Choreography Fellow 2020-2021: Preeyal Patel

Patel_2Preeyal has a long history of exploring creative ways to weave her traditional dance background into her goals of influencing social dialogue.  She began learning Bharatanatyam at the age of 7 from her Guru in Edison, New Jersey, and  completed her Arangetram in 2012. In college, she built upon her traditional foundation by joining Penn State’s South Asian classical dance team, Penn State Natya. She was instrumental in choreographing pieces on themes such as barriers of discrimination in the transgender community, depression in students, and struggles faced by
the refugee population–for which her team recieved numerous awards.  She is currently a medical student at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, where she promotes dance as a healthy form of stress relief and wellness for students. 

How do Traditional Arts and Medicine combine?Patel_3

 The beauty of Indian classical dance is the power of storytelling, a key principle in this traditional art form.

When I was a young girl in my early days
of training, I only interpreted storytelling in the context of the religious and mythological origins of South Asian classical dance, which was primarily used to depict epic stories of sacred myths and legends. However, as the years passed, I realized that this narrative power is one that transcends religious, social, and language boundaries. Movement and music can be appreciated by all people, regardless of how they identify.

For those identifying as patients, dance expression
can be therapeutic, serving as a method of reconciling the complicated emotions that come with receiving difficult diagnoses, navigating chronic conditions, and seeking healing. For those identifying as providers and caregivers, storytelling through movement also serves as a tool in sharing personal stories of the complexities of the patient-provider relationship.

–Preeyal Patel

Choreography Project: 


 I am interested in exploring the theme of recovery and what that means to different
people. For some, recovery may come in the form of a cure: a definitive freedom from a disease or condition. This may involve monitoring test results, maintaining a strict treatment regimen,seeking interventions, and waiting for the end of a particular diagnosis. For others, recovery is not a concrete improvement in physical symptoms; instead, they view recovery as coming to terms with a diagnosis and achieving a meaningful quality of life. This may involve relying on the support of loved ones, finding new strengths while coping with disabilities, and taking control of chronic conditions. Whether it is a fractured arm that will heal with time or a diagnosis that will persist from birth, recovery is an emotional, intricate experience that is unique to an
individual. I hope to use the narrative power of dance to depict various interconnected stories of recovery within a group of community members, highlighting how their different interpretations of “recovery” impact their perceptions of their health. While one patient’s interpretation of recovery may result in peace and solace, another patient may see pain and fear. By interviewing  patients of a local clinic, I hope to learn more about their experiences and retell their stories in a creative manner.