as she could.

Anand Bhatt

Producer Aakash Odedra Company

Anand Bhatt's Headshot

Anand Bhatt is a dance enthusiast and producer from Leicester. His formal dance training started in Kathak with guru Kumar Shashwat (Leicester, UK). In 2003, Anand founded Desi Masti, a Leicester based Bollywood dance school. Desi Masti soon became a recognized name in UK Bollywood dance having more national Boogie Woogie Bollywood champions than any other UK dance school. With an interest in all things Michael Jackson and Bollywood, he stumbled upon contemporary dance in 2007 when he was dancing in a Kathak show along with dancer Aakash Odedra. As Aakash and Anand found their creative talks and dreams aligned, the clearer it also became the Anand was not, in fact, a dancer. He started to help out Aakash with his shows and ended up as his producer.

Instantly falling in love with contemporary dance but not having seen much of it, Anand has remained focussed on gathering experience and skills by intensively supporting Aakash. The first project ‘Rising’ featured commissions by Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant. However, commercially Anand runs a studio space in Leicester, and the resident Bollywood dance school Desi Masti was a force for South Asian dance in the Midlands. Anand was also artistic director of MJ Timeless, a summer residency show at Blackpool’s Globe Theatre which featured an international award-winning cast and the show was ravely reviewed. (https://www.aakashodedra.co.uk/the-people/)

Anastasiia Smyshliaeva



Anastasiia is a Film student at New York University Abu Dhabi. Having three years experience in Ballroom dances, she never got a chance to try out Contemporary and Kathak dance styles until she took this class. Besides cinematography and dances, Anastasiia is interested in theatrical and visual arts performances, psychology and sociology.

Anis Barnat

Founder, El Sistema Greece

Anis has worked at Askonas Holt since 2014. After graduating from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Anis worked at the French Embassy in the USA as Deputy Cultural Attache. He was then appointed General Manager of the Maitrise de Radio France in Paris. Anis has always been interested in education and social change through music. He was a professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris for the topic “music and politics” and his assignment at Askonas Holt for all the Venezuelan Sistema projects has inspired him to found El Sistema Greece, a free music programme for the children in refugee camps.

Beril Şenöz



Graduated from METU, Department of Business in 2000. In 2004, Beril enrolled in Modern Dance Division of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University State Conservatory. After graduation, she started the postgraduate program of the same department. While studying, she continued to dance professionally. She danced in the Fire of Anatolia in 2001 – 2004 and in Shaman Dance Theatre in 2005-2009. She started to dance in Zeynep Tanbay’s Dance Project in 2007. She danced in many independent dance projects. She practiced with trainers of leading dance groups and participated in workshops in Europe (including Cullberg ballet, Hofesh Schehter Dance Company, Ultima Vez, DV8, Pina Bausch, Batscheva Dance Company, Sidi Larbi, Kibbutz Dance Company, Kitt Johnson). Beril Şenöz has choreographic works as well; she choreographed in movies Zenne Dancer and Yedi Kocalı Hürmüz. Since 2014, she has been dancing in MDT-ist and giving lectures in MSGSÜ State Conservatory, Modern Dance Division.

Bill Bragin

Executive Artistic Director, NYUAD Arts Center

Bill Bragin, a leading figure in music and arts programming, is the first executive artistic director of The Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi. Called “one of the most influential figures in the New York live-music business” by The New York Times, Bragin brings extensive experience, creativity, and his own unique multidisciplinary vision to the role.

Most recently, as the director of public programming of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, he attracted hundreds of thousands of audience members to the popular Midsummer Night Swing and Lincoln Center Out of Doors festivals, events devoted to increasing public participation in the arts, and commissioned and premiered numerous new works in a variety of disciplines. He also helped set the artistic vision for the free weekly programs at the David Rubenstein Atrium, which opened during his tenure.

Bragin is also a co-founding co-director of the not-for-profit world music festival and service organization globalFEST and a former member of the board of trustees of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP). Previous activities include serving as Director of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Curator of Music Programs at Symphony Space, General Manager of the NYNO record label, and Artistic Director/Executive Producer of Central Park SummerStage. Bragin was music advisor for the TED Conferences, and has served as a jury member, advisor, or speaker for acclaimed conferences and organizations including WOMEX (Worldwide Music Expo), South by Southwest (SXSW), Cape Verde’s Atlantic Music Expo, National Endowment for the Arts, Performing Arts Market Seoul (PAMS) and Brazil’s Porto Musical, among many others. As “Acidophilus,” he has djed internationally as part of GlobeSonic Sound System. (https://www.nyuad-artscenter.org/en_US/about/meet-our-team/)

Carol Brandt

Associate Vice Chancellor, Global Education and Outreach, and Vice Provost

Carol Brandt

Carol Brandt plays a central role in shaping and implementing NYU Abu Dhabi’s commitment to global education and the institution’s connections to Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

Brandt joined NYUAD from Pitzer College, where she most recently held the position of vice president for International Programs and Fellowships. Previously, Brandt served as Pitzer’s associate vice president of International Programs, director of the program in American College English, and director of Special Programs. She was also a senior lecturer in Modern Languages, Literature, and Culture.

Brandt received a BA and an MA in Linguistics from California State University Fresno.

Debra Levine

Assistant Professor of Theater, New York University Abu Dhabi


Debra Levine is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at New York University Abu Dhabi. Her latest essays appear in the Winter 2018 issue of TDR: The Drama Review, in Militant Eroticism: The Art + Positive Archive Catalog, published by Sternberg Press, and for NYU NY’s Skirball Center’s Indefinite Article. For the past three years, Debra has been writing on Trajal Harrell’s choreographic proposition of embodying impossible archives, with essays published in Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (XL)/The Publication (2017); Movement Research Journal (2016); and walkerart.org (2016). In November 2017, Debra performed in A.U.L.E, an installation and performance created by Julie Tolentino for the Bay Area series: Radical Movements: Gender and Politics in Performance.

Dimitra Raftopoulou

Manager, El Sistema Grece

Evrim Akyay

Dancer, Choreographer


Born in Istanbul, Evrim joined Zeynep Tanbay Dance Project in 2007 upon his graduation from the Modern Dance Department at the Faculty of Arts and Design at Yildiz Technical University. Evrim Akyay continues to produce and stage his own choreographies and maintains his dancing career with his fellow dancers.

Gabi Branche



Gabrielle (Gabi) is a student of New York University Abu Dhabi 2021. She started modern dance with the Liliput Children’s Theatre at age 2 and has also done other styles of dance in high school and university including bollywood, ballet, salsa, hip hop, among others. She intends to major in Biology/Chemistry with a minor in Arabic. She also has a history in theatre, singing, poetry and art. She is particularly interested in languages and aspires to be an international pediatrician.

Gizem Aksu

Dancer, Choreographer, Instructor


Gizem Aksu is independent choreographer, dancer and instructor based in Istanbul. She graduated from Department of Political Science & International Relations, Bosphorus University and from  Department of Contemporary Dance, State Conservatory in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University with honor degrees. She currently continues Proficiency in Art Programme and also teaches at Contemporary Dance Department.

Aksu’s work problematizes the body as a site of interrelations between art, politics and philosophy. She is performing her last solo performance YU in Turkey and Belgium. She is also keeping on teaching her workshops called as “How the Landscape My Body is?”, “Daily Rituals for Rebellion” and “Organic Wisdom”.  She has had opportunities to work with renowned choreographers and directors; Aakash Odedra (UK), Ann Van den Broek (Ward/ward)(BE), Aydın Teker (TR), Brooke O’ Harra (US), Malin Arnell (SE), Marc Vanruxt (BE), Sharon Hayes(US), Tijen Lawton (BE), Tuğçe Tuna (TR).

Her dancer being was documented in “The Second Sex” by Guro Leppord. and she was also invited to SPARK Snapshots from Istanbul’s Art Scene by Cengiz Tanç. She also played in internationally awarded film “Belonging” by Serkan Ertekin. The articles and the interviews she made with local and international artists and intellectuals have been published by https://mimesis-dergi.org

Hetvi Shah



Hetvi is a second-year student at New York University, Abu Dhabi. She is currently majoring in Economics and Finance while pursuing a minor in Political Science. Hetvi is very passionate about dance, since a young age, and has some training in Kathak and Bollywood dance styles. This class served as a means for Hetvi to reconnect with her high-school interests in theater and dance.She aspires to bring about social change through her work in Economics, especially in her home country, India.

Hoya Liu


On the Acropolis
On the Acropolis

Hoya is a student in New York University Abu Dhabi. She has been self-teaching dance since 12, and has mostly done hip hop. She has been the founder of two dance groups, and has taught dance in student clubs and summer camps. During the course “How Movement Makes Meaning”, she had her first experience with Contemporary and Kathak dance.

Ivy Akinyi



Ivy is a Film and Psychology student at NYUAD, who has some history with dance. However, Contemporary and Kathak dance are a first time experience. An artist at heart, Ivy is always open to various forms of art and media, and this particular experience has encouraged her to rediscover herself in dance, and be more flexible to other types too. Aside from art, Ivy enjoys fitness, journaling, meeting new people, eating, music and catching up with old friends.

Julie Liu


Julie is a first-year student at New York University Abu Dhabi pursuing Mathematics/ Computer Science/ Psychology. She has been dancing since kindergarten, with specialization in Chinese dance and some training in ballet, modern, and tap dance. This is her first time taking a theater course and trying contemporary Kathak dance, which she now likes a lot. She very much appreciates this J-term class and the opportunity to go to Greece and dance with people there.

Konstantina Efthymiadou

Rehearsal Director, Aakash Odedra Company

Léa Dao Van

Camp Manager, El Sistema Greece

Camp Manager at El Sistema
Camp Manager at El Sistema

Leslie Gray

Teaching Assistant “How Movement Makes Meaning”; Personal Assistant to Aakash Odedra

NYUAD Class of 2019, Theater


After stumbling onto theater in his first year of university, Leslie fell in love with theatrical lighting and design. Now in his third year of college, he hopes to explore more facets of the theatrical world, as well as, delve deeper into his interest in Middle East politics.

Letecia Saunders

Manager, Global Education NYU Abu Dhabi

Linsey Bostwick

Senior Producer, NYUAD Arts Center

Linsey Bostwick has recently joined the staff of the Arts Center after many years producing works in New York City and internationally. Most recently, she has worked on the producing team of Pomegranate Arts with artists such as Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson and Taylor Mac. She is a long time creative/producing collaborator with Big Art Group and has worked with Cynthia Hopkins, Susan Marshall, Nina Winthrop among others artists. Bostwick has been published in the Yale Theatre Journal and the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media among others. Bostwick holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of Washington in Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College in Interactive Performance and Media Arts. (https://www.nyuad-artscenter.org/en_US/about/meet-our-team/)

Louise Ann Seffef


Lou is working on #JeSuis with Aakash and came to visit our class “How Movement Makes Meaning”. She talked to us about the role of a Dramaturg from her perspective and experience.

Lubnah Ansari



Lubnah Ansari is a first year student at New York University Abu Dhabi. She may appear Desi, but Hong Kong is where her heart belongs. She has chosen to major in philosophy, but due to her indecisive nature you never know when she will spontaneously change her choice.

Mahrukh Tauseef

Biography Portrait
Biography Portrait

Mahrukh is a student at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is majoring in Electrical Engineering. She was prone towards science for all her life and this class ‘How Movement Makes Meaning’ was her first ever encounter with dancing. She grew up little by little and has learnt a lot in two weeks. She plans to specialise in Biomedical Engineering. Her dream is to make medical procedures accessible in underdeveloped areas allowing doctors anywhere in the world to use wireless technology and provide medical aid through performing robotic surgeries.

Maria Sideri

Dance Artist, Choreographer

Happy Maria!
Maria Sideri is an artist that works in the intersection of performance and choreography. Her investigations turn to the female body in possession or in objectification as an Other. With a background in anthropology, she looks at the relation between what is performed and its embodiment in the cultural context in which it occurs. Her latest project is a choir with young women refugees from Sudan based in Cairo.
More info:
https://helloworldchoir. bandcamp.com/



Melissa Ugolini



Born in Pesaro in 1989, Melissa moved to Florence (Italy) at an early age to begin her professional training in Ballet at the Accademia Internazionale Coreutica under the direction of Elisabetta Hertel and eventually decided to further her training at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds (UK), from where she graduated in 2011 with a First Class Honours Degree and was granted an Award for Outstanding Achievement. After graduation, Melissa worked with numerous international choreographers like  Akram Khan, Andonis Foniadakis, Nicholas Cantillon and Laurence Yadi/Cie7273, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Barak Marshall, İhsan Rüstem, Michael Popper, Bruno Caverna, Beyhan Murphy, Korhan Başaran and Bedirhan Dehmen amongst others, besides performing both new creations and repertoire works with Companhia Instavel (Portugal), LamatDance Company (Spain), James Wilton Dance Company (UK) and with the Turkish National Company Modern Dance Theatre Istanbul (MDTIstanbul) touring worldwide. In 2012 Melissa performed at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games with the Akram Khan Company.

Michelle Osorio

Aakash Odedra Company Coordinator

Mohammed Waseem Chaudry


Waseem is a student at NYUAD. His passion heavily lies in dance as he dances a wide a range of genres that include Hip-Hop, Salsa, Bachata and Breakdance. He is also interested in Film and Theatre, but he currently majors in Biology. He hoped to use dance as way in which he could send messages and he was able to through the course “How Movement Makes Meaning.”


Nandini Kochar






Nandini is a freshman at New York University Abu Dhabi double-majoring in Public Policy and Film. Having first stepped on stage at the age of five, she’s been performing for as long as she remembers. Trained in both Eastern and Western dance forms, ranging from Kathak and Bharatnatyam to Contemporary and Chinese Ribbon Dance, she is fiercely passionate about dance. Her purpose however, lies in humanitarianism. She hopes to bring the two together in the form of Artivism, and this course, How Movements Make Meaning, has served a pivotal milestone in that journey.

Pantelis Demetriou

Associate Instructor of Mechanical Engineering

Trip Supervisor “How Movement Makes Meaning”


Rodrigo Silva Ferreira


NYUAD Class of 2020, Chemistry


Rodrigo Ferreira is a second-year student from Brazil who is planning on majoring in Chemistry with minors in Arabic and Applied Mathematics. Interested in how artistic expression can help promoting social change, Rodrigo hopes to take advantage of his liberal arts education by exploring fields not related to his major, such as Film and Theater. On campus, he usually can be found performing experiments at the Experimental Research Building or helping students with their essays at the Writing Center. During his free time, Rodrigo enjoys writing tales of love and unexpected encounters between people from different – and often conflicting – cultures and societies.

Sebastian Grube

Teaching Assistant “How Movement Makes Meaning”

NYUAD Class of 2018, Music & Theater

Sebastian Grube's Headshot

Sebastian is deeply invested in being a well-rounded artist and human being. His interests range from directing, singing and story-telling to producing and arts administration. If you want to learn more, visit his website: sebastiangrube.com.

Su Güzey



Su studied in Bilgi University Performing Arts Department between 2009-2011, and then finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Mİmar Sinan Fine Arts University Contemporary Dance Department in 2015. She worked with many local and international artists such as Aakash Odedra, Jerome Bel, Ann Van den Broek, Tuğçe Tuna, Aydın Teker, Mustafa Kaplan, Slobodan dan Paich, Fyodor Pavlov Andreevich, La Fura Dels Baus, Esther Balfe, Willi Dorner, and budalasultan collective. She premiered her first choreography “Store My DNA” in 19th İstanbul Theatre Festival in 2014, and co-created the ongoing Visibility in Arts Festival. She is still dancing and collaborating with friends for new interactions.

Taner Güngör



Dance artist and choreoghrapher based in Istanbul, Taner is a graduate from the Contemporary Dance Department in Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. As a dancer he performed with several companies such as Fire of Anatolia and Zeynep Tanbay Dance Project. He also worked with many choreographers such as Aydın Teker,Zeynep Tanbay, Tuğçe Tuna, Alper Marangoz, Asli Bostanci. İn 2017, he joined Aakash Odedra Dance Company for its new creation, #Jesuis. His coreographic career  in Turkey keeps evolving in various contemporary and musical projects.

Tyeece Hensley


NYUAD Class of 2021, Computer Science

Tyeece is a freshman student who enjoys drawing, watching anime and video games. She chose to be apart of the class as way to expand her knowledge of theater and dance.

Yaozhong Xu


NYUAD Class of 2021, Computer Science & Economics


Yaozhong is a freshman at NYU Abu Dhabi, planning to double major in economics and computer science. Besides his major, he wants to fully explore his potentials and interests in his college. He also has great interest in films, which actually prompted him to choose this course. This class is his first time to try dance and theatre. Though it was hard for him at first, he made progress gradually and developed a deeper understanding in these subjects.

Yasin Anar



Part of Shaman Dance Theatre since, 2008. Yasin was admitted then at the Mimar Sinan University to further his training in Contemporary Dance graduating in 2012. In the same year he joins the companies Çağdaş Bale Topluğu and Mir Sanat Topluğu as a performer and two years later he is invited to join the Turkish national contemporary dance company Modern Dans Topluğu Istanbul (MDTIstanbul) were he had the chance to tour internationally and to perform various works by the Company director Mrs Beyhan Murphy (Seyahatname, Güldestan, Şehir Orman) and by the choreographers Michael Popper (Alis Yıldızların Altında), Andonis Foniadakis (Dalgalar) and Aysun Aslan (Jizel).

Yohannes Nigatu Bogale


Yohannes is a second-year student in NYUAD double majoring in Economics in Finance and Mathematics. Besides his academic commitment, Yohannes explores multiple disciplines including basic piano and cinematography. He enjoys playing football and table tennis during his spare time. Yohannes is intending to pursue in the areas of financial institutions and real Estates in combating current economic issues that the world is having.