Recent Performance Projects
I experimented with my collaborators, Snigdha Venkatramani (vocal), Ashwin Krishnakumar (flute) and Ravindrabharathy Sreedharan( percussion) to create meaning in the moment. The leading focus of this presentation was in collaborative improvisation between the artists. We dipped into the strength of all our collective practice and worked off each other’s understanding of our common ethos- musicality, rhythm sense, language skills- to create work. While we took musical numbers known to us, we did not work with each other before we met on stage. I led the improvisational score and then we would lead, follow, add layers to the creative choice made by one of us. The process was the performance. We definitely presented something to the audience, but as performers we were engaged with the process. Improvisations are central to the Bharatanatyam practice but has been under explored in performances and classrooms today because of a complicated set of economic, social and political factors. I am passionate about improvisations as an artist. In my research, improvising as a practice serves to decolonize Bharatanatyam.
COASTAL FOG: A DANCE SONATA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS
This was Co-Created in a ten day residency with Bio-micrometerologist, Dr. Ian Faloona, Isa Leal, Dr Alicia Puglionesi, Dr. Deepa Mahadevan, Adhirai Karthik, Orlando Johnson, Mark Messer and Justine Frischmann. Guest speakers and workshop leads: Ben Cooper (Art History), Dr. John Largier (Coastal Upwelling) and Aimee Ann Norton (Poetry)
The theme of the work rested on the idea that the human body encompassing the five elements is a microcosm of the universe. Dr. Faloona and Isa Leal investigate authentic movement of the body through dance and other idioms that center authenticity and find patterns with the movement of elements in the universe or the world outside of the body. This was a cross-cultural and intergenerational collaboration that was non-hierarchical and process intense.
Disciple to Ramana Maharishi, an enlightened soul - "How do you treat others?"
Ramana Maharishi - “There are no others.”
Yes, there are no others. ‘Finding You in I’ was that quest that brought us here.
This experience has as its conceptual departure point Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Power of Now,’ Thich Nhat Hanh’s fight against war through compassion and mindfulness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's definition of happiness through the idea of ‘flow.’ We were strongly drawn by Advaitic ideologies made popular by 8th century philosopher, Adi Sankara. He argues and urges all to meditate on the idea of universal consciousness or Brahman which is nothing but you- Aham Brahmasmi.
We embrace the idea of ‘being’ rather than ‘performing’ through this production. We resolved to not perform 'at' the audience but 'with' them. While there might have been some performative aspects to this experience, we called them out and tried to blend it with the process. Thus, this was not a performance but a common experience that we all created together by our presence at that moment. We anchored the experience in participation, collaboration, spontaneity and improvisation. Through this process, we aimed to 'Find You in I.'
Our artistic collaborators for this process-production who joined me were Shruthi Aravindan (Student of Tiruchitrambalam, Freelance dancer) Kiran Umesh (Student of Tiruchitrambalam, Freelance dancer), Snigdha Venkatramani (Dancer- Carnatic Vocal), Hrishikesh Chary (Veena- melody), Kesavan (Nattuvangam- Vocal Percussive accompaniment), Akshay Aravindan (Mridangam- Percussion) and the entire crew of audience that made the experience unique and non-repeatable.
WHEN SITA WAS A MICROBE & GANGA SATELLITE
When Sita Was a Microbe was produced as a fundraiser for SF Women Against Rape in the summer of 2017. The evening featured two dance-dramas: I Have Never Known Two was based on a poem by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, and explored the Ardhanareeshwara form of Lord Shiva; and Ganga Satellite, which sits within my Forest Tales project.
Ganga Satellite charts the journey of a million sitas – microbes in space who arrive on earth to become a sentient forest; upon Rama’s request, they takes human form – as Sita – and return with him to center of the Om Corporation; here, hypnotized by the drone of progress, they forget that they are plant, that they are goddess. The forest, in the meantime, pines for Sita, and waits patiently for the goddess to return.
The performance spoke across difference, bringing together Deaf and hearing dancers, African-Americans and South Asian Americans, and artists and activists. One of the many-pronged intention of this production was to explore alternative narratives of the Ramayana, and surface Dalit and indigenous narratives that seek to dismantle a hegemonic, caste-reinforcing version of the epic.
For more info on this project, please see my accompanying article on Storytelling as Resistance.