The Cloud Messenger – Review Revise Rework

by Nadhi Thekkek ~ August 14th, 2014

We are back! I am so thrilled that Nava Dance Theatre is going to present The Cloud Messenger at CounterPULSE this year through year 2 of the Performing Diaspora residency program. The evening length version of The Cloud Messenger, to be premiered September 11th-14th at CounterPULSE (1310 Mission St) will feature new original musical score, new original choreography, new dancers, and new costumes. The piece will be directed by Sophia and myself, and will be choreographed by Sophia, Arun, and myself. The original score is composed by renowned flautist GS Rajan (

Revisiting the work started with retreat-like work sessions in February of this year. This meant reviewing the four main pieces from last year and revisiting the overarching narrative that strung these pieces together. So of course, we went back to the text (and a few different translations of it!)



Sophia, Arun, and I had a very specific vision in mind for the additional pieces, but the tricky part was that we were scattering the new pieces throughout the old work. Our goal was to increase the depth of the characters through the new choreography. However, this meant that the new music needed to fit in seamlessly within the score Rajan sir had composed last year. Thankfully, he was up for the task.

GS Rajan - Nava Dance

GS Rajan at work…

Much like last year, we spent a couple days discussing the narrative and the theme of each new piece. Then, Sophia, Arun, and I would set some movement which was inspired by the text, and then Rajan sir would play some phrases in raagams which he felt matched our sentiment. There was some (or a lot) of back and forth until all of us were completely satisfied with the outcome. (Sometimes Rajan sir danced too…)


Nadhi, Rajan, and Sophia at CounterPULSE

In the next few posts, I will talk more about the individual pieces, the different lines from the text that inspired us, and lastly, what innovation has meant to us while developing this work. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with these…


Arun, Rajan, Sophia, and Nadhi


Nadhi and Sindhu

The Cloud Messenger

Premiering Sept 11-14 @ CounterPULSE

Music Composition by GS Rajan

Directed by Nadhi Thekkek and Sophia Valath

Choreography by Nadhi, Sophia, and Arun Mathai

Musicians: Sindhu Natarajan (vocal), GS Rajan (flute), MS Sukhi (mridangam), Kali Futnani (nattuvangam)

Dancers: Nadhi, Sophia, Arun, Jaya Kurian, Esha Nambiar, Shanti Ramrattan, Sri Jannapureddy, Priya Sreedharan, Tanu Sreedharan, Vidya Sundaram, Vineela Poddatoori


Pride and Polaroids: a review of Homo File by Cleo Dubois

by seth ~ July 26th, 2014

Here is a moving article about Homo File by BDSM educator, coach, scholar and advocate Cleo Dubois. What an honor to have had her come see the show two times and to have participated on our panel discussion on June 6th.



Transition announcement from Jessica Robinson Love and the Board of CounterPulse

by Jessica ~ July 16th, 2014

From Jessica Robinson Love,
Executive & Artistic Director

Dear colleagues, artists, supporters, and friends,

I could scarcely have imagined when I ascended the long stairs at 848 Community Space fourteen years ago to become its sole staff member, that “the little space that could” would become a bustling professional theater and a nationally-recognized model for building community through socially-engaged art.

CounterPulse is thriving. We have a visionary and strategic board of directors, a dedicated and experienced staff, a financial reserve that’s rare for an organization of our size, and a real estate partnership with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust that provides tremendous opportunity toward long-term security.

That’s why after fourteen years at the helm of CounterPulse, I’m preparing to pursue new professional challenges. On October 1st, I’ll step aside so that the organization can begin a new chapter under new leadership. I’ve carefully chosen this time after months of planning in consultation with our board and staff, to coincide with several major benchmarks we’ll reach in September in our journey toward securing a permanent home.

I’m thrilled that our Program Director, Julie Phelps, has agreed to serve as Interim Executive & Artistic Director and support the organization and community through this transition. Julie and I have worked side-by-side for seven years, and she did a remarkable job serving as interim leader during my sabbatical in 2012. I have boundless faith in her aptitude to lead the organization during this transition. Under her leadership and with the partnership of Shamsher Virk, Jeanne Pfeffer, Zoë Klein, and Jason McArthur, CounterPulse’s programming will continue to be vibrant, relevant and responsive to our communities of artists and audiences.

CounterPulse has been my life’s work. I’m particularly proud of building Performing Diaspora, of overseeing a successful move to Mission Street 10 great years ago, and of helping create a strategic plan that enshrines support for artists, social change, and equity in the heart of what we do. Of course, none of this would have been possible without visionary funders who have supported this work, a superhero board, the world’s best staff, and the countless hours of sweat equity that our communities have put in over many years. While I’ll miss being at the center of this incredible hub of art, ideas, and people, I plan to remain involved as a lifelong advocate for CounterPulse and as a champion for the move into its beautiful new home.

But I’m not gone yet! We have much to accomplish in the next three months, and I’ll be calling on all of you to join me in further securing the organization’s future as we launch an amazing fall season and get ready for the big move.

See you soon at CounterPulse!

Jessica Robinson Love


From Laura Elaine Ellis,
Board Chair

As a board — so proud to be serving CounterPulse — it is with deep gratitude and dedicated support that we bid our current Executive & Artistic Director, Jessica Robinson Love, best wishes as she begins her next journey. She is truly a visionary and she will forever be a part of the CounterPulse legacy!

This is an extraordinary time for CounterPulse. We recently completed a strategic plan for this organization, guided by our mission to create a space for risk-taking art that shatters assumptions and builds community. The planning and implementation of CounterPulse’s impactful work — led by Jessica — has been dutifully and passionately shared and nurtured with keen, “hands-on” involvement of the staff and board. During her tenure, Jessica has overseen a 10-fold budget increase, built a financial reserve, and set CounterPulse up for long-term sustainability by forging a partnership with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust to finance its new home at 80 Turk Street. The organization has never been stronger, and this is an exciting time for us to welcome new leadership. As we enter this next phase for CounterPulse, the board is pleased that Julie Phelps — current Program Director — will serve as our Interim Executive & Artistic Director beginning October of 2014.

The CounterPulse family of staff and board — supported by and serving artists, members, donors, and funders — looks to the future of CounterPulse readily, as we prepare to make a bold and strategic move to our new home at 80 Turk Street. As part of this vision, it is our desire to expand our impact and potential, delve more deeply into our commitment to community engagement and artistic incubation by building an art-making space that will nurture the imaginations, experiences, and explorations of artists, community members, and audiences. We’ve been presented with tremendous opportunities: a stable real estate solution, a space that will allow for expanded programming, and new partnership opportunities with peer arts organizations, social justice nonprofits, corporate neighbors, and city government. We are thrilled that Jessica will continue to support the CounterPulse family as we celebrate our ground-breaking, capital campaign launch, and risk-taking programming in our new space!

Our board and staff will be in touch with our community of artists, art lovers and supporters, as we thoughtfully and diligently work, create, and build toward this next phase of our journey. Please feel free to contact the Transition Committee with suggestions, ideas, inquiries, and gestures of support at Your thoughts are most welcome.

Our mission:
CounterPulse is building a movement of risk-taking art that shatters assumptions and builds community. We provide space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture. CounterPulse acts as a catalyst for art and action; creating a forum for the open exchange of art and ideas, sparking transformation in our communities and our society. We work towards a world that celebrates diversity of race, class, cultural heritage, artistic expression, ability, gender identity & sexual orientation. We strive to create an environment that is physically and economically accessible to everyone.

In September, the CounterPulse family will be hosting a celebration for Jessica Robinson Love, honoring her tenure and service to CounterPulse and the Bay Area arts community at large. Look for an invitation to that special event in the near future.

Looking Forward,

Laura Elaine Ellis, Board President
On behalf of the CounterPulse Board of Directors


A New Logo for CounterPulse

by Shamsher ~ June 23rd, 2014

We’ve known for a long time that the only constant is change. We’re certainly seeing a good deal of it in our city these days. As the winds shift, CounterPulse is adapting and continuing to make a place for daring, intimate, socially relevant performance in San Francisco. We’re planning our growth into a new home on Turk Street and as we do so, we’re re-imagining our visual identity. Our move from 848 Divisidero Street in 2005 also marked a change in name and logo. It seems fitting that our next incarnation come at a time when a physical move is imminent.

CounterPULSE logo

Like us, you may have a nostalgic association with our old logo. The symbolic hand of the people reaching powerfully up, gently cradling a heart, presenting itself as an expression of sensitive political force. The stark contrast of black and red connecting us to a lineage of political artistic endeavors, notably Agitprop and Russian Constructivism. And yet, there’s something static about a literal symbolic mark that points so explicitly and specifically to art movements of the early twentieth century. Nevermind the fact that passersby often remark that our logo gives them the impression we’re a blood donor clinic. With our new logo, we wanted to disassociate from the medical profession and carry our politically engaged art making into the twenty-first century.

Our old wordmark, “CounterPULSE”, was beginning to feel overstated with its shout-it-out all-caps “PULSE”. The capitalization overemphasizes “PULSE” when our work to support art that runs counter to the dominant pulse of contemporary culture gives equal weight to the “Counter” portion of our name. So we chose something more subtle yet still bold — to keep the capital “P” and spell our name “CounterPulse”.

With these thoughts in mind, we sought the help of a team of dedicated pro-bono consultants from the Taproot Foundation and embarked on a redesign of our logo. Drawing on language from our recently completed strategic plan, we distilled what we considered to be the essence of our organization. We uncovered energetic terms to describe ourselves, the artists we work with, and the art made in our space — spotlight, shadow, subversive, dynamic, shattered, chaotic, textured. Using these terms as springboards, we collected images into mood boards that would help us identify an aesthetic that resonated with us.


Shattered mood board

Shattered mood board. Design by Reena Karia.

Tenderloin mood board

Tenderloin mood board. Design by Reena Karia.

These mood boards also included images of our new neighborhood, the Tenderloin — its ornate façades, bold street art, and warmly glowing neon signs. We gazed at these collages and were drawn to shapes, colors, and textures that felt like CounterPulse.

The Taproot team guided us first though an audit of our visual identity and those of other organizations in our field. They then incorporated our mood boards and led a critical process of concept and draft review. Our Taproot graphic designer, Diana Heom, was prolific, giving us draft after draft of material to feast our eyes upon. After a six months of vigorous discussion and course changes we came to a final consensus about our new visual identity. Behold!

CounterPulse logo

The new mark echoes the shape of the old. The fist holding the heart is abstracted to form “CP” (the acronym for CounterPulse we affectionately use in the office). The mark incorporates strong geometric shapes shattered by diagonal lines that both support and disrupt symmetry. The shape holds space and also moves through it, giving weight and dynamism to our name.

Our new primary logo colors are slight variations on the old. We added an orange electricity to the red. The black is rubbed lighter to a charcoal grey. When on a dark background, the new logo will be accented with a cream color, softening the contrast. These are the colors of a vibrant contemporary CounterPulse.

CounterPulse Logo Dark Background

We also introduced new colors to our brand palette. We weren’t comfortable being just one thing, given the great diversity of artists and performance forms that grace our space. Our brand family now contains a teal, pink, and orange, for special applications.

CounterPulse Secondary Logos

CounterPulse Secondary Logos

Giving us further room for adaptation, we created stencils of the mark that allow us to incorporate photographic moments of performance. The rich images of the artists we work with will be featured online and in print, giving the community glimpses of the magic that happens inside our space.

CounterPulse Logo Image Applications

A new era of CounterPulse begins today. We hope you share our excitement about our new look and the positive change it reflects. We are grateful beyond words for the creative labors of our Taproot team. Thank you sincerely Sara Bert, Diana Heom, Jean-Luc Lamirande, Anna McLuhan, and Susan Ordway. A special thanks to my colleagues on the CounterPulse project team, Executive & Artistic Director Jessica Robinson Love and board member Kate Patterson, to our Engagement Fellow, Reena Karia, for her design skill, and to the rest of the CounterPulse staff for their keen eyes and design-savvy advice.

- Shamsher Virk
Communications & Engagement Director


CODAME ART + TECH PLAYGROUND at the Future Home of CounterPULSE

by Outreach Fellow ~ June 5th, 2014

On MAY 31, 2014, CODAME turned our future home in the Tenderloin into a vibrant playground for ART + TECH enthusiasts and practitioners. We buzzed with activity all day long, with workshops, live performance, electronic music, and interactive projections. Here are some takeaways: