Sarah Morelli

Sarah L. Morelli

Associate Professor

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, 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, and with noted disciples including Pandit Rajeev Taranath, George Ruckert, Gretchen Hayden and Steve Oda.
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 also the author of the Instructor’s Manual for the college-level world music textbook Soundscapes (W.W. Norton, 3rd ed.) and is currently co-editing Music and Dance as Everyday South Asia, a volume emphasizing the diversity of music and dance practices in South Asia and diasporic communities.
As a performer, Sarah is a founding member of the Leela Dance Collective, which brings together leading kathak artists 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 the Sureela Academy of Kathak in Denver, CO and currently serves on the Boards of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for Asian Music, and the Chhandam Chitresh Das Dance Company.


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

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Ethnomusicology


  • Technique and Gender Expression in Kathak Dance Dramas/Técnicas y expresión de género en dramas de la danza kathak
  • Participant-Observation on the Professional Stage: ‘Becoming the Character’ in Kathak Dance
  • At the Nexus of Music and Dance: Examining North Indian Classical Sangeet
  • "Ethnomusicology and Educating Global Citizens"
  • Performing Excess: Virtuosity and Athleticism as Gendered Power in Kathak, North Indian Classical Dance
  • “Sonic Storytelling: Percussive Footwork and Nritya in North Indian Kathak”
  • Hip Hop in Korea: A Look at Its Beginnings