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An Interview with Shaily Dadiala of Usiloquy Dance Designs about their upcoming performance "Chandroutie" at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)

by Robert Abrams
March 29, 2011
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
3680 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215 898 3900

Featured Dance Company:

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)
PIFA (office)
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Attn: PIFA Festival
260 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-546-PIFA
www.pifa.org

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) is a sponsor of ExploreDance.com.

Chandroutie will be performed May 1, 2011. Tickets are $18 each.
Robert Abrams: What is your role in the show?

Shaily Dadiala: I am the director, choreographer and one of the 8 dancers. This production is very close to my heart. I conceived it after hearing of the actual accounts of my grand mother in law Sukhrajie, who was abducted as a child from India and brought to Guyana and her daughter Chandroutie, my mother in law who worked on a rice farm while raising 12 children. Over the years, I have been fascinated by the practice of music and customs by the Indo Caribbean community that are rooted in ancient India, almost untouched by the hundreds of years and thousands of miles between them.

RA: Please describe the performance you will present at PIFA.

SD: Chandroutie is an evening length Bharatanatyam work set on music of the Indo Caribbean Diaspora, premiering in collaboration with PIFA at the Annenberg Center. An exploration of movement based on music styles not traditional to Bharatanatyam, Chandroutie pays tribute to the little known community that traces its ancestry to indentured workers brought from India to Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname by the East India company in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The audience will be led through the life of the protagonist Chandroutie in 4 dance segments. Beginning with a solo set on a piece in the Dhrupad music genre, the next segment depicts the intense life of a farm worker in those times. Reaping, sowing, child birth and cultural celebrations are supported by props and visual projections. There is a Jazz piece sung by Indo Caribbean artist Ruth Osman and a celebratory conclusion on raucous drum beats called Tassa.

Costumes have been custom made by Michelle Yeager incorporating aesthetic sensibilities of a bygone era while honoring the South Indian origin of traditional Bharatanatyam attire.

RA: In your art that you are presenting at PIFA, what is unexpected?

SD: The fact that there is a classical Indian dance ensemble practicing a very traditional technique while building new contexts and presenting original works that appeal to every member of the society, right here in Philadelphia is unexpected!

RA: What is "new" about the art you are presenting at PIFA?

SD: It is literally new in the sense it is a premiere. Besides, the Indo Caribbean Diaspora and their customs, like many other close knit communities, have not been talked about enough. For the viewer familiar with Indian classical dance, Chandroutie is an opportunity to examine the intricacies of Bharatanatyam in a different light. A dance form with a 2000 year old legacy, Bharatanatyam is very regimented in terms of music accompaniment, attire, format and content. While staying within the framework that governs the nature of traditional movement, Chandroutie plays with unusual story lines and music styles. So there is something new and exciting from every perspective.

RA: What is the connection between your show at PIFA and Paris between 1910 and 1920?

SD: There is a very strong spiritual connection between Chandroutie's showing at PIFA and the Paris of the early 20th century. Paris was an artist haven, an incubator of novel works and collaborations. There were dancers practicing Indian dance at those times that found patronage in Parisians and art inspired by the sub continent created that exists still to date! In fact, we are doing a series linking Paris and South Asian arts on our Facebook page inspired by PIFA. For Usiloquy, PIFA is simultaneously opening two doors- one exposing the magnificent history of the Indo Caribbean Diaspora and the other nurturing new, investigative approches to an ancient dance form.

RA: If audience members were seeing your PIFA show for the second time, what should they pay special attention to in order to enhance their appreciation of your art?

SD: There is just one showing of Chandroutie at PIFA. If the audience were to see it again later in the season, hopefully they will notice the details in the choreographic patterns and how all the links between the music, the characters, the costumes and the dancers all relate to each other.

RA: Does your art have an activist message?

SD: Yes.

RA: What message are you trying to communicate?

SD: The main idea that we are trying to communicate is awareness of how immigration and assimilation shapes identities and makes new sub cultures within a culture. We need more open dialogue and exchange between people of the country of origin and their Diasporas on every level, especially artistic practices and traditions. There is a 250,000 person strong Indo Caribbean community in Queens, NY, with a very active arts and culture scene. Hopefully, this will prompt us all to look for such avenues right around us!

RA: Do you work with schools or children?

SD: Yes.

RA: Please describe your educational work.

SD: Apart from ongoing weekly classes offering 3 different levels of study, we conduct age specific workshops and demonstrations and intergenerational workshops for area organizations and education institutions. In the past, we have done lecture-demonstrations with supplementary audio-visual materials, master classes and interactive sessions.

RA: What else would you like people who are thinking about purchasing a ticket to your show to know about your art?

SD: Come see us, we promise you will leave enriched and entertained! Usiloquy is America is a nutshell-our ensemble is multi cultural, united by the passion of studying a deeply intricate, ancient dance form and making it relevant in a contemporary context. Percussive footwork, hand gestures, delightful music and beautiful costumes all in one hour. There will be a post show Question and Answer session and we will love to hear from you!

To purchase a ticket to this show, go to www.pifa.org/events/980191598.
To purchase tickets to all PIFA dance events, go to www.pifa.org/events?bucket_id=1.
For more information about Usiloquy Dance Designs, go to www.usiloquydance.org.
To join Usiloquy on FaceBook go to www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=82235782505
To follow PIFA on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/PIFAPhilly.
To "Like" PIFA on FaceBook, go to www.facebook.com/PIFA.Philly.



People making Chandroutie possible…
Director & President

Shaily Dadiala

Shaily founded Usiloquy Dance Designs in 2008; she is the Artistic Director, Choreographer and Principal Dancer. After completing her B.A. in Dance specializing in Bharatanatyam from the Bruhad Gujarat Sangeet Samiti, India (1988-1994) and 2 year training in Hindustani Classical Music from 1987 to1989, Shaily choreographed and performed at several dance competitions and festivals in India between 1990 and 1996. After moving to the USA, she taught in Queens, NY for a year before commencing Bharatanatyam classes in Levittown, PA in collaboration with the township recreation department in 2005. These classes with 3 levels of learning are currently taught in center city Philadelphia. Apart from the ongoing classes, Shaily's teaching assignments have included workshops and Master classes at the Thomas Jefferson University and Temple University in Philadelphia and Desales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. In the fall of 2009 Shaily was invited to design the curriculum and teach at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Her choreography and performing work has included three evening length works of Bharatanatyam for Usiloquy. Primary among special commissions have been the Philadelphia Geographical Society Festival of India, International Cultural celebration at the Community College of Philadelphia and the Experience Asia festival at the College of New Jersey.

Michelle Yeager

Michelle has been studying and performing with Usiloquy since 2005.After receiving her BFA from the University of the Arts in ceramics; Michelle apprenticed and then became employed by The Moravian Pottery and Tileworks in Doylestown where she currently works. Michelle's true passions lie in dancing, performing, and costume making. Michelle is a teacher and performer of American Tribal Style Belly dance. She trained at the Penland School of crafts as a scholarship winner and is the in house costume maker for Usiloquy Dance Designs and Archedream for Humankind.

Paramita Datta

Paramita began her dance education in India before joining Usiloquy in 2007. She trained for 5 years in Bharatanatyam from the Rajarajeshwari School of Dance in Mumbai. During the course of this training she choreographed and performed in groups and solos in Bharatanatyam and Indian folk styles.

Mansi Bhagwate

Mansi comes from a family abound with writers and performers. Integrating her Bharatanatyam training with social activism, she organized and choreographed performances for youth organizations Blue Ribbon Movement and Child and You, amongst other in India. A former guest columnist to the Times of India, Mansi continues to advance her passion and experience as a Bharatanatyam performer, writer and Occupational Therapist.

Varnana Beuria

Growing up in various places over the world, Varnana's initial impressions formed watching her mother, a professional Odissi dancer. She began her Bharatanatyam training in Sri Lanka and gained experience performing dances based on Rabindra Sangeet. A former contributor to the Daily Pennsylvanian, Varnana creates art based on the ancient Indian method of Kalamkari and is the chef of Chhaya café.
World Dance Extravaganza 'Grihani', 2008

World Dance Extravaganza 'Grihani', 2008

Photo © & courtesy of Lisa Schaffer


Chaat' at the Painted Bride Art center, 2009

Chaat' at the Painted Bride Art center, 2009

Photo © & courtesy of Sarah McKay

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