Arpana Dance Company, founded in 1985 by Artistic Director Ramya Harishankar, announced last March the “Dance Conversations – Indian Dance in Southern California, a Retrospective”, an interview web series that celebrates “the Past & Envisioning the Future of Indian Dance in the United States.” Harishankar relocated from India to Irvine, California in 1982 and this interview series is a look back all the colleagues, mentors, students, peers, and scholars who have been part of her artist life and as a way to the growth of Indian dance in the United States and throughout the world. You can read my June 4, 2021 interview with Ramya Harishankar HERE.

Inspired during the lockdown caused by the Covid pandemic, Harishankar went about adapting the interview series as a method of archiving the work she, her students and her colleagues have accomplished over the past 40 years since her arrival in the U.S.  Harishankar stated that Arpana Dance has managed to bring together guests that “truly represents the impact Arpana’s nearly 4 decades of work, and how it will continue to shape the Indian Dance’s space in American Arts scene”. The 10-episode series was recorded over the course of the pandemic and the first two episodes are now available for viewing on YouTube with the remainder to be released soon.

Ramya Harishankar in "Awe & Wonder" - Screenshot by LADC

Ramya Harishankar in “Awe & Wonder” – Screenshot by LADC

Here is the list of episodes

Episode 1: Honoring THE Guru with the bahens; Nirupama Vaidyanathan, Jothi Raghavan, & Priyadarsini Govind | USA & India

In a moving tribute to her Guru, Harishankar and three of her colleagues discuss Swamimalai Rajaratnam; their gurus’ legacy as they reflect on how they have carried his teachings of critical thinking, trust, and respect to their own performances and their students among the Diaspora, and how teaching and dance approach has evolved with each new generation.

Watch Episode 1 HERE.

Episode 2: Indian Dance: a Global Perspective – Dominique Delorme | France

Spotlighting the inspiring story of Bharata Natyam artiste and Arpana-collaborator Dominique Delorme, Harishankar and he discuss the importance of the teacher-student relationship, Indian dance’s evolution, its ability to transcend cultures and change lives.

Watch Episode 2 HERE.

Episode 3: From Emperors’ Courts to Temple Courtyards: World Music Legacies – Dr. Robert Garfias | USA

Harishankar interviews Dr. Robert Garfias, celebrated ethnomusicologist, former member of the National Council on the Arts, and recipient of Japan’s “Order of the Rising Sun” award, about the importance of the arts and tradition to cultural identity, history, understanding and meeting each art on its own unique terms and  his close association with the legendary Balasaraswati and her family.

Episode 4: Sangam: one beat, many rhythms – Kinnara Taiko | USA

Celebrating a collaborative relationship that has lasted over 20 years, Harishankar meets with Rev. Masao Kodani, Johnny Mori, and Kate Meigneux of the Japanese-drum band, Kinnara Taiko, to discuss the history of Taiko, their own collaboration, the rhythmic structure between classical Indian dance music and Taiko, and the challenges of touring internationally.

Episode 5: Musings on a collaboration – woMAN divine – G. Narendra | India

An Arpana collaborator, Harishankar talks with G. Narendra, a much-admired dancer and choreographer who serves as the Director of Avigna Dance Ensemble, about his association and work with Arpana as well as the experiences and challenges of teaching students in the U.S.

Episode 6: Reel to Real: before & beyond bollywood – Radhika Shurajit | India

Famed creator of ‘Thaka Dhimi Tha’ show, television director, and choreographer, Radhika joins Harishankar as they discuss the role Indian Dance plays in different mediums and genres, how to translate dance on the screen to the stage for both viewers and dancers, and their collaboration, Celluloid Classics.

Episode 7: The Next-Genners – Anusha Kedhar, Ahila Gulasekaram, & Visalini Sundaram | USA

In a celebration how far, Indian Dance has come in the U.S. over the past 40 years, Harishankar talks with three of her pupils about their experiences with Arpana, Indian Dance’s role in their lives, forging dance careers in the U.S., and all the different and important ways people can be involved in the arts.

Episode 8: Bharata Natyam, a PAN Indian Dance Form? – Ragini Chandrasekhar | India

A talented dancer, choreographer, and the daughter of a treasured colleague of Harishankar, Jamuna Krishnan, Ragini and she reflect on her legacy, translating Bharata Natyam to students from different backgrounds while keeping within tradition, and how policy towards the arts and performers has changed over the years

Episode 9: Coinciding Histories of Bharata Natyam & American Modern Dance with Dr. Priya Srinivasan | Australia

Following parallel paths, Harishankar and Dr. Priya Srinivasan, the co-artistic director of Sangam: Performing Arts Festival of South Asia and Diaspora and an acclaimed dancer and scholar, discuss the different experiences of Diaspora dancers in the U.S. and Australia, the nature of legacy, the complicated history of dance styles, and their ‘Sweating Saris’ collaboration.

Episode10: Reminiscing about THE Guru with the bahens; Malavika Sarukkai & Anuradha Jagannathan I India & Canada.

The trio spent memorable times with the legendary guru in her early years as a teacher of abhinaya. They recall those days as well as how her unique pedagogy informed and influenced their own growth as performers, teachers, and mentors.

To visit the Arpana Dance Company website, click HERE.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton from the Arpana Dance Company press release March 15, 2021.

Featured image: Arpana Dance Company – Photo courtesy of the company.