Dialogues in Dance Presents…
De-Colonizing Bharatanatyam & Embodying Erasure
FRIDAY | OCTOBER 16, 2020 | 4:00PM
This event is part of MMC’s 2020 Alumni, Family, and Friends Homecoming Weekend.
It serves as the second installment of our three-part Dialogues in Dance lecture series meant to support the Dance Department’s efforts to decolonize its curriculum. For the first time, Bharatanatyam is offered as a technique in our department. This lecture will provide much needed contextual information on the form.
Bharatanatyam, in particular, has been at the epicenter of a very public debate on appropriation, colorism, casteism, classism, patriarchy, ableism, and heteronormativity in Indian classical dance at large. Nrithya Pillai, one of our presenters, has been at the forefront of this discourse in Chennai, India as a performer, speaker, and educator who also hails from the Isaivellala community of hereditary dancers and musicians. Bharatanatyam has a long history of centering privileged artists to “speak on behalf” of while silencing individuals from traditional communities of artists.
As part of the talk, Nrithya Pillai will sing and dance 1-2 pieces and then Kiran Rajagopalan and her will discuss their significance to oral tradition, family history, personal artistic vision, etc. This will be a rare opportunity as very few performing artists on the scene today are both accomplished singers and dancers.
The presenters will also discuss with students concrete strategies for not only dismantling colonial structures, but also engaging with Indian dance respectfully, critically, and intentionally in their practice. Using Indian dance as a lens, it will get the students thinking deeply about cross-cultural work that is both generative and respectful.
**This event is open to the public, but is by RSVP only. The webinar link for this event
will be distributed via email following your registration.**
MEET OUR Presenters
(click each photo to read more)
Nrithya Pillai is a dancer, dance composer, singer, writer, speaker, and dance instructor who proudly claims her hereditary nattuvanar-devadasi lineage. Artistic Director of Rajarathnalaya, a Bharathanatyam institution founded by her maternal grandfather Swamimalai Rajarathnam Pillai, she consciously preserves and reanimates the rich repertoire and the teaching and choreographic practices of her celebrated ancestors. Nrithya not only epitomizes the teacher-nattuvanar of the hereditary paramparais, she is also carving out her own space as an accomplished performer and writer who challenges the power relationships and ideologies that have made Bharatanatyam unavailable to women of her community. She continues to advocate fiercely for the restoration of credit for bharatanatyam technique, repertoire, and philosophy to the hereditary isaivellala community of practitioners.
Kiran Rajagopalan is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, writer, and educator based in New Jersey. Trained extensively in Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) for over 25 years, Kiran has given many acclaimed performances in India, Indonesia, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States. Kiran graduated with a B.A. (magna cum laude) in Behavioral Neuroscience and Spanish from Boston University in 2008, an M.A. (honors) in Bharatanatyam from University of Madras in 2010, and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University in 2015. He regularly conducts workshops, lectures, and demonstrations on neuroscience, Indian classical dance, and performance studies.
He is the co-founder and artistic director of Daya Arts which aims to bridge diasporic communities through original, high-quality artistic productions rooted in West African and South Asian visual and performing arts. Kiran is currently an adjunct faculty in Marymount Manhattan College’s Department of Dance.