Choreography Fellow 2019-2020: Trishala Parthasarathi Shah


Credit: Kapil Patil

Trishala Parthasarathi Shah has been learning Bharatanatyam from her esteemed Guru Kalaimamani Ramya Ramnarayan since 2001, and completed her arangetram in Chennai with her sister in 2008. She is a recipient of the 2009 Folk Arts Apprenticeship from the NJ State Council on the Arts, and has performed with her guru at many dance festivals over the years, including the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival, the St. Louis Indian Dance Festival, and the NYC Fringe Festival. Trishala has a strong passion in science and medicine and received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Her research interests focused on how thinking about the present (through meditation) and specifics aspects about the future (through visualization) affects how people make decisions.

Credit: Kapil Patil

She recently moved to Orange County, California where she performs at local arts events, and her passion lies with spreading awareness of this beautiful art form to the community.

How do Traditional Arts and Medicine combine?

I have many close personal ties to medicine as I am now married to an endocrinologist, and supported several friends on their journey from applying to medical school to fellowship. As a dancer, I have tried to pass on my passion for dance and have evidenced how arts can influence medicine. As a neuroscientist I am aware of how art can immensely benefit the brain and body. Art enhances brain functions and impacts the nervous system in a way that helps one relax/reduce stress, improve empathy, and promote creativity. Being well versed in the arts can help one become a better physician through improving bedside manner, bettering observational skills, deepening understanding of patients, and thinking outside the box for diagnosis. Being trained in medicine can also help one become a better artist, since it is important to see multiple perspectives and think critically about how to best communicate the artform to others. Therefore, art and medicine go hand in hand, and being knowledgeable in both can help one become a better physician and artist.

–Trishala Parthasarathi Shah

Choreography Project: 

On Kali, Cancer and Chemotherapy

I came across a phenomenal piece on cancer choreographed by Sridevi Nrithyalaya, and I would love to do another interpretation of it. It involves the story of Raktabheeja. Raktabheeja was a demon given a boon that every drop of blood spilled on the floor would multiply into a new Raktabheeja, which was especially effective when he was at war with the golden-complexioned Devi. Devi then invoked Kali to help her defeat Raktabheeja. Kali used her tongue to catch every drop of blood and slay the demon. Studies have shown that curcumin (an active substance in turmeric) and piperine (a substance in black pepper) can be effective in treating cancer. This story has parallels to cancer as Raktabheeja represents the uncontrollable tumor growth, while the golden-complexioned Devi and the dark-complexioned Kali represent two methods of extinguishing cancer.

Check out her final report here.

Final choreography coming soon!