If you are reading this, you are on this journey with me. The piece and process that I will be writing about here is centered around my current piece in development: She’s Auspicious. A solo Bharatanatyam dance work with live music, She’s Auspicious blurs the line between Goddess and Woman to examine the irony in Indian culture between the worship of the Goddess as a symbol of femininity and auspiciousness, and the treatment of women in society.
This work is an exploration…as I start to write this word “exploration,” I realize how many times I’ve used that word in describing a choreography, and how this time feels different. Yes, a creative work is always an exploration, but this exploratory process has (and continues to be) deeply connected to my re-examination of Self: my identity, my femininity, my body, my practice, my teaching, my learning, my parenting, and my participation – both conscious and unconscious in systemic oppression.
This period of the pandemic, where we have been forced to halt, listen, learn and unlearn has made me increasingly aware of the extent of historical erasure and the subtle ways systemic oppression is built into our thought and behavior patterns, as individuals and as a society.
Creating this piece has compelled me personally to confront my privilege as an upper-caste practitioner of Bharatanatyam, an Indian dance form traditionally practiced and performed by hereditary artistic communities, but appropriated by upper class communities. The Goddess/Woman paradox has become an entry point for me confront my own privilege and ability to compartmentalize and disassociate from the complex histories of my form.
In that way, this work grapples with the hypocrisy that exists within me, the individual- a microcosm of society and the broader spectrum of global cultures.
The re-examination of popular mythical [Aryan] narratives surrounding the Goddess that I have danced since childhood, brings up questions of femininity, gender roles, and notions of beauty. Through these questions, I find myself challenging certain performative constructs of my Bharata Natyam form, which are deeply rooted in a particular aesthetic of “refinement.”
The starting point of this piece was an exploration of the Varnam Mathe that explored the harmonious dichotomy of the Hindu Goddesses Chamundeshwari (who is described as mother and daughter, gentle and fierce, dark and light). My piece Dichotomy of the Goddess (2018) turned into a questioning of that inclusivity set against Indian societal culture, where the “auspicious-Goddess” association with the female is a complete contrast to both older practices such as female infanticide and Sati, as well as present day global patterns such as wage gaps, street harassment, religious prohibition, illegalized invitro gender detection, menstrual isolation, and the whole “Mrs.” concept.
I blogged about this at that time – you can refer to my earlier post “Dichotomy of the Goddess.”
Anyway, all of the above is just a starting point, an intro of sorts to my journey with this piece. Lots more coming your way….