The arts can be used to address the needs of the refugee women in a culturally competent manner. This project, called Transplanted Tradition, is a traditional dance exchange and art making pilot program that meets weekly to develop a community support structure, learn coping techniques, and to improve mental and social health needs for the refugee women.
This project was a 5 hour pilot program using arts and traditional dance exchanges by the women who studied English at Refugee and Immigrant Services of Emmaus (RISSE) in Albany. Each woman shared their artwork and also performed and taught their own traditional dances to the group.
Collaborators: Rifat Nazir, Director of RISSE and the Dance Flurry Organization
Funded by a Dance Flurry Grant
Dance on Female Divinity using Kuchipudi and Gnaoua Traditions. This piece talked about the evolution of the female divine in both Kuchipudi and Gnaoui Traditions. Gnaoua is the traditional dance of the Gnaoua people and involves the idea that the musician heals the sick through rhythms and trances called lilas.
Collaborators: Camilea El-Hakim, Contemporary Gnaoua Soloist. Camilea is a self-taught dancer who uses a combination of modern, ballet, and Gnaoua traditional dances to create a new style of her own. She performs for Babylon Cult Art, led by Mr. Aziz El-Hakim, which strives to create a place for dance expression in a location where there is little opportunity. Truly an amazing dancer!
Performance at Toledances International Dance Festival in Fez, Morocco (Oct-2015). See Press Release.
January 2016 & March 2015
Damage comes to women in many forms—hate crimes, human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and many others – which manifests in physical and psychological wounds. This dance, in an interpretive mixture of Classical Indian Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi styles, demonstrates the internal struggle that a woman goes through in order to heal from such damage. Two dancers enact two parts of a woman’s being presented as separate parts (a mistreated self and a central self) that finally join together as she overcomes the trauma and heals into a whole, capable of self-respect and expecting respect from others. The title Mardhini means warrior and is an homage to the strength of many survivors still healing and moving forward.
Collaborators: Rohini Rau-Murthy of Albany, New York. Rohini is a second year medical student at Albany Medical College with a strong interest in community health and integrative medicine. An assistant teacher at the Natya Anubhava Academy of Dance in Westchester, NY., she is a Bharatha Natyam dancer, teacher and choreographer who has given critically-acclaimed full length performances at the Chennai Winter Festival, the Nayana Auditorium in Bangalore, the Tarrytown Music Hall, and ArtsWestchester. While an undergraduate at Harvard, Rohini conceived and choreographed three dance dramas, including Naari, a celebration of women in Indian mythology and history. After college, Rohini was a performing troupe member of Navatman Dance in New York City.
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 2015. Press Release.
Human Trafficking in Our Neighborhood Event with artist Joanne Van Genderen, 2016 ArtChangesEverything
Medical Waiting Room Street Dance
While travelling in Kampala, Uganda on the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and working in a clinic that served the Namuwongo slum, Shilpa noticed that all of the aid and poverty caused people in Kampala to forget what power their own culture and history contained. To revive a sense of indigenous empowerment, she combined forces with Spyda MC and Taye, two activist-rappers who were creating cyphas in the Namuwongo area.
This piece involved the Nilotika Band, the Bavubuka Dynasty, Christine Michelle, Winnie Nansumba, Esther Mbabazi, Berlin, Justine, and Gilbert Daniels.
We created flash street performance in the center of the Namuwongo slum, with a three phase dance piece. The first part was of the youth talking about a time they were in the waiting room. Some shared stories of their parents being ill or of being ill themselves. The waiting room becomes full with stories of despair, fear, and powerlessness. Then the rappers enter, using spoken word in the indigenous Luganda language to tell the patients that they were more than they realized, that their weakness was their strength and they needed to realize their power. Finally, Jaja Lutaya stands up and reminds them of proverbs from the Baganda people on health and the importance of community to overcome sickness. The power to heal, he says, has always been within us.
Directed by: Spyda MC and Shilpa
Clip of Show, March 2014
Anamika is a multi-style dance and music production with eight female student artists on female victims of trafficking and gender violence. We combined Ballet, Kuchipudi, Bharata Natyam, Gospel Music, Hindustani Music, Praise Dancing, and Irish Step Dancing to tell a story of a survivor through six different emotions.
Collaborators/Co-Choreographers: Jasmine Roth, Keilah Creedon, Sheri Park, Smita Ravichandran, Sriya Bhumi, Ulcha Ulysse, Amanda Laven, and Dr. Jennifer Matsue
Of Mudras and Medicine: Traditional Dance Exchange Workshops 2013-2014
Thomas Watson Fellowship
Kampot Traditional Music School of the Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Collaborators: Watson Foundation + KCDI
Asociación Khamlia in Khamlia, Morocco
Gnaoua, Amazigh, and Kuchipudi Dance Exchange
Girls Dance and Empowerment Project
Collaborators: El Mahjoub Ait Hammi (Co-Director), Alicia, Jose Manuél, and Moha
CEACA Perú Dance Exchange
ADÚ Dance Company Dance Exchange
With Director Antonio Vilchez
Video of Choreography: El Encuentro Nuevo