Yaa Wafaa by Union Payal

Traveller Thillana by Union Payal

Video Credits: Ajay Major and Mark Khazanov

Music: By Anoushka Shankar and Nirag Chag

One Billion Rising Dance Flash Mob

Inspired by the movement started by Eve Ensler of the Vagina Monologues, we did our own OBR flash mob at Union College in 2013




Many refugee women look for a space to find community and communicate openly. Having such a space is important for healthy mental and social relationships, especially when arriving in a new country and dealing with resettlement stresses. Art and dance are both integral to many cultures, yet, little time and space are given to support these stress-relieving and health stimulating skills.

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 met weekly to develop a community support structure, learn coping techniques, and to improve mental and social health needs for the refugee women.

This women-only group consisted of Sudani, Khmer, Bhutanese, Karen, Nepali, Bengali, Congolese, and European descent women. The local folk dance society, the Dance Flurry Organization, shared American Contra Dances with the women and followed their lead in dancing to traditional, fun dances in a circle. The women all also created art together and presented with work with many giggles. Without words, a community was created.

Final performance with DFO members included. This program was made possible by the DFO Grant and Rifat Nazir, the director of the RISSE program.

Collaborators: GIAHC, Fred Wyand of ASHA Sexual Health, EJ Feld, Rohini Rau-Murthy, Production UK Video Editing Company, and the Amazing Women who gave their voices and stories to this piece

Music Made by: “Violet” by Elliot Jason Feld of EJFM 102.7

Video Shot at PSCCC of Albany Medical College


The dance explores the mind of a patient waiting to be screened–the “mental waiting room”. The dance begins with a patient sitting in an exam room, making gestures of nervousness. Mirroring those feelings is a dancer performing Kuchipudi dance.


I remember watching Dr. Krishnan’s presentation at American Medical Womens’ Association in 2016 as she shared the stories of those who battled cervical cancer. Her videos visually captured the honest emotions of these life-changing experiences.

Cervical cancer affects the whole human experience. Through embodying the narratives of women who battled cervical cancer, I hope to bring to life not only the importance of screening, but also the power of human resilience and dignity in fighting illness. For me, creating this piece served as a reminder to honor illness as we honor health, recognize the weight of diagnoses on patients and their families, and the importance of humanity in medicine.

With help from GIAHC, EJ Feld, and ASHA, we interviewed amazing survivors and created music that incorporated their voices. I then choreographed a piece reflecting their stories, describing what waiting in the examination room feels like for patient facing the unknown in just a paper gown.  Hopefully, the video encourages women to get screened and let them know they are not alone in any feelings they may have. I also hope it gently reminds us as physicians-in-training to respect individual stories and to recognize the importance of bearing witness.



Co-Choreographer: Rohini Rau-Murthy

Dances: Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam

Choreographers: Rohini Rau-Murthy

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.

Performed at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 2015

Performance at ‘Human Trafficking in Our Neighboorhoods: A Community Responds’, 2016

Choreographers: Megan Shindler, Kiane Thomas, Rebecca Groner, Andres Marquez-Lara

Washington D.C.

Video Clip of Show

“Isolation, alienation, disconnection can slowly, silently kill our mind, body and spirit. Often times we can have a hard time to find ways to connect with others. Experiencing and creating art brings people together in ways that allow us to create memories, share our stories, and challenge the illusion that we are alone.” Groups of artists created poems and dances outside of hospitals and parks in the DC metro area to encourage community and connection through dance and art. I co-choreographed the group’s dance outside of GW Hospital with the words of Megan Shindler and the spoken word artistry of Rebecca Groner and Kiane Thomas.




Choreographers: Camilea El Hakim

Maya is a dance based on the illusion of womanhood in both Indian and Moroccan cultures. Camilea El Hakim, a prolific dancer in Fes, created a three piece choreography of the idea that women are more than what is expected of them. In fact, we reveal in our final conclusion, that both cultures see them as divine. We used contemporary expression of Kuchipudi and Gnaoua traditional dances.

Performance at Toledances International Dance Festival in Fez, Morocco, October 2015

Video of Dance

Collaborators/Co-Choreographers: Jasmine Roth, Keilah Creedon, Sheri Park, Smita Ravichandran, Sriya Bhumi, Ulcha Ulysse, Amanda Laven, and Dr. Jennifer Matsue

Anamika: Collaborative Dance Against Gender Violence

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.

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Video 1 of 2

Video 2 of 2

Questions Part A and B


Collaborators: Taandika Essawa’s Spyda MC and Taye, Nilotika Band, the Bavubuka Dynasty, Christine Michelle, Winnie Nansumba, Esther Mbabazi, Berlin, Justine, Raz Kasozi,  and Gilbert Daniels

Directors: Spyda MC and Shilpa

This flash street performance in the center of the Namuwongo slum, with a three phase dance piece, was inspired by the many waiting rooms in the free clinics run in Namuwongo. 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.

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Clip of Show, March 2014

Antonio Vilchez, director of ADÚ Proyecto Universal, co-created the story of Encounters. This is a simple conversation between two dancers of different languages: Kuchipudi and Marinera. Video of Choreography: El Encuentro Nuevo

During the Watson Fellowship, we created a new home in Khamlia. This small town at the outskirts of the desert of al-Magrib was a sanctuary for traditional Gnaoua art, music, and dance. The Gnaoua and Amazigh people lived together for centuries here, exchanging conversations in Tamazigh and Darija and Spanish. I was forunate to live with Mohammed Khamlia, a kind soul who opened his family and home to me and allowed me to teach dance and art making workshops to a group of talented and dedicated preteens girls.

My co-director for this project was Mahjoub Ait Hammi. He translated, taught, and along with Alicia and Manuel, created the final presentation to the entire village at the end of three months.

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