Music: Kanya by Niraj Chag
Music Mixed by Emily Stangle. Featuring: The Union Payal Dance Team
Videography and Editing by Cassandra Padilla
Tripura’s Birth is the second piece in the Mahavidyas in Medicine series. This piece uses Kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam to create a choreography based on embryological development. From the single cell, to the blastocyst, to the gastrula, to the closing of the neural tube, the growth of the placenta and spiralization of the placental arteries, the development of the heart, lungs, and limbs, and finally the process of birth, this piece creatively celebrates the complexity and beauty of fetal development. The ending shows the delivery of a baby with head and then shoulders, endings with the greatest sound in a delivery room—the cry of a newborn.
During my OBGYN rotation, I had the privilege of working with a physician who believed that the development and delivery of a baby was like understanding the unpredictability of nature—it was incredibly challenging. All of pregnancy is natural, from vaginal deliveries to C-sections, he would say, but knowing when to compassionately intervene as OBs forms the basis of good medicine and care. I heard many women during deliveries get upset that their baby was not able to be delivered as they wished. They spoke about the pressures of having a baby a certain, non-surgical way. This physician would take the time to tell each one that “All pregnancies are magical and humbling, like nature. Sometimes, it is rain and sun and sometimes it is a storm, but never ever think you did not have a natural birth. What is more natural that growing your baby over this time? Nothing! All of this is perfectly natural.” Seeing how they positively reacted to the concept of pregnancy as a metaphor for nature incited interest in dancing the process of development to birth.
This dance is based on the Mahavidya Tripura Sundari, the youthful girl goddess, known as the most beautiful, more desired, most beloved—much like a growing baby. Tripura is described as living on a lotus of universal protection and is praised as the giver of all powers, all pleasures, and all joy. This second piece transitions from the death of Sati into the birth of Tripura Sundari, reminding us of the cycle of death and birth.The music opens with sounds of an ultrasoundmachine as if the mother is at her second trimester anatomical scan and the dance reveals the incredible process of forming the human body. The mantra is a Vedic mantra on the creation of the universe, connecting the new life to the ancient life that forms their environment.
Special Thanks to Dan and Cathy Manjunath from the PSCCC at Albany Medical Center, to Cassandra Padilla who edited and videotaped the dance, and to the Union Payal dancers (Shreya Srivastava, Drishti Patel, Kritika Amanjee, Virali Shah, Ruchi Raval, and Metri Kumar) for making this dance come together. See if you can see the various stages of embryological development in the choreography!