we used to see this
I have been obsessed with bharata natyam in seemingly contradictory ways since the age of four. Sometimes I was fixated because my parents pushed me to learn the art form at an early age; sometimes it was because I loved my Guru like a second Mom; sometimes my preoccupation stemmed from my dis/connection to the mythological stories we would interpret; sometimes I was obsessed because I felt conflicted over some of the characters we would play; sometimes I felt passionate about bharata natyam because the structure of the form grounded me in its geometrical shapes and mathematical rhythms; sometimes I became upset over the fact that whenever I performed, I had to put on layers of face make-up that was ten shades lighter than my own darker brown skin; sometimes I would muse at length on why I preferred to listen to rap music rather than classical Indian music when I wasn’t rehearsing; sometimes I would get preoccupied by comments that non-Indian audience members would say to me after a performance like, “Oh, you look like those ancient Indian temple statues!” when I really didn’t feel like one. Sometimes I obsess over bharata natyam because I feel guilty for practicing a dance form that has played a significant role in destroying devadasi ways of life; sometimes it is because I read my family’s caste name, Mudaliyar, in South Asian dance history books and am haunted over how my ancestors might have played a role in the conservative Hindu nationalist movements of India. My relationship to bharata natyam has always been complex. we used to see this strives to reflect this complexity.
Join Meena as she journeys through fragments of bharata natyam, revisiting historical archives, rituals, sounds, and spaces, through a contemporary lens. From multiple audience perspectives, we used to see this creates at once the intimacy of a salon within a theatre space. Can she de-orientalize the dancer?
Solo or duet. 30-minutes.
Choreographer: Meena Murugesan
Research process in collaboration with the DesiJam Dance Collective (Sheetal Gandhi, Anusha Kedhar, Cynthia Ling Lee, Ulka Mohanty, Shyamala Moorty, Meena Murugesan)
Performers: Shyamala Moorty, Meena Murugesan
Composer: d. Sabela grimes
Set Designer: Rafa Esparza
Lighting Designer: Pablo Santiago
Advising Committee: Lionel Popkin, Janet O’Shea, David Roussève