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

The Dance Current Review: Decoding Bharatnatyam

“Story-Being” Nova Bhattacharya’s Decoding Bharatanatyam

Written by Brannavy Jeyasundaram

Introducing Shanthini’s Selections!

At Nova Dance we love to find ways to use bharathanatyam as our baseline for telling unique stories, and exploring new ways to share this powerful art form. So, not only do we want you to come see our shows, we want you to know about the incredible range of Bharathanatyam and carnatic music shows happening in and around Toronto; we also want you to know about performances highlighting a myriad of dance and music disciplines that originated in India. These productions feature highly skilled artists from Canada and around the world, providing fascinating glimpses into the rich and diverse arts practices of the South Asian diaspora – and Shanthini Kangesan is coming on board to keep us in the loop.

Shanthini is of Sri Lankan, Tamil heritage and she has been living and dancing in Canada since 1986. Like me, Shanthini is a graduate of Toronto-based dance school Nrtyakala, Indian School of Dance founded by Dr. Menaka Thakkar. Her dance studies are rounded out with a BA in Dance from Annamalai University’s Canada Campus in dance history, culture, and theory. A true dance addict she is currently training under Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon of Kalakshetra to further hone her skills as a bharathanatyam soloist.

With Menaka Thakkar Dance Company she’s performed in many cities across Canada, the US, and India. As an independent artist she’s performed numerous times in the world renowned Cleveland Dance Festival – dancing in productions created by leading choreographers from India.

Shanthini believes that dance imparts a certain level of confidence, sensibility and truthfulness that grounds you as a dancer, as a human being.   “It allows one to be enlightened, and to enlighten others. It is a beneficial state of earned by those who follow their passion, and this state of mind can be shared with audiences across cultures.” She hopes to spread the beauty and benefits of this art-form in many communities across Canada, and Nova Dance is excited to partner with her by hosting “Shanthini’s Selections” – listings of the many fantastic shows that are happening – go on, venture off, try something new!

You can follow Shanthini’s Selection by liking us on Facebook, IG: novadance or on Twitter:NovaDanceCa. Sign up for our e-blast and you’ll get access to discount tickets and special offers for friends of Nova Dance!