August 14, 2018 9:45 AM
by Ryan Lutz
We recently had a conversation with the Artist-in-Residence Aparna Sindhoor, who is leading a series of fun, accessible movement and creativity workshops at the Camera Obscura.
Her residency project is creating a new evening-length dance work with her collaborators S.M. Raju and Anil Natyaveda on the theme of “Love.” In addition she offers weekly workshops in classical Indian dance, Bollywood dance moves, Indian martial arts, and a special class she calls “Song, Dance and Story,” in which participants can unleash their creativity using their daily lives as inspiration.
Aparna Sindhoor will be working onsite alongside fellow resident Lisa Diane Wedgeworth from August 18th to November 17th. The presentation of their new works will be on Saturday, November 17 at 3 p.m. RSVP here. Click here to learn more about our other new Studio Resident, Lisa Diane Wedgeworth.
Question: Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist.
Aparna Sindhoor: My journey into the world of dance began even before I was born. My mother originally wanted to be a professional dancer and she tried her best to learn with the teachers she could find. But her family felt it was inappropriate for girls to become professional dancers. Also, my father wanted to be a musician and his family didn’t support his dream either. Even with that my parents managed to keep dancing and singing as a part of their lives. So when I told them I wanted to be a dancer at a young age they were both very supportive.
I started my first dance training with my mother, then I began studying with one of the best Bharata Natyam teachers in the country, Dr. K. Venkatalakshamma. When I went to study with her at 8 or 10 years old she was almost in her 80s. The first time I saw her at an event I felt like I knew her because my mother had told me so many great things about her. When I met her she held my face in her hands and said, "You are learning to dance. That is good. If you want I can teach you." The very next morning we were at her doorstep. Every day I went to class and our sessions would be filled with, dances, songs and stories about her Guru, Jatti Tayamma. I trained with her for fifteen years, and was trained in music and theater from other gurus. Mysore (my hometown) was a great place to grow up, small enough to get around in, but also a big cultural hub. I then went on to complete my PhD at Boston University, and I have to say that I had the best professors there and that made my experience exciting. It has allowed me to work with inspiring artists such as Franco Dragon from Cirque du soleil, Oscar winner Anthony Dodd Mantel (Slumdog Millionaire), choreographer Anil Natyaveda, and others whom were a big part of my creative journey.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money, but I never felt sad about that because of my art. I learned to love art with no expectations. My love for art is unconditional. I believe that is the only way to be an artist because the life of artists are full of hardships and disappointments and no money! But a love for art is what makes it worth it.
Q: How would you describe your practice?
AS: I would say my practice is a continuous process. I am always learning, and it happens every day. I believe that when I think I am a dancer or performer or an artist, I am that all the time. So I am dance. For me, being in my art is very peaceful and home like.
Q: How did you come to focusing on your current project?
AS: As an immigrant woman of color in the United States my journey is multi-layered and difficult in many ways. I am always asked to "explain" what my art means, and I have to prove that my art is as contemporary as any other contemporary artist. My accent, the color of my skin, my gender are all seen as "problems." While there is a lot of talk about inclusion and diversity in reality it is a struggle. Jobs for dancers of color are hard to come by, most universities want ballet and modern, and their idea of contemporary dance does not include me. So I am always working at the margins of the art world, and I am getting good at it! (smiles) When I think about what is causing all these disparities (not just in my life, but in society in general) I feel strongly that there is a lack of love and compassion. This lack of love leads to lack of understanding and acceptance of the "other." So for the current time, LOVE is the most radical idea and I would like to express that through my medium: dance-theater-music-performance. I am thankful to the Camera Obscura Artist Residency and to the City of Santa Monica for making it possible for me to do this work.
Q: What are your movement workshops for this residency?
AS: We will be teaching classes in Indian classical dance, Bollywood and also the Indian martial art Kalari Ppayattu. All these forms are beautiful and will be a wonderful way to understand the body and mind. Kalari is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It is called the "mother of all martial arts" and it is a rare form that is not taught in the United States. We are very happy to be bringing that to the community. Anil Natyaveda who is the co-director of our company, Navarasa Dance Theater, is a world-renowned master. We use Kalari and yoga for our core training and physical awareness. Bharata Natyam is a classical dance that connects emotions and physicality in a beautiful way. I will also be teaching a class called: "Dance Story and Song" that brings several traditions together to be explored and experienced by people in the contemporary world
Q: A lot of your workshops seems to have a focus on creativity?
AS: (laughs) That’s because the world needs it. We all need it. Without creative energy and expression, we would be lost. I wish there was more focus on creativity in our education system, and in our society in general. Imagine a world without are and creativity. How could we survive?
Q: What can people expect when they attend your workshops?
AS: I just want them to feel the joy of movement, music and breath. I want them to fall in love with dance and art. I want them to fall in love!
A full list of Sindhoor’s classes is available here.
Dr. Aparna Sindhoor started her dance training at the age of five with her mother Dr. Srivalli. She has trained in Bharata Natyam for over twenty years, including fifteen with the legendary teacher Dr. K. Venkatalakshamma (a Mysore palace dancer). Aparna is one of the main proponents of the Mysore dance tradition in the world. She holds a BA in performing arts with a Gold Medal from the Mysore University and a PhD in Dance, Cultural and Women’s Studies from Boston University. She was awarded the NPN creation award, a Boston Dance Alliance Rehearsal and Retreat award, was a NEFA RDDI Artist, and was nominated for Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Choreography. Critics have hailed her as a powerful voice for creating contemporary works of extraordinary artistry and works that challenge the boundaries of traditional Indian dance, yet also strengthen that tradition.
About the Camera Obscura Art Lab
The Camera Obscura Art Lab at 1450 Ocean in Palisades Park is a hive of activity, where adults of all ages can roll up their sleeves and dive into hands-on crafts, art, and cultural programs. Artist Residency programs invite local artists into the Camera to practice their craft and share their work with the public. Click here to learn more.