Svaha Story - Rachana Joshi

"It was extremely empowering and invigorating as an aspiring dance artist with an Indian Classical foundation to explore familiar movements in bharatanatyam through a new lens. When your dance vocabulary has been the same for 12 years, its refreshing and challenging to break out of the "autopilot" and cultivate an altered approach to my traditional practice... I enjoyed the patterns of precise limb configurations we were given, which focused on the functionality of the body. I was able to challenge my body to breakdown and reconfigure how my body moves through these deceptively simple positions. I also was given a new perspective on approaching practices of the namaskaaram and the allaripu to reorganize my body, center my energy, and improvise to find new possibilities and pathways in my movements. I am really thankful for the opportunity to embrace my traditional practice and have such a fun, engaging time with the awesome like minded individuals around me."

- Rachana Joshi, on the creation process of Svāhā

Svaha Story - Ashima Suri

"As a local dance artist from an Indian classical background, getting a sense of belonging in the Toronto dance scene wasn't always easy to say the least. Coming into Nova Dance I felt my sense of purpose. And it really began from the moment we began our daily sessions. 

 Each session began with namaskaaram. Though familiar, it also changed and shifted each day. It still honoured the dance, the artist, the earth and each other but it almost always, adapted to present day. I found my feet ground into the earth much deeper during the namaskaaram. I felt my identity as an Indian woman become stronger with each small gesture that was made. I remember the emotions that would come up as we sat into a shape to breathe, reflect or let go. I surrendered into the experience and that really shaped the rest of the days practice. 

This experience was like returning home to my roots. The process reminded me of the magic that has existed within us all along. That our movements, though different, can connect us to our own stories and history. There was a lot of sharing, learning and exploring this week and I'm forever grateful to Nova Dance for providing a safe space where dancers from South Asian backgrounds, could come together to learn from one another and create!" 

- Ashima Suri, on the creation process of Svāhā

A Durga for our Times

From October 15-19, 2018 Nova Dance is bringing Durga Puja to The Theatre Centre. I should say that we are bringing what I think of as ‘the essence’ of Durga Puja to The Theatre Centre. For me, more than a religious ceremony, attending Durga Puja in Toronto was about watching community come together. Swathed in resplendent saris, preparing (and later consuming) offerings to the warrior goddess, catching up with friends and an overwhelming sense of belonging. All these things are also the inspiration for my new work Svāhā. In the same space where we’ll have the Puja, my collaborators and I will dive into its creation.  The Puja is part of our research into the sense of heightened emotion that bring participants together and connect them to something beyond themselves.

Photo by Ed Hanley
Photo of Atin and Nova Bhattacharya by Ed Hanley

In seeking to bring the essence of the ceremony into the space it didn’t seem necessary to go the conventional route of shipping in a clay sculpture from India.  In fact, that option seemed not to fit this Puja at all.  This, after all, is a re-imagined ritual for the diaspora, a re-imagined ritual in a theatrical space.  I didn’t want our Durga to become a set piece.  I wanted our Durga to be connected to this city in a more meaningful way.

My mother suggested I ask an artist friend to draw a Durga and I immediately thought of Syrus Marcus Ware. Syrus’ art has always moved me, his charcoal portraits of people are so much more than mere likenesses, they somehow reach into the heart of the person he is drawing and delivers their essence. 

Syrus was engaged by the invitation, but had an important question: Might some people feel it was an act of appropriation? We talked. I talked about how I was raised, that my parents were Vedantic Hindus who believe there were many paths to God. That sometimes my father (the accidental priest) questioned his own faith. That my sister convinced my dad that absolute faith wasn’t necessary to conduct rituals of community.  That my father had performed interracial and same sex marriages using the rituals of Hindu faith. That Nova Dance values multiple perspectives and building bridges through art. 

Syrus said yes, and the Durga he researched and drew is special. She, like every other Durga that is being worshipped all over the world, is an artist’s interpretation. She, unlike any Durga I have seen, seems pensive - perhaps wanting to assure her children on earth that she is there for them, while facing the truth of the world today. 

A Durga for our times.

Photo by Ballu ThakurPhoto by Ballu Thakur. Durga by Syrus Marcus Ware.

More love for the DeepEnd Weekend!

Zab's Dancers

Thank you to Zab Maboungo for sending us these thoughts about her experience at The DeepEnd Weekend III. Her work espoire(hope) was a riveting example of what she refers to as “rhythm culture”, bringing individuals together through the discipline and rigour that is inherent to Indian and African dance forms. I sat in on her inspirational creative process and have been walking taller ever since!

“A spearheading initiative and a first-rate artistic encounter, thoughtful, carefully planned and hopeful, that has brought together artists and profesionnals, as well as the people, to hear and see them, in one of the most welcoming places in Toronto (The Theatre Centre), THIS was the DeepEnd Weekend that Nova Dance organized with their dedicated team. Congrats to all! We are grateful." Zab Maboungou, Compagnie Nyata Nyata


Photo of Zab Maboungou by Dahlia Katz

Top photo: Photo Dahlia Katz, performers Clayton Baston, Jaya Srivasta, Atri Nundy, Slavka Marcinicinova, Nikita Jariwala

A Love Letter to the Deep End Weekend

Sylvia at Deep End

Thanks to Deep End Weekend Speaker and Roaming Poet, Sylvia Hamilton, for sharing this work she penned as part of Season in a Day. 

Love Letter to Deep End Weekend’s Dancing Bodies

Our voices of doubt, our hopes for love.
What language do they dance in?

Lo Kay Toe/ Lo Kay Toe // Ka/ Ki / Ta / Taka/ Dahmei
12345678 / 12345678 // 1234567/ 1234567

So they begin the fairy godmother says.
Let there be dance. Let there be dance at dawn,
at noon, at dusk.

Let there be dance when you sleep, when you wake.
Let there be dance to activate your mind,
embody your body, stir your spirit, tender your soul.

Be one with the earth, the sea, the sky.

What work can these bodies do?
Firewords like osmosis, peak ears, permeate bodies
inhabiting ever-changing spaces.

Roll and twist, foot slap, foot stomp, foot sweep.
Hand flutter, hand clap and knee bend.
Heel toe/ heel toe/ heel toe.

Let there be dance to shake the trees,
surprise the ants, kiss the monarchs in flight,
their delicate wings alighting our eyes
to see, to see, to see, to see.

Touch your lips with a dance of love,
infuse your body with moments of peace.

We hear you, we see you, we love you.
we salute you, oh beautiful bodies.

Sylvia D. Hamilton