A durational online session with Shivaangee Agrawal and Mandeep Raikhy discussing the embodiment of Indian dance in our current world. Based on their artistic practices and concerns, they invite diverse perspectives from guests across India and the UK, with contributions from Priyanka Chandrasekhar, Avni Sethi, Sandra Chatterjee and Navtej Singh Johar, and invite a dialogue revolving around the following questions, arriving at no neat conclusions.
Can classical Indian dance become a language that allows us to critically engage with the world? How does caste interact with the dynamics of race as Indian dance becomes global? How do we acknowledge the brutal histories in dance forms such as Bharatnatyam? How do we encounter the somatically informed iteration of a form that upholds a nationalist agenda? What exactly is enshrined within a form? Where are the delineations between form and pedagogy? Can these forms exist within a secular framework? How does the question of access negotiate with the notion of specificity? How does the question of access meet the culture of commodification?
You are welcome to join the online discussion at any time and drop in and out as suits you. The online conversation will be accompanied by a durational adavu practice session in partnership with LDNAdavu which will be livestreamed from Siobhan Davies Studios. Experienced Bharatnatyam and adavu practitioners who would like to join the adavu practice are welcome to sign up here.
Shivaangee Agrawal is a dance artist with a practice that concerns choreography, writing and advocacy. Having trained in bharatanatyam in both London and Bangalore, Shivaangee has worked with a range of choreographers/directors including Janine Harrington, Shane Shambhu, Evie Manning, Sonia Sabri, Seeta Patel, Jo Tyabji and Suba Subramaniam. Her work establishes and draws from peer-support, rejecting the individualism that we are pushed towards. Shivaangee makes work that is informed by collectivity, rhythmic structures and disorientation and has presented work at Blue Elephant Theatre, Southbank Centre, Watermans Theatre, Bloomsbury Festival, Kala Sangam, Resolution Festival, Next Choreography Festival and Dance Umbrella Croydon. She is currently and always trying to relate to bharatanatyam in a way that makes sense. It’s complicated.
Mandeep Raikhy is a dance practitioner with a particular interest in exploring the intersections between dance creation, performance, research, and pedagogy. He completed a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre at Laban in 2002 and then toured with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, London between 2005 and 2009. Since 2010, Mandeep has created several dance works, notably Inhabited Geometry (2010), a male ant has straight antennae (2013) and Queen-size (2016) and Anatomy of Belief (2019). These works have travelled across the country and internationally. Mandeep has been committed to developing a supportive environment for contemporary dance in India through several initiatives such as Gati Dance Forum, Khuli Khirkee and the MA Performance Practice (Dance) at Ambedkar University, Delhi.
Priyanka Chandrasekhar is a lawyer by education and a professional classical dancer based in Bangalore. She is trained in Bharathanatyam for more than 25 years and Kathak for about 10 years. She has also learnt the margi techniques of movement. Priyanka has performed extensively in both solo and group formats in India and abroad along with popular dance companies. She is currently a freelance performer and choreographer. She enjoys process based works and building work through facilitation.
Priyanka conducts bharathanatyam classes under the initiative – ‘Nirali’. Presently, Priyanka is trying to relook at the pedagogy of classical dance and aspires to design a new curriculum in classical arts which is accessible, relevant and critical. With a keen interest in the politics of the form and it’s history, Priyanka’s present work explores inter-disciplinary approaches, methods and collaborations that provide space and agency for her co-creators and audiences. She hopes to create a new body of work in Bharathanatyam that includes relevant content, a thinking mind, questions, personal stories, political contexts and has the ability to leave the audiences with an experience.
Avni Sethi is an interdisciplinary practitioner with her primary concern lying between culture, memory, space and the body. She studied Interdisciplinary Design from the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore and pursued a Masters in Performance Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is Founder-Director of Conflictorium, a Museum of conflict which she conceptualized and designed the Trained in multiple dance idioms, her performances are largely inspired by syncretic faith traditions as well as sites of contested narratives. She is interested in exploring the relationship between intimate audiences and the performing body.
Sandra Chatterjee , founding-member of the Post Natyam Collective, is a scholar and choreographer interested in involving senses that are not usually foregrounded in dance, such as smell – most recently SMELLS OF RACISM II and SMELLS OF COEXISTENCE: The Bee of the Heart.
Navtej Johar is a Bharatanatyam dancer-choreographer, a yoga practitioner, a scholar, and a social activist. He has formally trained in Bharatanatyam at Rukmini Devi’s Kalakshetra, and with Leela Samson at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, New Delhi; he later studied at the Department of Performance Studies, New York University. Johar is trained in Patanjali Yoga at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai, under the guidance of Sri T.K.V. Desikachar, and holds the Grand Parent Certification (500 hours) from the Yoga Alliance.
In 2004, Johar founded the Abhyas Trust: a non-profit organization dedicated to yoga, dance, and urban design. A Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee in Contemporary Choreography, Johar is a recipient of the Times of India Fellowship 1995, Charles Wallace Fellowship 1999, and a research fellowship at the “Interweaving Performance Cultures”, International Research Centre, Freie University, Berlin.
Navtej Johar was the lead petitioner challenging the section 377 of the Indian Penal code, which considered consensual homosexual sex between adults as unnatural, unconstitutional and illegal. In a landmark decision in 2018 the Article 377 was scrapped. Johar is also an urban activist and runs a project; POS (Power of Seeing) which sensitizes school children about the environment and sustainable living.