Reena Shah is a multi-disciplinary artist & modern renaissance woman who was born & raised in Livingston, New Jersey, USA. The oldest of 4 children, she is an accomplished stage & screen actress, professional classical + folk Indian dancer, innovative choreographer, voice-over artist, abstract visual artist, and currently performs in the rock band My Pet Dragon.
Reena is most recognized for her work in Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, Nina Paley’s Award Winning Animated Feature Film, Sita Sings the Blues, where she was the speaking voice of Sita as well as singer + choreographer + rotoscoped dancer of the song "Agni Pariksha" from the film. Her Husband, musician/singer Todd Michaelsen, composed the soundtrack & original songs for the film.
In June of 2010, Reena had the opportunity to be a Cultural Ambassador through the US Embassy in Peru and represent Sita Sings The Blues. She taught Master Classes in Indian Dance for 2 weeks throughout Peru during the American Film Institute's Project 20/20 Tour which included 4 cities: Lima, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, & Tarapoto. It was a true cross-cultural experience for Reena and the local communities involved. The AFI's Project 20/20 Program has now transitioned over to the The Sundance Institute as Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue.
Reena made her National Television debut with Conan in a comedic Bollywood Skit on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien." She has also appeared in comedy sketches on “The Daily Show” and “Lipstick Jungle" as a dancer and has choreographed for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Reena was the Assistant Choreographer & a Dancer in the Universal Pictures Feature, THE GURU, where she taught Bollywood Dancing to Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham, Jimi Mistry, & Michael McKean.
Reena's film credits include indie hits such as American Chai, Stay Until Tomorrow, Funny Valentine, and The Lucky Ones. She has also appeared in Falling Up and Spike Lee's Inside Man. She narrated Tami Yeager’s PBS ‘Independent Lens’ Documentary, A Dream In Doubt, about an immigrant story in a world in which patriotism has morphed into murder, when Rana Singh Sodhi’s brother is killed in America’s first post-9/11 revenge murder.
Reena can be seen on screen, playing the supporting role of Chandini in ASHES, directed, co-written, & starring Ajay Naidu (Office Space and HBO’s Bored to Death). ASHES is a cautionary tale of mental illness, greed, and the definition of family both real and imagined. The story of two brothers living in the inner city, as one descends into the grips of manic depressive schizoid disorder, the other, Ashes, absconds from his responsibility and tries to become a wealthy drug dealer. Fraught with contradiction, the story is a meditation on how easy it is to fall through the cracks of today’s health care system and how we ultimately find grace in the face of suicide.
On Stage, Reena has portrayed real life gang rape victim, Mukhtaran Mai, in the production of Seven - Journeys, written by Susan Yankowitz and directed by Obie Award winner Evan Yionoulis for Culture Project & La Mama ETC. in New York City. Overseas, she performed in special performances of SEVEN in Deauville, France and London, England. Additional Stage Credits include Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays (The Public Theater/Desipina), Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (Arthur Seelen), Nandita Shenoy’s Marrying Nandini (Green Light), along with notable staged readings at The Lark Theater Company, Workshop Theater Company, and Desipina & Company.
Currently, Reena performs with her husband, musician/composer/singer Todd Michaelsen, in their rock band MY PET DRAGON, where she sings, plays keyboard, interprets the music through movement, & provides percussion using a number of instruments, sometimes including her Traditional Indian Ghungroo Anklet Bells. My Pet Dragon latest full length album, "Mountains and Cities" is available via iTunes/Amazon/ and www.mypetdragon.bandcamp.com
Reena Shah made history on July 8th, 2010 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts at Midsummer Night Swing where she taught the Bhangra Dance Lesson to a crowd of 2,500+ people. Reena along with DJ Rekha and Sunny Jain's Red Baraat brought Bhangra Dance + Music to this Event for the 1st time in 22 years.
Reena has toured with DJ Rekha as a Dancer & Bhangra Dance Instructor and has performed with her at The White House 2011 Easter Egg Roll, at Central Park Summerstage, S.O.B.’s, Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum of Art, Hammerstein Ballroom, the 2009 Wakarusa Music Festival, & the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. She also works with Sunny Jain & Red Baraat as a Dance Educator & Demonstrator. Reena was a Principal Dancer in Noemie LaFrance’s AGORA II, a site-specific dance project inside the abandoned McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her solo work was also accepted into Chashama's Oasis Dance Festival and she has been featured in music videos for the Sugababes & Electric Kulintang's Cotabato City.
Reena graduated from the Padmini Institute of Fine Arts, where she studied Bharata Natyam, an Indian Classical Dance Form, under The Late Guru Padmini Ramachandran, a renowned Indian Actress & Dancer. Reena holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Studies with a Concentration in Mass Media & Society from New York University. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA, & ACTORS' EQUITY.
Reena continues to perform & teach Interactive Indian Dance Workshops for all ages at Museums, Cultural Events, Universities, Music + Film Festivals throughout the country & worldwide. She specializes in the Bharata Natyam, Garba + Raas, Bhangra, & Bollywood Dance Styles and also combining these styles with American Dance Movement. She is excited to share her love of dance with the world.
Reena has raised funds for non-profit Arts Organizations such as New York City Opera & The Philadelphia Orchestra.
She has interned in the Talent Relations & Awards Department at Showtime Networks, Inc & in the Public Relations Department at Comedy Central. She also worked as an Audience Recruiter & Audience Page at The Late Show with David Letterman.
She continues to paint & draw in her spare time inspired by her travels and will continue to tell the stories of all of our lives through music, art, dance, film, theater & writing.
Reena's Life Mantras: "Rock on with Peace Love Respect Always" "Make Art + Support Art"
Website: www.dancingreena.com Band Website: www.mypetdragon.net www.facebook.com/mypetdragon Twitter at: www.twitter.com/dancingreena