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Rajika Puri and Dancers with World Premiere of Tapasya: Ascetic Power and Tales of the Ganges (May 7 - 10, Manhattan, NY)

by Sarah Hart
May 7, 2009
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012
WORLD PREMIERE of TAPASYA: Ascetic Power and Tales of the Ganges
Thursday, May 7th thru Saturday May 9th, 2009 @ 8pm
Sunday May 10th @ 3pm
New York, NY (March 30, 2009) - RAJIKA PURI and DANCERS, the innovative Indian dance company of New York-based dancers and musicians, will present TAPASYA: Ascetic Power and Tales of the Ganges, an evening of dances - as well as danced stories incorporating English texts – on ascetics in mythology and in contemporary India, Thursday, May 7th to Saturday, May 9th at 8 p.m., Sunday May 10th at 3 p.m. at Joyce SoHo (155 Mercer Street between Houston and Prince). Tickets are $25 general admission and $20 students/seniors. For tickets, please call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.joyce.org
TAPASYA presents seven new interlinked works which explore the power generated by asceticism as a physically manifest force – sometimes even called a 'dance' – described in ancient legends and embodied by modern day ascetics. They say that this power created the universe; it caused the river Ganges to flow. Included in the program is a ground-breaking form of danced story-telling developed by Ms. Puri, in which dances that retell stories from India's rich store of legends and myth are performed to a blend of traditional song, chants, and spoken rhythmic syllables as well as a text in English.

Much of the evening's music is performed live by vocalist Shobana Raghavan and 'world' percussionist, John Hadfield. However, the three core dances – one of them by guest choreographer S. Sridhar - are set to a specially commissioned score of 'new' south Indian music recorded in Chennai, India by music director, Anil Srinivasan. In addition to directing, writer-filmmaker Greg Emetaz adds a visual dimension to the work, with light projections and a video on ascetics in India. Kathryn Kaufmann is lighting designer.

Rajika Puri and Dancers was established to explore group choreography in Bharatanatyam and Odissi, Indian classical dance forms that by tradition are performed by a single dancer – and to do so within a contemporary aesthetic. Each member of the ensemble is an accomplished Bharatanatyam or Odissi soloist in her own right, with performances both here and in India to her credit. Their first production Conversations with Shiva: Bharatanatyam Unwrapped (presented at Joyce SoHo in 2005) consisted of nine new dances - ranging from a duet to an octet – which re-visited the traditional Bharatanatyam repertoire.

Artistic director and choreographer Rajika Puri explores Indian classical dance forms as specifically music-theater forms which 'speak' to their audiences through movement, song, and theatrical action. Some dances incorporate English – the common language of Indians (and Indian dance audiences) throughout the world – thus making accessible the mimed element of Indian dance to audiences unfamiliar with the classical and regional languages in which most Indian dance lyrics are written. Her group choreography, though structured untraditionally, is completely rooted in the movement vocabulary and rhythms of Indian dance-theater forms.

Trained in both Bharatanatyam and Odissi, Ms. Puri has performed in solo recitals all over the US, Europe, Latin America and India. Her familiarity with western classical music, ballet, modern dance and flamenco has led to cross-cultural collaborations like Flamenco Natyam (Works & Process at the Guggenheim, India tour) and Bach-Bharatanatyam Variations. Active in western theater, Ms. Puri has also developed a form of danced story-telling, the basis of two of her past productions: Union/Severed in collaboration with interpreter of American song Nora York (Asia Society, NY) and Devi-Malika (Rubin Museum of Art, The Duke on 42nd), both directed by Yuval Sharon.

The four New York-based dancers who join her in this production Aditi Dhruv, Taiis Pascal, Shobana Ram, and Nirali Shastri perform both as soloists and with other dance companies. Ms. Dhruv is a member of Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects and Parijat Desai Dance Company among others; Ms. Pascal is a founding member of the Odissi dance collective Trinayan; Ms. Ram has danced with Parijat Desai and Ananya Chatterjea; and Ms. Shastri is a member of World Dance Theatre.

The creation of Joyce SoHo was made possible by the magnanimous support of the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust. Joyce SoHo is supported by private funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, First Republic Bank, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, The Shubert Foundation and The Starr Foundation; and by public funds from the New York City Council; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. Special support for Joyce SoHo provided by the Lila Acheson Wallace Theater Fund established in The New York Community Trust by the founders of the Reader's Digest Association, Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
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