Choreographer: Ramya Harishankar
Company: Arpana Dance Company
Artist Statement/Philosophy/Mission Statement:
Arts and culture are a great way to bring diverse peoples together and in many instances find unity in that diversity.
Short Artist/Company Bio:
Ramya Harishankar combines elegance and grace in movement with an innate ability to express all shades of emotion with sensitivity and intuition. Her solo career has taken her all over the world – performing extensively in India, Asia, Europe, Australia, Canada and the US. In 1982, Harishankar established Arpana which has grown to become a premier school of Bharata Natyam in California. In 2007, the 25th anniversary of Arpana was recognized with several citations/awards from the State Senate, LA County, cities and organizations in S. California, as well as the Helene Modjeska Cultural Legacy award from Arts OC, the countywide arts agency. Harishankar and her Company have received several grants from the California Arts Council, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the Fund for Folk Culture and the National Endowments for the Arts. An artist on the roster of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, she has been sharing her art with school children all over S. California.
Describe some of your achievements over the course of the last five years:
The 25th anniversary of the Arpana school was recognized with several citations/awards from the State Senate, LA County, cities and organizations in S. California, as well as the Helene Modjeska Cultural Legacy award from Arts OC, the countywide arts agency. My Company, Arpana and I toured India along with LA based Kinnara Taiko performing the collaborative work as well as our own. The Company and individual dancers have received grants from Durfee Foundation, LA Count Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Traditional Music Society and Alliance for California Traditional Arts. We have been touring 2 of our productions - Ganga…life as a river and Pancha Bhootam nationally. As a protégé of the legendary abhinaya (interpretive dance) guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, I have also been presenting master classes and workshops in colleges and universities and internationally in France and Taiwan. I have served on the panel at World Arts West for the Ethnic Dance Festival.
What do you hope to gain from the experience of participating in this festival?
I love sharing my work/style of dance with not just the audiences but other participants as well and participating in the celebration of arts and cultures.
Have you participated in other festivals or showcases?
If so – what were elements you enjoyed and what areas do you think could have been improved on?
I enjoy the interaction with other artistes, sharing ideas, philosophies and dance styles.
What Ramya will be bringing to the Festival.
Ramya will be offering her Bharata Natyam, the most renown of Indian dance forms is a combination of nrtta – pure dance to rhythm and melody and abhinaya – interpretive dance, giving equal importance to both. In the 20th century as a part of restructuring of the form to gain social acceptance, Abhinaya was relegated to the back burner and much of the repertoire performed by the traditional dancers/devadasis was removed from performance or just re/mis interpreted. Thanks to my legendary guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, the Bharata Natyam world has awakened to this special and unique repertoire of dance compositions today. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be one of her protégés. Abhinaya is the art of communicating thru body language, limbs, gait, stance and the face, the content and imagery of word - the poem. The verbal imagery forms the foundation and the movements are the superstructure that the dancer creates. This superstructure of interpretations are created using variations, a single mood with multiple shades thereby making the style of abhinaya very multilayered and nuanced. In a session which could be called ‘acting for dancers’ we could explore how this language which I consider universal and timeless could be used to express oneself. It would be particularly relevant to modern dancers.