I have had the usual education in ballet, modern, and jazz; and a decent amount of tap thanks to my early competition days. Several years ago, however, I met Hema Rajagopalan through a company collaboration. I had a vague knowledge of Indian dance having recorded 'Dance In America' off PBS when I was younger and watching that VHS tape like it was a hobby. Hema was looking for dancers for a new work utilizing movements from the Natya Shastra. I found this movement vocabulary quite approachable as it shared many similarities with my modern and ballet background. This new work, Genesis, debuted at the Harbourfront Theatre in Toronto along with several other traditional works in the program. There was something about traveling with this group, learning new movement vocabulary, watching the Pushpanjali from the wings, which made me interested in continuing to learn.
I had experienced about three months of classes with Hema before we began constructing Genesis. She tailored the class to us dancers who had trained in several dance forms, but never bharatanatyam. I so appreciated her skill in translating this form so that it never felt 'foreign'. And the movement was interesting - the architectural shapes had a loose relationship to ballet theory and the rhythmic footwork was faintly reminiscent of my tap training. And, while the techniques of Modern dance and Bharatanatyam are quite disparate, the act of performance and communication with an audience is the same. As an artist, my focus has always been on opening an exchange between the performer and the viewer. Only later did I begin to understand this theory of Rasa.
Recently, I have begun working with choreography in a hybrid sense. My interest is to equally value the contributions of bharatanatyam and modern dance, and use their theories to expand my vocabulary to create innovative work. Within bharatanatyam, the natya element allows for any movement which helps to deepen the audience's experience of the work's emotional narrative. This works as a loophole where I can preserve the integrity of classical Indian dance while utilizing my personal experiences to create new work.
My goal in these efforts is to create work with multiple layers, performed with knowledgeable experience, producing multiple access points for an ever-diversifying audience.