Sudha Thakkar-Khandwani

Sudha Thakkar-Khandwani - it's unlikely that she will rest in peace. She'll be explaining to Prince and Bowie that Indian dance rocks. She'll be convincing Shiva and Parvati to have another dance-off. She'll be just as busy supporting and nurturing dance, dancers, art and artists in the hereafter as she was in the here. Thank you, thank you for all you did Sudha-ben; you changed the face of dance in Canada.

Long before diversity, culturally-diverse forms and trans-cultural became buzz words for programmers and funders, Sudha was presenting, promoting and waving the flag for a broader spectrum of dance in Canada.

Through her festivals she promoted international and national artists, and she presented artists working in classical and contemporary idioms. She was not content to do this in isolation or in a cultural ghetto. She rabidly pursued artists, presenters, journalists and scholars from worlds including those of Euro-American contemporary dance, the African, Korean, and Chinese diasporas, and theatre, music and visual artists to insist that they expose themselves to the work she was presenting. She launched the careers of many of Canada’s second and third generation dance artists and supported and nurtured their work through commissions and mentorship projects that she initiated. The international artists she brought to Canada from India, Japan, France, the UK, and the United States deeply inspired the artistic vision of many artists working in Canada.

Sudha personified the word indefatigable. Her work made an impact upon Canadian society through her passion and commitment to presenting dance that was a meaningful reflection of the population.

I am frustrated by my inability to truly articulate the depth of this woman’s contribution to the dance scene in Canada. Perhaps because it is so hard to separate what she did for the big picture from what she did for me. She always supported my dancing and my artistry. In 1994 she presented me as an emerging artist in her Navodaya festival; she always found a way to bring me and my work into the Kalanidhi sphere; and she argued with me when she thought I was being a young upstart and losing sight of what matters in the arts – sharing.

I hope that you can extrapolate from my hopelessly inadequate words (and google searching her biography!) how important this woman was and what a loss it is for us all that she is gone. Nova Dance exists in part because this woman believed in the art. Sudha, we mourn you, we salute you and we promise to keep fanning the flames of the fire you started.


Arts Day on the Hill

On Tuesday October 25, Nova joined arts colleagues from across the country for Arts Day on the Hill in Ottawa. Delegates met with MPs of all stripes to thank the Federal Government for recent increases in arts funding, and to continue to lobby for long term commitments for programs that support Canadian artists. Nova was charged with introducing the Honourable Minister for Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly.

nova speech

"Senators, Ministers, Members of Parliament, my arts colleagues from across the country – I am here on behalf of Canadian artists to say thank you. Thank you for the investments of budget 2016 - and through these investments recognizing that a healthy and vibrant arts sector means a healthy and vibrant Canada. Thank you especially for doubling the investment in the Canada Council for the Arts - I know the CAC has been lobbying for this for a long time - so gratifying to see that goal becoming a reality.

Investment in Canadian artists has many, many returns for us all. As artists our job is to both hold a mirror up to our world - and to provide a respite from it; to dream the future and to hold our histories and our past. Now, more than ever in the cultural realm, Canada is poised to transform its understanding of its own identity and what the artistic output of a nation can be. Reconciliation and support for Indigenous artists are the guts of the transformation, because a true commitment to reconciliation and de-colonization is a commitment to sharing – sharing resources and sharing power on all levels as we work to establish new systems of creation and dissemination.

Prime Minister Trudeau has said that: “Canada has succeeded – culturally, politically, economically – because of our diversity” With a progressive, moral and ethical cultural policy that embraces this principle - Canada’s multi-faceted identity can shine with dazzling brilliance. A strong cultural policy must put the art at the heart, and support it with the connective tissue of investment in cultural spaces and audiences – it must feed the evolution of larger spheres of inclusion and open our eyes to multiple expressions of our current moment. Budget 2016’s Cultural Spaces and Showcasing Canada programs are also integral to establishing distribution channels for a collective Canadian culture. Cultural spaces must be able to program, accommodate, invite and reflect all Canadians/ and we need to have access to international markets, sending Canadian art into the world that is a meaningful representation of who we are – indigenous art, settler art, contemporary and classical art – are all a part of who we are as Canadians today.

We need a cultural policy with strong philosophical under-pinnings, we need our art and our artistic institutions to function as a deep ecosystem – capable of listening, adapting and responding to its inhabitants. We need - a Minister of Canadian Heritage who is an impassioned, energetic and unabashed believer in the power of art. I’m pleased to introduce Minister Joly who over the past year has repeatedly demonstrated her desire to listen to and work with the arts sector. I love that the person with the digital file, keeps talking about “hacking the system”, as a choreographer I’m very impressed with how physically engaged she is when speaking about Canada 150 celebrations and the heritage portfolio - and I’m hearing great things about her resourcefulness and ability to make change. Minister Joly, before I give you the floor, I’d like to quote your Ministerial mandate letter – “Canada’s stories, shaped by our immense diversity deserve to be celebrated and shared with the world” - you’ve got the mandate, you’ve got the power, you’ve got the artists cheering you on – let’s make it happen. Ladies and gentlemen – Minister Mélanie Joly." - Nova Bhattacharya

Photo of Nova Bhattacharya by Kevin Ormsby.

It was good while it lasted...

Thud – the sound of Nova falling off the blog wagon!

It is hard to be pithy and witty when there is so much going on in the world, and in life, and in the lives of my friends.  And yet, there is also so much love and care in the world as well.  This is a huge part of what obsesses me, compelling me to make art.  The work I create is meant to offer a space for the audience to reflect, consider, hope and dream.  There is truth in the body.  Dance as poetry, a means to express turmoil and peace, joy and calm, life and death. 

Nova Dance has been busy, here’s a pic of me, Atri and Neena “Team BN” at an “all styles exchange” hosted by the Toronto Urban Dance Culture Festival & Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists.  Neena made it all the way to the top four in the footwork jam!

The Perfect Word for Dad

When I was seven, this man started driving me to dance classes.  Classes, rehearsals, performances - over the years he did a lot of driving. If you have ever been to see my work, you’ve probably seen him (and my mom!).  A closet poet, my dad leapt at the chance to help me translate text for Peggy Baker’s 2014 Nuit Blanche installation - The Perfect Word.  My word was heart - hridoy in Bengali.  My Bengali is pretty good, but it was fun to bribe my dad with brunch to get him to check my ucharon (pronunciation).  Dhonobad Baba!  Thanks Dad! Catch The Perfect Word as part of the in/Future festival on the west island of the abandoned Ontario Place site, Sept 15 -18. Info and tickets at


This happened.

Broken Lines, my first work on dancers trained in bharatanatyam.  I’ve been imagining working with bharatanatyam dancers since 2011, and it was incredibly gratifying to finally do it!  Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy come from two different training lineages, and putting them in the same room was electrifying.  It was a down and dirty three-week process that pushed them to the limits of their endurance while giving them the opportunity to dig deep into their own font of physical knowledge.  On one level the work in itself is simple, a tightly structured improv with set landmarks to hit - without benefit of a musical score.  On another level, the work is a rigorous reformation of classical technique.  Two strong women, embodying a range of female relationships, playing with, and repossessing their dance vocabulary to make bold new statements.  This happened.  Something new has begun.