Achinta McDaniel

Artistic Director

Achinta S. McDaniel is a powerful voice of the Indian diaspora, a pioneer of American dance, and the Founding Artistic Director of Blue13 Dance Company. A prolific choreographer, performer, and instructor, McDaniel’s powerful style draws from techniques including Bhangra, Kathak, and Bollywood, Hip Hop, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, and Modern Dance, to create spectacular and theatrical dance. Her choreography is highly dramatic and a real reflection of her upbringing: Eastern and Western, exotic, mysterious, wild, rebellious and unconventional, traversing commercial, concert, and community engagement, and challenging monolithic representations of Indianness. Her work questions hierarchies of pop culture vs. high art, and is at once disobedient and joyful. She is known for her experimentation with international styles and for inventive staging of her signature contemporary Indian forms. McDaniel’s work is fearless and inventive, ever-exploring the boundaries of contemporary dance as a South Asian American woman. 

McDaniel, a Professor at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, was born in New York and grew up studying dance in Cleveland, Ohio, where she got her start as a choreographer at Hathaway Brown School at the age of 14. She danced in ensembles at Cleveland State and Case Western Reserve, thereafter graduating from New York University with a degree in Choreography, Dance, and Theatre. She later studied classical Indian Kathak in Bangalore, India with guru Maya Rao.

Returning to New York in 1999, McDaniel founded Blue13 Dance Company, performing and teaching across the Tri-State area until 2001, when she relocated to Los Angeles. Achinta has evolved Blue13 for over two decades, creating the United States’ first professional contemporary Indian dance company. McDaniel’s recent work includes the acclaimed work Terpsichore in Ghungroos, presented at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and the world premiere of Restless autumn, restless spring., presented as part of the 2022 REDCAT New Original Works Festival. She created recent critically acclaimed work, 1947 based on the partition of India and Pakistan, on 44 dance majors for the Kaufman School of Dance in Spring 2022, and premiered it with Blue13 the following year. Her latest works include: “Sounds Like Whoop. Looks Like Flash.”, exploring invisible disability, addiction, and keeping up appearances; and “Soliloquy” a multimedia collaboration with dancers, film, museums, and theater groups.

McDaniel also lectures, teaches, and choreographs for educational institutions across the U.S. McDaniel has choreographed and danced in the music videos of DJ Snake (Colin Tilley) and The Strokes (Warren Fu), and choreographed for Bollywood and American films and artists alike. McDaniel works as a TV choreographer (So You Think You Can Dance, New Girl, The Amazing Race) designs live productions at Walt Disney World on both coasts, and choreographs a multitude of projects in comedy, contemporary, and Bollywood and Bhangra dance styles. She has worked as a choreographer for commercials and brands, including Madden NFL, Heineken, and Snapple, and has worked with artists Timbaland, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and A.R. Rahman at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. McDaniel is passionate about teaching and sharing her unique perspective with students of all levels and abilities. She is an expert in audience and community engagement, working with The Music Center, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, and many more.

Responsible for coining the “ABIDE” (Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity) approach in the field, McDaniel’s research, pedagogy, and dance making centers the global majority, emphasizes women, and supports the collaborative decolonization of dance.