I am a choreographer, dancer, teacher and a martial artist (kalari ppyattu) originally from Triuvanathapuram, India. I am also trained in Indian classical dance forms and contemporary and aerial dance forms. I have been
performing and teaching all over the world for more than twenty years. I am one of the Co-Directors of Navarasa Dance Theater, a Somerville based company and dance school.
Aparna Sindhoor, S M Raju and I (Co-Directors of Navarasa Dance Theater) have been creating dance theater works and teaching dance, yoga and martial arts in Somerville. We also tour around the world with our productions and workshops.
Are there some past projects you would like to mention in more detail?
I co-created dance theater works such as: “A Story and A Song”, “ENCOUNTER” and “Prayanam” along with Aparna Sindhoor and S M Raju. A Story and A Song is a dance theater inspired by Indian folk tales and tales from Native American traditions. We use aerial dance as part of this production to tell a tale about women, sensuality and environment.
ENCOUNTER explores 6 different encounters – encounter with the Divine, encounter with Self, encounter with Bob Marley, encounter with Love, encounter with Gravity, and encounter with Military. The first five encounters are explored through dance. Each piece has a unique feel to it ranging from contemporary, modern to classical and folk. The encounter with the Military is based on a story about an indigenous woman, Dopdi.
Prayanam (the Journey) is a dance work that explores the connection between human body and emotions.
Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up?
Currently Aparna and I are working on a duet called: “Courtesans’ Conversations”. This work is a tribute to our dance tradition and also a contemporary expression of an ancient lifestyle. It is a project supported by the National Performance Network (NPN). We will be premiering it in La Pena, California and then bring it to the Boston area in the fall.
We have a few other shows coming up: In March we are performing at the Harbourfront, Toronto, Canada for the Kalanidhi Festival. We are doing a series of lectures and shows at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco on Yoga, martial art and classical Indian dance. We will be doing a day-long residency at the Hollycross college, MA.
More info about upcoming shows: http://www.navarasa.org/upcoming_shows
Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it?
Dance and martial art (Kalari ppayattu) give me satisfaction. It brings meaning to my life (but no money!).
I am happy that I got this training and experience to share with the world and teach my students.
What inspired you to pursue the arts? What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.)
I come from a poor family in a small village in south India. As a child I was very interested in movement and arts. I danced in our temple festival. I did not even have money to buy a costume. An elder from the village took pity and bought me the costume. At the festival I danced my heart out. People loved it and I felt that this is what I want all my life.
My father put me into Kalari ppayattu (martial art) class because it was available in the village. I am so lucky to have had that exposure to Kalari at a very young age. Kalari ppayattu is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It is called the mother of all martial art. It is a beautiful form with animal movements, yoga like breathing techniques, healing practice and a way of life. I was introduced to this at a very young age. That training shaped my entire life. My dance, my studies and my art are inspired by my training as a martial artist. I also studied Indian classical dance and folk dance since I was a kid.
Big break! I am still waiting for it!!!
I have had many opportunities in my life that helped me to be a better artist. My studies and work with Jayachandra Kumar, Daksha Seth and Aparna Sindhoor are the most important breaks in my life. I also work in the commercial arena. I choreographed for and coached for a few Indian films and a circus show with Franco Dragone’ (Cirque Du Soleil fame) in Germany.
I like to teach people and kids, I teach in Somerville at Navarasa Dance Theater on a regular basis. Aparna Sindhoor and I have started a program called “Dance for Everyone” through which we make dance and movement arts affordable to all. We are currently giving free lessons to more than 150 kids and youth in India and USA.
A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?
For a dancer the challenges are too many! Keeping the body in a good condition all the time, financial challenges of course. Dancers work the hardest and get paid the least!
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene?
Boston is a home away from home for me. I love being in Somerville. I enjoy performing, watching local festivals such as ArtBeat and other summertime events. I like the fact that we get to teach at many of the local universities in the Boston area. I love taking a walk to Davis SQ.
Where can people find your work online?
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For more info visit http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/
The Somerville Arts Council has created an initiative to help match your creative space needs (studio or live-work) with existing spaces available in Somerville and to gauge interest in developing new spaces.