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Abhinaya Dance Company’s award-winning founder, artistic director and choreographer Mythili Kumar gives the appearance of a traditional Indian woman, dressed in the garb of her homeland and speaking with a lilting accent. Yet she is also a modern woman with firm convictions in contemporary societal and artistic realms, which becomes apparent when she and Rasika Kumar, her daughter and fellow choreographer, speak of their work. When Mythili founded the company 38 years ago, it performed a lot of classical Hindu mythology-based dances. Rasika notes, “Very few dancers in India explore non-traditional themes. From a Western dance perspective it may not seem like a big deal, but what we’re doing is a pretty big deal. It’s certainly not mainstream and the mainstream work has always been confined to a very narrow set of topics or stories.”.
“In 1993 with we collaborated with the Margaret Wingrove Dance Company,” Mythili adds, “She wanted to use a poem by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, an award-winning Indian writer who lived here and was exploring women’s issues.”, “Then in 1995 it was the glitter ballet flats for toddlers 125th anniversary of Gandhi, The chairman of my board asked if I could do something on him, It was a challenge because I didn’t want him just dancing around the stage.” She says she was instead inspired to think about other world leaders who were influenced by the renowned political activist..
“That’s why I did short pieces on Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, each section about five minutes long,” she adds. Similarly, this weekend’s work will consist of half a dozen 10-minute performances tied to varying themes of King’s life and civil rights work and featuring the Bharatanatyam form of Indian dance. Another example of Abhinaya’s commitment to groundbreaking material is the company’s work with a domestic violence group in 2001, in which it translated stories of abuse survivors into dance.
Says Mythili, glitter ballet flats for toddlers “Last year I wanted to touch upon the Untouchables in India, I wanted to talk about them not being recognized as fellow human beings, still in so many places, King went to India and he was confronted with that, It was a revelation to him; he saw they were treated even worse than his people here in the United States, We wanted to delve deeper and started with Rosa Parks, who helped set off the Montgomery bus boycott with Martin Luther King in his first important political role.”..
Rasika had already choreographed a dance about Parks in 2013 as part of a solo concert titled “Courage,” and now it will be restaged as part of “Stories of Justice.”. “Rasika used carnatic music (the classical music of Southern India) played by a saxophonist, who also played a bit of jazz,” says Mythili. “For this piece, I also have a woman who has been the composer and vocalist for our last shows, then there are two percussionists, my other daughter as the cymbal player, and a violinist.”.
“You can’t do something like this without live music,” Rasika adds, “The creative process includes the music, not just the dance, When I started choreographing, I was putting dance to the music, But 80 percent of creating a piece from scratch is the collaboration with musicians and how it all comes together, As choreographers we are setting the structure for everything, then she (the composer) creates what goes on top of that structure.”, Thanks to a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Abhinaya will stage “Stories of Justice” in at the Asian Cultural Center in glitter ballet flats for toddlers Oakland in February and at the San Francisco International Arts Festival in May..
Coming of age in London in the 1960s and ‘70s, Graham Lustig was only vaguely acquainted with the unsettling, defiantly personal art of Frida Kahlo. Part of his education upon moving to the United States was getting to know the iconic imagery created by the Mexican painter, whose paintings were still little known when she died in 1954 at the age of 47. Now smitten with her work, he’s drawing inspiration from her canvases for a new dance that premieres as part of Oakland Ballet’s annual Day of the Dead production, “Luna Mexicana,” which plays twice at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre Nov. 2-3, and reprises Sunday, Nov. 4 at Fresno’s William Saroyan Theater.
Created by Lustig in collaboration with Martín Romero, artistic director of Ballet Folklórico México Danza, “Viva la Vida!” celebrates Kahlo’s life and singular vision, “As a young man, I knew her face and image from buttons and T-shirts and cards,” Lustig said, “But only in the last 20 years did I discover what an amazing individual she was glitter ballet flats for toddlers and the very forthright way she lived, She seemed to be a whole century in front of everyone else, Her introspection is so intriguing.”, “Viva la Vida!” transforms Kahlo’s lacerating self-examination into kinetic interaction, while also drawing on her love of animals and of the bright, floral garb of Guadalajara, Interviewed while still in the midst of creating the ballet, Lustig was in the trial and error phase of dancemaking, seeking to translate “ideas stuck up in my head” into movement..