Aparna Sindhoor (Navarasa Dance Theater) Brandeis Residency Feedback
In an Anthropology of the Body class, Aparna and Navarasa Dance Theater was a gift and joy. In a class where we explore the multiple meanings of the body and how culture shapes both bodies and how we experience them, Aparna's discussion and demonstrations on culture and dance, on learning dance, on dance styles, and how dance is a way to think with and through the body was priceless. Students loved the class and particularly enjoyed it when they were asked to try simple dance movements themselves. The physical experience brought home and deepened the intellectual experience of the class.
Aparna and Anil taught a participatory workshop for the MFA actors in classical Bharatanatyam dance/theater and martial arts. It was an extraordinary 2 hours for actors and observers alike. Their approach to the work was dynamic and focused. They worked with an artistry, depth and delight that galvanized the actors to engage imaginatively, physically, emotionally and creatively. The actors have requested that the MFA program bring Navarasa back to develop a theatre performance project with them –a genuine testimony to how exciting and powerful the experience was for them. And I'm hoping to make it happen.
Aparna easily saw the connections between my class agenda (Sociology - War and Possibilities of Peace) and Navarasa’s Dance Theater piece Encounter. She presented relevant pieces of her work and engaged in lively discussion with members of my class. Her work, including the musical accompaniment, is breathtaking.
I had the privilege to be able to host Aparna Sindhoor in my course 'Women and Gender in Culture and Society' this fall. The course is the introductory lecture for the Women's and Gender Studies program. Students learn about feminist theory, issues of gender and sexuality, and are introduced to seminal texts in the history of feminist activism. The course focuses on 'Ways of Seeing, Ways of Being, Ways of Moving...' etc. Aparna's performance was a perfect contribution to our discussion. She had requested the syllabus ahead of time and chosen to work on a piece of 12th century Indian dance that reflected a kind of feminist intervention in gender practice at the time. Not only was she able to capture the students' attention with her fascinating story-telling. She then transformed herself into a story-telling body and demonstrated how a dancer in the traditional Indian form would use her body, facial expressions and hand movements to give 'voice' to women's experience. Aparna's performance had a profound effect on the students, who watched her in complete silence, following the precision of her movements with the help of analytical tools that she had given them at the start. It was a pleasure to watch her dance, but it was even more moving to see how quickly she was able to build rapport with the students and draw them into her world. Aparna is a real bridge-builder. She clearly understands that young Americans are initially somewhat taken aback by a display of culture that is so 'foreign' to them as 12th century Indian dance. But instead of letting the students 'deal with' this on their own, she provided meaningful 'translations' that helped them quickly catch on to the subtleties of her 'vocabulary'. I was also impressed with Aparna's courage. She is clearly spearheading an avantgarde movement in Indian dance that will have transformative power for the next generation. It was a delight to watch her interact with the students, and I hope she will be able to reach a broad audience for her important work.
Thank you so much for bringing Navarasa to Brandeis! The students in my course (SAS 150: Indian Film) are engaged this semester with the cinematic craft, but also with how Indian Cinema uses music and dance as narrative strategies. And so, it was especially illuminating for them to see Aparna Sindhoor's presentation to our class. My students, and I, appreciated how Aparna was able to bridge the gap between the artist and the scholar in an engaging and articulate way. Watching her, both in practice and theory, was a special treat. The students brought many of their insights to class later in the week and were very excited to have seen Indian dance, drama, and music in action. Please convey my regards to Aparna and her fellow dancers--we look forward to many more collaborations.
Helaine and Alvin Allen Assistant Professor of Literature
Co-Chair, South Asian Studies Program
German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature
Women and Gender Studies Program
Waltham, MA 02454, USA