Choreography Fellow 2021-2022: Isha Parupudi

Photo Credit: Arun Kumar

Isha Parupudi is a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer from Houston, TX, and a student of
Smt. Rathna Kumar, and has also studied under Smt. Rama Vaidyanathan and Smt. Bala
Kondalarao in India. Some of her notable performances include the Jacob’s Pillow Festival,
Erasing Borders (Battery Dance), at the United Nations, and at the World Government Summit.
Isha is a National YoungArts Finalist, Texas Young Master, and a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the
Arts. Her current choreographic interests focus on holistic medicine and trauma healing,
incorporating mental health and social justice. She is a premedical student at Columbia
University in New York, where she helps conduct research involving movement recovery after
spinal cord injury, combining her interests in orthopedic surgery and neurology. She is a
nationally certified EMT, and is also working with the Union on Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
to create a policy brief on the synergistic nature of TB and depression diagnosis and treatment.
Isha one day hopes to be a physician while pursuing dance professionally.

Photo Credit: Amitava Sarkar

How do Traditional Arts and Medicine combine?

As an EMT, I have had to act as a patient’s source of comfort in the scariest of moments, a
source of knowledge in times of confusion, and a source of calm in traumatic situations. If this
has taught me one thing, it is that the most important quality in a medical professional is not the
breadth of their organic chemistry knowledge or their hours of research experience, but empathy.
Through the unique storytelling nature of Indian dance, I am able to morph my face and body to
come as close as I can to truly experiencing the stories I am attempting to tell. In doing so, I am
able to empathize with patient stories, experiences of medical professionals, and the interactions
between the two. Through my choreography, I hope to evoke a similar response in audiences
both in and out of the medical field, to help make a positive change in the future of medical care.
This fellowship will allow me to collaborate with a community of individuals with similar goals
to create meaningful work that will impact a wider audience than I will be able to reach on my
own.
” – Isha

Choreography Proposal

Kunti’s Choice: On Reproductive Justice
“Kunti was 16 years old when she tested the boon she was given to have a child, but realized
very quickly she was not yet ready to be a mother (society’s pressures, being unmarried, fear etc).
She puts Karna into a basket and sends him along a river, heartbroken but also sure in her
decision that his fate was to be raised by a mother who was more ready than her. This idea
around choice in reproduction is a tricky one to discuss in religious settings, but given the
discussions around pro choice now and anti-choice etc, I think, this piece maybe something
worth creating to explore choice in motherhood. “

Previous Performances with Aseemkala

Reimagining Medicine Festival at Geisel School of Medicine, 2021

Addressing Racism in Medicine Through Bharatanatyam Dance: This piece explores inequities in healthcare access due to socioeconomic factors and biases. Through Indian classical dance (Bharatanatyam), it follows the story of a mother’s struggle to find care for her daughter’s illness. The music begins with Sid Sriram’s haunting voice describing how so much of the world is flawed, and many of us are pretending to be someone else just to get by, yet life still goes on cyclically.