Winter 2023 In Dance

dancing rivers

LIKE A RIVER First and foremost, I identify as a mother. Second and foremost, I identify as a dancer. I always have, even before I could name it. I remember standing in my front yard as a small child in Miami, Florida, throwing my head back and twirling, staring at the clouds spinning until they swirled into a frothy milkshake and collaps- ing in the warm tickly grass completely spent and satisfied with being. Those moments of being fully alive were almost only found in dance. And also in nature. Growing up in Miami I spent many weekends in the Everglades. Known as the “river of grass,” it

and cross the river.” I come from an unbroken line of guru shishya param- para tradition. Like a river, the knowl- edge flows from one generation to the next. IN DECEMBER 2015 , I gave his two lit- tle girls, Shivaranjani and Saadhvi, a book about a famous tree hug- ger, Amrita Devi Bishnoi. The book

described the 1730 (Khejarli) massacre of 363 Bishnoi vil- lagers who hugged the trees to keep them from being felled by the Maharaja’s men. It didn’t work. They were chopped down with the trees. My Guruji loved the story and said it was going to be our next school show and I was going to choreograph it. That didn’t happen because he passed away suddenly a few weeks later. But the seed was planted. I had already been choreo- graphing small bits and pieces for Chitresh Das Dance Com-

teems with life. That connec- tion to nature informs how I live, how I move, how I mother, and how I create dances to a great extent. How I make dances is also influenced by my connection to Kathak. I had been a profes- sional dancer on the East Coast. And when I moved to San Fran- cisco, I went back to college to get a teaching credential. I needed PE credits, so I wanted to enroll in Rosa Montoya’s flamenco class. It was full, so I enrolled in Kathak but I had no idea it was Classical Indian

pany, works such as Pancha Jati (2002 and 2014), whole scenes in Sita Haran (2009) and Shabd (2010), Yatra (2015), and Shiva (2016) to name a few. I kept thinking about that story. Three years later, in 2018, 150 danc- ers performed Aranya Katha (story of the trees) on the stage in the Chitresh Das Institute’s (CDI) annual school show. (CDI holds annual school shows which include performers from begin- ning to advanced level students, ages 6–60. Generally, CDI produces two

Dance. It blew my mind. The instructor blew my mind. I had danced my whole life, but it wasn’t until I met my Guruji, Pandit Chitresh Das, in 1992 that I serendipitously found my calling. My Guruji was Bengali (although he referred to himself as a Bengali-Rajput-Californian) and like most Bengalis, he worshiped Maa (mother). He was a brilliant and one-of-a-kind artist and guru (a profound mentor). Nowadays, the word guru often has a negative connotation, or at best is misunderstood. I use this word in the tradi- tional sense, in relation to the guru shishya parampara , which is the traditional way of transmitting the art form of Kathak dance. For 20 years I danced as a soloist and a principal dancer in his creative works. One thing my Guruji always talked about: “I lay the stepping stones and one day I will bow down and you will step onto my back




in dance WINTER 2023 56

WINTER 2023 in dance 57

In Dance | May 2014 |

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