Sarah Morelli

Sarah Morelli

Professor, Ethnomusicology

  • Faculty

Professional Biography

Sarah Morelli is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music (Ph.D. Harvard University, 2007).

Active as a scholar and performer, her work draws on training with Hindustani music maestro Ali Akbar Khan (voice and sarod), with kathak dance master Pandit Chitresh Das, with noted disciples including Pandit Rajeev Taranath, George Ruckert, Gretchen Hayden and Steve Oda, and most recently, with retired baiji performing artist Madhuri Devi Singh.

Her monograph, A Guru’s Journey: Pandit Chitresh Das and Indian Classical Dance in Diaspora (University of Illinois Press, 2019), is an ethnographic account of Pandit Das’s dance company and school, his unique contributions to kathak, and processes of culture-change in artistic diasporas. This research has also led to publications in The Music of Multicultural America: Performance, Identity, and Community in the United States, Anthropological Notebooks, and College Music Symposium Forums.
Sarah is co-editor of Music and Dance as Everyday South Asia (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2023), a 30-chapter volume emphasizing the diversity of music and dance practices and their varied significances in South Asian and diasporic communities. She is also the author of the Instructor’s Manual for the college-level world music textbook Soundscapes (W.W. Norton, 3rd ed.) and is preparing the Bloomsbury Handbook of Ethnomusicology, co-edited by Sarah Weiss.

As a performer, Sarah is a founding member of the Leela Dance Collective, which brings together leading kathak artists around the U.S., working collaboratively to advance a collective vision for kathak’s future. Her kathak performances have included full solos and leading roles in productions in U.S. and India at venues such as Mumbai’s Royal Opera House, LA’s Ford Amphitheatre, and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Sarah is founder and artistic director of Leela Denver, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization teaching kathak in Colorado. She currently serves on the Boards of the Society for Asian Music and the Chhandam Chitresh Das Dance Company and on the Editorial Board for the journal South Asian Dance Intersections.


  • Ph.D., Ethnomusicology, Harvard University, 2007
  • BA, Music and Russian, Dickinson College, 1995

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Ethnomusicology
  • Society for Asian Music

Featured Publications

Music And Dance As Everyday South Asia. Edited by Sarah L. Morelli and Zoe Sherinian. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2022. 448 (contracted).
Morelli, Sarah L. “'All The Parts Of Who I Am': Multi-Gendered Performance In Kathak Dance.” In Music And Dance As Everyday South Asia. 18 New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. 2023.
Morelli, Sarah L. “'Who Is A Dancing Hero?' Rap, Hip Hop, And Dance In Korean Popular Culture.” In Global Noise: Rap And Hip-Hop Outside The Usa. 248-258 Middletown, CT, USA: Wesleyan University Press. 2002.


Sarah L. Morelli, Songs of India: Hindustani music and kathak dance, Jayanta Banerjee (sitar), Sarah Morelli (kathak), Satyaprakash Mishra (tabla), Denver, Colorado, Lamont School of Music, 2022.
Sarah L. Morelli, Continuum Festival of North Indian Classical Music & Dance, Sarah Morelli, solo, San Francisco, CA, USA, 2019.
Sarah L. Morelli, Son of the Wind, Leela Dance Collective, Hollywood, CA, Ford Theatre, 2019.
Sarah L. Morelli, Son of the Wind, Leela Dance Collective, Mumbai, India, 2019.
Sarah L. Morelli, The Voice Within, Seibi Lee (kathak) with accompanying musicians, San Francisco, CA, Leela Dance Collective, 2022.
Sarah L. Morelli, Pilgrimage - Initial Performance of a Rajasthani Collaboration, Leela Dance Collective with Hindustani classical and Rajasthani folk musicians, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, State Bank of India, 2018.
Sarah L. Morelli, Solo performance, Sarah Morelli and accompanying musicians David Trasoff (sarod) and Vivek Virani (tabla), Denver, CO, USA, Society for Ethnomusicology, 2017.
Sarah L. Morelli, Pragati featuring performances by the Leela Dance Collective and Mallika Sarabhai and Ensemble, Leela Dance Collective, Irvine, CA, Leela Institute for the Arts, 2017.
Sarah L. Morelli, Shastra! Indian/Western Fusion , Sureela Ensemble, Boulder, CO, Dairy Arts Center, 2017.
Sarah L. Morelli, Ardhanari: Evoking Ancient India in our Modern World, Leela Dance Collective, Calabasas, CA, The Leela Institute for the Arts, 2016.


Morelli, Sarah L. “The Aesthetics Of Interweaving Song, Dance, And Gesture In North Indian Courtesan Performance” Asia-Pacific Dance Festival And Conference, Honolulu, University of Hawai'i at M?noa, 2022.
Morelli, Sarah L. “Adaptations Of Karnatak Jatis For Kathak Dance” First International Webinar, Vels Institute, Chennai, India, Chennai, India, School of Music and Fine Arts, Vels Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies (VISTAS), 2021.
Morelli, Sarah L. “Transcultural Pedagogy: Reflections On Teaching Kathak In Puebla” American Folklore Society, Online, the Chicano and Chicana Section of AFS: Traditional Dances of Mexico and Greater Mexico, and Beyond, Part II.", 2021.
Morelli, Sarah L. “Technique And Gender Expression In Kathak Dance Dramas/Técnicas Y Expresión De Género En Dramas De La Danza Kathak” Second International Colloquium Of Ethnochoreology, Puebla, Mexico, the College of Ethnochoreology at the Beneme?rita Universidad Auto?noma de Puebla (BUAP), 2019.
Morelli, Sarah L. “Participant-Observation On The Professional Stage: 'Becoming The Character' In Kathak Dance” International Council For Traditional Music Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, International Council for Traditional Music, 2019.
Morelli, Sarah L. “At The Nexus Of Music And Dance: Examining North Indian Classical Sangeet” First International Colloquium Of Ethnochoreology, Puebla, Mexico, College of Ethnochoreology at the Beneme?rita Universidad Auto?noma de Puebla, 2018.
Morelli, Sarah L. “"Ethnomusicology And Educating Global Citizens"” Cultural Diplomacy Event, University of Denver, Korbel School of International Studies, 2018.
Morelli, Sarah L. “Performing Excess: Virtuosity And Athleticism As Gendered Power In Kathak, North Indian Classical Dance” Society For Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., Society for Ethnomusicology, 2016.
Morelli, Sarah L. “"Sonic Storytelling: Percussive Footwork And Nritya In North Indian Kathak"” Conference On The Music Of South, Central And West Asia, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, 2016.
Morelli, Sarah L. “"Behind The Curtain: Appreciating Indian Classical Dances"” Performance, Nrityagram, University of Denver, Newman Center Presents, 2018.