Photo: Daniel Bahmani

Tara Pandeya

Afghan Dance: Sawal Jawab (Call and Response)

Tara Pandeya of San Anselmo is a traditional dance artist, cultural activist and dance ethnologist specializing in Central Asian dance. She learned doira rhythms, which are foundational rhythms for Central Asian composition/dance from mentor artist Abbos Kosimov through an ACTA Apprenticeship in 2008. She started learning Afghan dance from women of the Afghan diaspora in little Kabul (Fremont, CA) as a 14-year-old dancing in Ballet Afsaneh. She learned regional Afghan dance rhythms played on tabla from Hashmat Ahmed, a drummer for the iconic Afghan pop star Habib Qaderi. Tara has also learned from Aziz Herawi, a master rubab artist, whom she accompanied on tour, as Professor Tarzi’s exclusive soloist, director of the Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology (who discovered the lying Buddha’s of Bamyan) for his scholarly talks. She danced as a soloist for Ustad Mahwash, the ‘nightingale of Afghanistan’, who taught her several songs and rhythms throughout their performance process together.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tara has used traditional arts to teach and perform at virtual galas creating visibility for various causes through the Asia Society, ACTA, for Uzbek flood relief, for medical relief in Tajik/Afghan Badakhshan and many more. She has also worked in leadership positions in dozens of NGO’s over the span of her two-decade career with youth, women & marginalized groups in Asia, the Middle East and Africa (i.e. working as an outreach director for Narika, an NGO for abused South Asian Women; with women in the Afghan diaspora; as a drama consultant with 400 school-aged children in the most rural and conservative regions of Tajikistan on the Afghan border to support gender-equality programing run by the U.S. embassy; teaching movement therapy to Afghan women who were recent refugees to London; a decade in arts education in the U.S. public schools creating curriculum for K-high school & as an Outreach Liaison with Cirque du Soleil, creating programing with marginalized communities on 5 continents).

Tara Pandeya dances to Afghan song Saqi Saqi Jan by Elaha Soroor.

Apprenticeship Program


Sawal Jawab
with Krystle A.

Former ACTA apprentice Tara Pandeya returns this year to mentor Krystle A. in Afghan dance, Sawal Jawab call and response




Invest in California’s cultural wealth.

Every gift is a commitment to a culture bearer, and the people of California.