(New York, NY – March 25, 2010) On a trailblazing mission to challenge the static tropes and cliches entrenched in classical, contemporary, modern, and popular dance forms, The Engendered Dance Festival, proudly hosts dozens of South Asian artists and choreographers from India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Canada, and America for a series of performances, workshops, panel discussions, master classes, and parties in the New York tri-state area from Tuesday, April 20 to Sunday, April 25. In signature style, Engendered, a trans-national arts and human rights organization focused on creating awareness around issues of gender and sexuality in South Asia and its Diaspora, will introduce New York dance enthusiasts to a range of performances from established and emerging dance companies and soloists, marginalized voices in dance from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and TWO world premieres (created that week) incorporating classical and contemporary dance with technology with visual art.
"Dance, as an anachronistic suspension of modernity, invites us to explore global culture, as presented through experimental work and living traditions," says Myna Mukherjee, a classical dancer and choreographer and Executive Director of Engendered. "As opposed to a two-dimensional patriarchal formulation of gender relationships, the work showcased in this festival preserves, reworks, and re-appropriates alterior forms of gender and sexuality."
Schedule of Events:
Press Preview & Opening Night Party
Tuesday, April 20 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Lincoln Center:
Press reception with sneak preview of upcoming performances during the festival and introductions to dance companies, soloists, and choreographers. Invited speakers include the Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair, who will focus on the importance of "Arts and Activism," NYU Professor Uttara Coorlawala who will expound on the performative role of gender in South Asian dance traditions, and India's pre-eminent dance scholar and critic Dr. Sunil Kothari. One-on-one interviews will be made available and RSVP required in advance.
Tongues Untied – Showcase I
Saturday, April 24 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Symphony Space:
Narratives of dance exploring issues of gender and sexuality as they intersect with ritual and religion in South Asia and its Diaspora, featuring the finest creators and performers of classical, contemporary, modern, folk, and popular genres. Dance critics and reviewers highly encouraged to attend this showcase.
Nrityagram Dance Ensemble; Kalanidhi Dance; Sumbhaav Dance Project; Jasmin Simhalan; Nighat Chaodhry; Tehreema Mitha; Mandeep Raikhy (Gati Dance) & Phil Sangers (Dance Worx); Kamala Devam (Shobhana Jeyasingh Co.) & Seeta Patel (Mavin Khoo Co.); UBC Bhangra Girlz; Flexy Studios
The Essence: RASA – Showcase II
Sunday, April 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Center:
South Asia has a long tradition and history of storytelling through dance; these solos and duets focus on exploring the all pervasive concepts of RASA (or dance) through storytelling. In addition, Engendered will unveil a collaborative work on 'Dance from Afghanistan' and two creative artist residencies (developed during the week of the festival) with renowned artist Raghava K.K., a recent TED fellow, and visual artist Amina Ahmed. Both residencies will incorporate visual art with technology with dance, using motion-capture technology.
Tehreema Mitha; Parijat Desai; Rajika Puri; Nighat Chaodhry; Krithika Rajagopalan; Shayma Sayid; Leeza Ahmady & Khatera Hakimi in collaboration; Mandeep Raikhy & Seeta Patel in residence with visual artist Raghava K.K.; Sumbhaav Dance Project in residence with visual & sculpture artist Amina Ahmed & multimedia artist Susan Jennings.
Bollywood to Bhangra (B2B) Closing Night Party
Sunday, April 25 from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Lincoln Center:
Companies that specialize in popular dance forms like Bollywood and Bhangra share the same stage and spotlight at the festival's closing night reception, a celebration of the diverse influences of gender and sexuality issues on popular dance in South Asia. Join us for live DJ sets, cash bar, and lively performances. RSVP required in advance.
Bijli; UBC Bhangra Girlz,; Flexy Studios; other surprise performances
Other workshops, master classes, and panels, in partnership with the South Asia Institute, will be announced soon.
***Participating Artists - Bios and Reviews:
Nrityagram Dance Ensemble – one of South Asia's MOST critically-acclaimed all women's Odissi dance companies. Called one of the "Ten Best Dance Performances of 2008" by New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times raves that Nrityagram is "one of the most luminous dance events of the year," and The Washington Post describes the dancing as "…beauty pouring forth with the greatest of ease." The company masterfully blends the classical dance forms of India with contemporary concepts. More information about the company's dance village in India is available at www.nrityagram.org
Kuchipudi Kalanidhi & Kalanidhi Dance – founded by Anuradha Nehru in 1992, the company presents professional and outstanding quality dance productions and trains the next generation of classical Indian dancers to the highest standards. In 2005, Kuchipudi Kalanidhi formed Kalanidhi Dance, a professional dance group that performs both nationally and internationally. Kalanidhi Dance sees Kuchipudi as an unbroken thread of cultural memories of myth, religion, music, and rhythm that connects them to India. The dancers have been trained in the rigors of the classical form and are using this form to explore new and creative ways to connect with diverse audiences in the United States. They have performed at the Smithsonian Institute, National Geographic Institute, World Asian Arts Festival in Philadelphia, and the prestigious Ananya Festival in India. The New York Times calls it "by far the freshest dancing, and much of the most enthralling choreography."
Nighat Chaodhry – is a name that is indelibly linked with Kathak – in Pakistan and around the world. Recipient of the Solidarity of Pakistan Award, Pakistan National Council for the Arts critical appreciation award, Nigar Award for Excellence in Performing Arts, and the Maharaj Kathak Dance Award, Choadhry has been hailed as 'just stunning' by Pakistan's most read daily Dawn. Having grown up in London, Choadhry studied ballet and contemporary dance till the age of 16 when she met Nahid Siddiqui, regarded as one of the greatest Kathak dancers, and was "inspired to learn the classical forms of my own culture." She abandoned ballet and studied initially from Siddiqui in Birmingham. Later, she realized that in order to understand and absorb the nuances of the style, she had to be close to its origins – and thus moved to Pakistan to continue studying and performing; she soon became one of the most renowned names in dance in the country.
Fayaaz (also known as Bijli) – over many years as the sun sets over Manhattan, the inconspicuous Fayaaz morphs into Bijli, a voluptuous Pakistani drag queen with a feverish following in the South Asian LGBT community. Yet beneath the flamboyant stage presence lays a courageous individual who has carved out a cherished identity for herself in a world quick to label her as an 'outsider.' Understanding herself as a woman trapped in a man's body, Bijli has spent a lifetime struggling between the polar tensions of male/female, East/West and Islamic faith/promiscuity. Having had both a formal and informal education in dance, Bijli has performed widely across the United States in venues like the QMA, Khush DC, University of Maryland, and underground parties throughout New York City. Acclaimed Pakistani independent filmmaker Adnan Malik has also made a documentary, titled Bijli, about the drag queen's life.
Tehreema Mitha – choreographer and dancer who was born and brought up in Pakistan and was trained in the classical style of an Indian dance called Bharatanatyam by her mother and Guru, Indu Mitha, who was as much a political figure as a dancer. Mitha began dancing at the age of seven. She performed her Arangatram in 1986 (during Pakistan's most culturally repressed era) and also began to choreograph in that year. She was recently commissioned to perform at the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center, and The Washington Post raves that Mitha "crosses borders as easily as the rest of us cross streets."
Mandeep Raikhy and Phil Sanger – These two dancers/choreographers from the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company and Danceworx, two of London's signature modern dance companies, respectively, have traveled the world with their collaborations which mixes ballet with Bharatanatyam and jazz with tap dance. Their style is exploratory and examines intimacy in a relationship, any relationship, and the Sunday Express writes: "Just nuts and bolts of the endlessly mysterious chemistry between two beings…one to watch."
Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam – principal dancers of the two London-based South Asian modern dance companies, Mavin Khoo and Shobhana Jeyasingh Dance Company. Patel and Devam will perform their internationally-toured, collaborative works. Both contemporary and BharataNatyam-trained, they share an investigative approach to their movement vocabulary and have been hailed as "some of the freshest and most cutting- edge acts in the South Asian Dance Diaspora."
Parijat Desai - performs an elegant and exciting blend of Bharatanatyam and modern/post-modern dance. Working on the intersections of movement techniques, choreographer Desai evolves a South Asian-American aesthetic, while exploring themes of spirituality, struggle, and transformation. The Los Angeles Times has described the Parijat Desai Dance Company's work as "matching technical sophistication with thematic relevance." Dance Magazine calls them a "tensely fluid…unusual fusion."
Krithika Rajagopalan – principal dancer and Assistant Director of the Natya Dance Theater Company, Rajagopalan just completed working on world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma's ground-breaking Silkwood Project. She also has trained in the art of histrionic expression and dramaturgy, Kalari Payatu (Indian martial arts), and yoga. She has presented more than 200 solo performances, having the honor of appearing for President Bill Clinton and at prestigious venues all over the world, including the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The Chicago Reader hails that "perfect symmetry of time and accuracy of rhythm in pure dance sequences were balanced by the deep emotive quality of the narrative aspects."
Flexy Stu Studios – carving a new niche for themselves in the emerging nexus of East/West collaborations, these dance choreographers and movement directors specialize in commercials, films, and music videos. Based in London, Los Angeles, and Mumbai, Flexy Studios are Bollywood hunk Hrithik Roshan's favorite choreographers, and they've collaborated on the upcoming film Kites. The Studio has recently worked on Oscar-winning music composer A.R. Rahman's (Slumdog Millionaire) music videos and is making an entrance into the booming "Kollywood," the nickname for South India's acclaimed film industry.
UBC Girlz Bhangra – fresh off their performance at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C., this all-female group has helped revolutionize and raise the bar for women's Bhangra, being one of the first teams to not only enter the competition circuit, but to place at the top of heavy-weight competitions.
Leeza Ahmady & Khatera Hakimi – will present collaborative work showcasing Afghan Dance. The collaboration will reflect the coyness of the Herati and the virility of the Logary dances, but also the spirit of the many folkloric dances practiced in different states of Afghanistan with a movement vocabulary that is essentially improvisational, playful, sweet, seductive, and engaging. As the crossroad for many civilizations, Afghan music and dance are influenced by many of the neighboring countries of Central Asia and South Asia, as well as the multiple spiritual histories such as Shamanistic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sufi philosophies. Leeza Ahmady has produced more than one hundred local and international art events and has presented her work at internationally-renowned venues such as the Asia Society, The Whitney Museum, Queens Museum of Art, and the Venice Biennale (2001).
Shayma Saiyid – a dancer and choreographer in the Kathak and modern dance traditions, as well as a writer. Saiyid had her Kathak training in her native Pakistan during a time when teaching and performing dance openly was banned. Mahraj Ghulam Husain, Nighat Chaodhry and Nahid Siddiqui have been her teachers. She trained in choreography and modern dance at Grinnell College, Barnard College, the American Dance Festival, Dance New Amsterdam, and other institutions in the U.S. Saiyid's last kathak performance was scheduled to be in front of Pakistan's Prime Minister at the 2004 Rafi Peer World Performing Arts Festival in Lahore, and her writings on dance in Pakistan have been published in the International Encyclopedia of Dance, (OUP-USA, 1998).
Sumbhaav Dance Project – is an emerging NYC-based dance group that explores new directions within the classical Kathak dance idiom and vocabulary. Led by choreographer Rachna Ramya, the company comprises of two other dancers, Rajiv Purohit and Manasi Patel Angelin, all with several years of intensive training in the different styles of Kathak.
Rajika Puri – an exponent of Bharatanatyam and Odissi, Puri has performed extensively in her native India, the U.S., Europe, and Latin America (including a command performance for the President of Mexico). She is best known for her experiments with different kinds of music: Flamenco, Bach, American Song, and also for an innovative form of danced storytelling, in which she accompanies her dances with Sanskrit songs and chants and English narration.
Engendered is a non-profit, trans-national arts and human rights organization focused on exploring the complex realities of gender and sexuality in the South Asian Diaspora. Based in New York, Engendered presents an annual four-part festival that brings together the best in contemporary South Asian performance, music, visual arts, and cinema. Both a political and aesthetic festival, Engendered uses the medium of arts and culture to create change and promote social justice by initiating public dialogue around women's issues, gender inequity, sexual orientation, and minority and health rights. For more information about the organization, please visit www.engendered.org