Savage Evening by Sam Stone

by Virginia Broyles ~ October 21st, 2014

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a blog posting for vîv.

by sam stone

The topic ­what it feels like to have your self-­produced show opening in two weeks. And

of course, we aren’t the only ones who have ever ventured to do such a thing. We all

know the intensity that pursues when you add up all that is a show. It’s everything that

goes on stage plus everything that goes on behind the stage, not to mention taking care

of our dear audiences, and then also ourselves… But a many people write about this, and

it’s not in my interest (and maybe not yours) to rant on and on about our to do list.

to do list trashed.

I’d like to talk about these women I am working with. These incredible beings ranging

from type A to type Z that do far more than you’ll ever know to support one another. We

do not log every hour spent making the production happen. We just do what we’ve got to

do. And all that is done (which I promise you exceeds the eight hour work day) translates

into a simple nod of the head. a check mark. a ‘no problem.’ Ahh. wait, let me be clear.

There is no need to pat us on the backs, no need to taking sympathy. Because, here

there is no ‘what have I been doing with my life?!’ backlash. We love what we do. We

know that rehearsals exercise our creative intelligence, performing offers us a chance to

share our art, and all of that administrative stuff? We just love it! no, I am completely lying.

but. maybe on a good day, we have the patience to see things falling into place.

Sometimes, I just write an email or a spreadsheet, and I feel like YES! big step Sam. way

to go.
The dance the dance the dance you say? We are a mother &@*&$ jungle! Snakes and

Bears and Dancers oh my. Animal themes are in the air, and at that, so is Illinois. Fun fact,

both our lovely Bianca Cabrera and Kathleen Hermesdorf hail from Northern Illinois.

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Free writing on Bianca Cabrera’s Bear Down.

It’s a heated piece. The movement is thick and full. Our relationships are like swampy

creatures sliding alongside one another. And sometimes the fog settles and there is

clarity, detail, character and humanity. I am really enjoying running through this one.

Sometimes a dance can build really well for a performer. It’s map makes perfect sense to

the speed of my breath, the stretch of my limbs. And can I just say, holy wow. The dancers

are honestly exquisite in this one. To love the talent and persona of those of whom you

dance with is such a treat. Pieces of this work were made for individuals, and watching it

you just know that that dancer owns it. I truly look forward to every time I have the

opportunity to interact with everyone, knowing that each run will be different. This is not a

5,6,7,8 dance. It is a dance for the intelligent dancer. The dancer who feels out timing as

it comes along. Bianca is giving us a beautiful gift and she has been highly considerate of

who we are individually and as a collective.

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Free writing on Kathleen Hermesdorf’s Ouroboros.

Oh mannn… today was the first day we slipped back into the piece after a long summer of

nada. Immediately I notice the vast difference in quality from Bianca’s movement. It’s a

looser fit, more room for joints to bounce, retract, carve or fly. This is the piece that

brought us together. And now! We are teaching it to Elizabeth Chitty who is stepping in to

bring new energy to the piece. That girl is smart! She has this thing practically down after

only two rehearsals. We rehearsed on a basketball court today so the feeling of it isn’t

back just yet. It’s funny how different you feel through shoes than through bare feet. And

this piece uses the ground in a big way. In the past I have felt a certain insanity

performing this piece. The kind of insanity edged on by those dancing around me. But

who knows what it will be now, especially paired with the amebic like Bear Down.

O. blog writing is kind of fun. I have many thoughts on everything we are doing. And no

one even gave me a proper topic for this one! So, if you have any questions or themes

that you want me to write on, I am intrigued, and may just accept your challenge.

 

Until then, we are vîv. Our show is October 24th and 25th and CounterPulse. all is

here: withviv.com

 

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Kimpa, Laura, Marie, Amy…

by Muisi-kongo Malonga ~ October 3rd, 2014

As a woman of African descent, born to an African American mother and a Central African father, I believe this project reflects the uniqueness of my journey and addresses many of the questions that permeate my existence, as I seek God, and wrestle with womanhood, motherhood, Africanity, AfricanAmericanity and all of the ‘anities’ and ‘isms’ that come along with it. As I delve deeper into Mama Kimpa Vita’s story, the voices of kindred mother-martyrs have turned from whispers to raised voices,  adding the thread of their lives to the tapestry of this wondrous  works.

Mama Kimpa Vita

Mama Laura Nelson

Mama Marie Turner

(Mama) Amy Spain

And to all of the other mothers

whose graves are yet unmarked

 

whose rest has been anything but peaceful

and whom history would like to erase…

We have not forgotten you nor will we let them forget.

Photo Credit: Images by Audrey

Muisi-kongo Malonga In Kimpa Vita!  (Photo Credit: Images by Audrey)

 

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About Gallus Gallus Domesticus

by Rosemary Hannon ~ September 20th, 2014

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I am consumed, consuming, predator and prey, object and subject, caught in the performance of self in a biological and cultural context that is full of contradictions. There are so many things to really be afraid of in the world and so many beings living with tragic, immediate threats. I live in relative privilege and safety and I’m still afraid. This piece is about the habit of anxiety that is there both because of and despite circumstances. It is about the inevitable habit of searching the environment for threats and the insidious, unexamined fears that limit us. Being chicken seems to be an essential part of the human experience. The attempt to face fears and relate to them is an embrace of exposure, failure and vulnerability.

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How Do You Move a Cloud?

by Nadhi Thekkek ~ September 11th, 2014

By Shanti Ramrattan (Company Dancer)

It’s been a year-and-a-half journey for me as a performer with the Nava Dance Theatre, and every moment thus far has been an event-filled dancer’s dream.  In-depth rehearsals, constantly evolving items, the birth of new characters, re-envisioned music…and a company of the most dedicated, talented artists committed to showing up and doing, growing, being together week after week.  And recently, amidst all the whirlwind of production frenzy that (in the end at least) is the very satisfying nature of a performance, I had the opportunity to stop and be a spectator of The Cloud Messenger.

What I saw, and what I felt, was a rediscovery of what it means to be alive.

Let me explain.  When my niece and nephew were born, I suddenly fell into the world in a powerfully revitalized way.  I re-became curious and interested.  As they explored and discovered the world around them, I was discovering anew…probing, questioning, being delighted by and wondering at things that had surrounded me all my life, but which I’d allowed to grow monochrome in the background of my ever-existent To-Do-list life.

Witnessing the journey of the Cloud, I felt that selfsame magic upon me.  I ‘saw’ mountains from roots to peak, rivers flowing their meditative flow, lotuses blooming forth like Nature’s cheerleaders, and the perkiest peacock dance of all peacock-kind for the first time –  again.  But more than that, I experienced the allowance of enchantment. Through the eyes of the Cloud, I gave myself permission to notice – really notice the beauty of things in their essence.

When was the last time you contemplated the star-spangled evening sky?  Or gazed at a school of fish darting about like synchronized swimmers in their grand Olympic routine?  Or better yet, took in the aura of a person tumbling into love for the very first time?

Kalidasa’s poem Meghadutam, is a work of simple genius.  It takes a humanesqe character, and charges him with the task of persuading a non-human, yet sentient, being to deliver a message of burgeoning love.  Any of us who have been in the throes of love’s magic knows what an indisputably urgent message this is.  But how do you express this urgency…To A Cloud?  How do you move It?  Incite that empathy? Convey the preciousness, the timeliness of an emotion so singular, so special it has launched wars and inspired the creation of World Wonders?

Our Yaksha hero takes the approach of enticement.  You will see wonders, he explains.  You will mesmer in the grandness of mountains, marvel at the sensation of a single raindrop.  You will absorb the world around you into the definition of your existence, and be the happier for it.

And it works…for Cloud and for me. Nava’s artists breath life into this revelation and as our Cloud character explores the world, I do vicariously as well.  I witness It’s journey into the jungle and think…I want to do that.  I watch It pet the feathers of a bird and think of how eminently pettable birds are.  I want to stand in the rain and feel the drops melt onto my face.  As the Cloud awakens to the aliveness of existence, I too awaken to what it means to feel alive.

And in exquisite poetic harmony, just as I am learning my world again in full-color newness through the Cloud’s experience, I witness It’s growing understanding of what it means to feel love vicariously through the palpable emotion of our Yaksha Hero.  Mission accomplished.

If there is any message that the Cloud delivers it is this one…that there is so much that is wonder-able about the human experience.  So much to discover, explore, experience in your own backyard, with the people that surround you every day.  With the person sitting next to you right this moment.   With Nava’s vibrant new dance production happening just a short drive away, this very weekend :).  Don’t sleep on these chances to evoke and awaken the resounding joy housed right within your spirit.  Our newly-humanized Cloud wouldn’t.

How does one move a Cloud Spirit?  Simple…allow yourself to be moved and It will follow.

 

Shanti studies Bharatanatyam under Smt. Katherine Kunhiraman and studied with the late Sri. KP Kunhiraman at Kalanjali Dances of India. She performed her Arangetram in 2003, and continues to perform in Kalanjali dance productions. She started dancing with Nava more than a year ago. See Shanti, and all the Nava Dancers in The Cloud Messenger, this weekend at CounterPulse.

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A New Way Home

by Nadhi Thekkek ~ September 9th, 2014

By Sophia Valath (co-Artistic Director)

I have had a few experiences in my life where I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I signed up for it…the kind of decisions that you make almost on a whim. The ones you say ‘yes’ to not because you’ve necessarily thought it through, but because an internal whisper, or some times an external voice, is pushing you in that direction. These experiences change you forever in the most unexpected and best kind of ways.

A few years ago, my two childhood best friends (Nadhi and Arun) and I found ourselves back in California after college, work and life had taken us in different directions across the country. The three of us had grown up dancing and performing Bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance) together and even though we continued to pursue dance in our own ways, we truly missed dancing together. One night in the midst of stuffing our faces, laughing about old jokes and reminiscing about dancing and we finally said, “That’s it guys! We’re doing a program together.” The rest of the evening was followed by discussions of dances we all knew, pieces we would love to perform, costumes that would look good together and strategizing ways to offset my shortness next the tallness of my dancing partners in crime. It was the kind of night that breathes life into dreams. We were overwhelmed with hope and excitement and completely ignorant of the challenges that would arise with this decision. You see, what the three of us did not know that night was that by saying ‘yes’ to doing a program together, we were also saying ‘yes’ to the creation of Nava Dance Theatre.

dancing as kids

the good ol’ days

More than a dozen collective performances and two years Nava has taken me away from many things I know. It challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone to explore elements of Bharatanatyam that had previously only been after thoughts in my dancing. It forced me to reassess not just how I dance, but why I dance. It encouraged me to play with the elements of dance and performance that move me and apply them to our choreography. It has grown my appreciation for all types of art. It has allowed me to find beauty in everything, even the things I don’t like. It has been days of self-doubt. It has been one humbling situation after another. It has been moments of failure, followed by small successes that keep us going. It provided new perspective. It resulted in the loss of some relationships and the strengthening of others. It has been the beginning of many new partnerships.

From top: Arun, Sophia, and Nadhi (2012)

One of the most significant of these partnerships is through CounterPulse. Simply put, CounterPulse provided Nava with the resources and encouragement during our infancy to help us find our voice when it would have been easier to stay silent. In the black box space of 1310 Mission Street, Nava truly found a home and those walls became the birth place of our first full length production, The Cloud Messenger. The time I spent there with the rest of the Nava dancers is a kaleidoscope of images and feelings that will forever run through my mind when I think about The Cloud Messenger…

Hours of practice. Bursts of laughter during warm ups. Run through after run through. Injuries. Seven breathtakingly beautiful dancers in orange dance saris taking the stage for our Work In Progress showing. Hugs hello and namaskarams goodbye. Critique after critique. The sound of our nattuvagam starting rehearsals. Setting choreography and scratching it a few days into a new dance, only to come back to the same concepts months later. Smiles and excitement before performances. Tears of frustration when the unexpected happens. Back stage quick changes. Nerves. Finding our inner peacock. The feeling after our final bows in last year’s Performing Diaspora Festival. The anticipation of next week’s production. Love…

Nava Dance Theatre at the Ethnic Dance Festival. From left: Jaya, Vidya, Arun, Nadhi, Priya, Shanti, Tanu, Sophia (not pictured - Sri, Vineela, Esha)

Nava Dance Theatre at the Ethnic Dance Festival. From left: Jaya, Vidya, Arun, Nadhi, Priya, Shanti, Tanu, Sophia (not pictured – Sri, Vineela, Esha)

So although Nava has taken me in a direction I never thought I would go, in so many ways it has also brought me home. And despite the challenges I am grateful for everything Nava has brought into my life, for all the days I am blessed to perform and the chance to fall love with dance all over again.

Sophia learned Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Smt. Sundara Swaminathan. In addition to the productions and performances she has participated in at Kala Vandana, she has toured the US while performing with Bhangra Empire, an award winning, premiere Bhangra team based in the Bay Area. Sophia and Nadhi co-founded Nava Dance Theatre. See their work, “The Cloud Messenger” this weekend at CounterPulse.

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