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Aparna Sindhoor , Dancer, Thinker

Chitra Parayath

A much anticipated event for the next fortnight is Aqua, Thaneer Water, a program choreographed by Aparna Sindhoor to be performed at the Tower Auditorium at the MA College of Art on March 21 and 22 and Sat. Mar. 23, 2002.

Aparna Sindhoor choreographer, dancer and actor is the founding director of Navarasa Natyalaya, a dance, theater and music school in Mysore, India. She teaches at the Dance Complex in Cambridge and the Navarasa Arts Academy in Somerville, MA. The artistic director of Navarasa Dance Theater, she has over 20 students training in Bharathanatyam under her. Their ages range from 5 to 40. We meet her at her residence/ Dance studio in Somerville one Saturday morning. Her expressive eyes flash and dance when she talks about her art form. Her fingers fly, as she explains or shows us a 'mudra', a myriad of feelings fleet across her face.

"I don't know if I am an activist, a social activist who goes on rallies or morchas" says Aparna, " I use my art form to convey my ideology, it's a language of my own." She adds "Women's issues are dear to me and I tend to create pieces reflecting that interest."

Aparna trained in Bharathanatyam for twenty years, her guru for 15 years was Padmabhushan Dr. K. Venkatalakshamma. Aparna holds a Vidwat (Masters) in dance, a Masters in English, and a Bachelors degree in Dance, Literature and Dramatics.

She has choreographed and performed many dance dramas and ballets including Draupadi (based on a short story by Mahasweta Devi), a piece very close to her heart. Another much talked about work is River Rites, where Aparna choreographed a unique new style of performance about the Narmada Valley Project. Blending classical and folk dance with yoga, ballet and narration, using various genres of music, like jazz and Indian classical her performance reflects a unique style. About the Narmada Valley issue, Aparna explains how the Dam and other large development projects can displace indigenous people causing suffering to millions. 'I try to highlight the role of tribal women in that struggle."

Designing novel and interesting ways to give expression to contemporary views, Aparna's work has an appeal that is universal. "My work is not geared to attract Indian audiences alone, or American…I want it to have a global reach. These are issues anyone can relate to. With this medium of narration and dance I seek to touch more people. "Exploring relevant themes such as violence against women, environmental degradation, and other human rights and social justice issues, she interacts with her audience, shaking them out of their apathy and making them care. She is a member of FOPA (Forum of Progressive Artists), a collective of artists and their allies who promote and participate in cultural activism.

"Art," she smiles, "I grew up with it, It was a part of my life then and still is." She now works with various artists in the Boston area. She works with Jazz musicians and tap dancers, performers proficient in other art forms creating her dance dramas. She has collaborated with artists from different backgrounds such as theater, music and dance. "March 22 is World Water Day" she explains when we ask about Aqua Thaneer, Water, " What better day to dedicate this story to activists everywhere, as this is a story about common people's struggle to get the most precious and essential of life's needs…Water." There are two stories in the dance one set in Madurai, India and another in Bolivia. This is co-directed by Raju Sivasankaran, a Boston based writer.

"I respect every art form for what it brings to my senses, I draw from their passion as they would from mine." Barbie Nrithyam, another item to be performed at the show reflects the prevalent cultural issue of the perception of women's bodies. A satirical piece that raises questions about the female body image. ‘When I was most beautiful" is a haunting anti-war piece inspired by the Japanese poet, Noriko Ibaraki's poem of the same name and is set to music by Pete Seger. This piece will be accompanied by live music and it delves into the depth of tragedy that war wreaks on women.

We wish Aparna and her team success with her new show.

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