Did You Know? Highlighting the Activities of Artists/Organizations in Our Region

By In Dance

January 1, 2014, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Stanford alumnae Sandhiya Kalyanasundaram and Usha Srinivasan founded Sangam Arts—Sangam meaning “Confluence” in Sanskrit—in May 2013 to help create and nurture strong intercultural connections between the Indian diaspora and the many divergent cultures in the U.S. through the innovative use of visual and performing arts.

Two Bharatanatyam dancers in red.
Sangam Arts
Photo by Suri Narayanan

How would you describe your activities and programs?
We focus on innovative collaborations between dancers, musicians, writers and choreographers from diverse dance traditions ranging from Kathak and Bharatanatyam to Flamenco, Jazz and Folklórico. To facilitate these collaborations we create workshops and lecture demonstrations to help choreographers from diverse backgrounds expand artistic horizons as well as showcase artists in multi-dimensional, dynamic, avant-garde productions.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
Crossing our own culture’s rich heritage of arts and dance, we have had amazing conversations with Flamenco, Folklórico, Persian, Indonesian dancers about artistic experience; creating identity through art. It has given us an opportunity to learn about their cultures and share universally meaningful experiences about how we can use dance as a medium to talk about issues of love, friendship and race.

Is there anything unusual or unique about the work you do?
We are the only organization that commissions artists to create dance works collaboratively with a different culture and style beyond their own and offer a unique platform to present such creative productions. We believe that cutting-edge dance and creativity are at this junction.

What programs or activities do you have coming up?
In February, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, a Balinese dance company, will be leading a workshop and sharing their culture and dance forms. The program will be open to the public, more information online.

If no one knew anything about your company, what would you want them to know?
Sangam Arts is deeply dedicated to connecting cultures through visual and performing arts. Reach out to us if you are an ethnic performing or visual artist looking to do a lec/dem about your dance style or collaborating with a different classical dance style.’

Do you have a favorite performance or memorable momentwith the organization?
Yudh- 3 Perspectives; One Truth is a provocative and engaging solo Bharatanatyam dance theatre exploring the nature of hardship by examining one central incident through three perspectives: that of the Divine, the Infernal and humanity. Yudh was premiered in the Bay Area at the launch event of Sangam Arts. Our featured Persian dancer at the launch event loved watching Yudh. She was intrigued by how well an ancient classical dance form could adapt to a contemporary theme. She wanted to explore more about Kathak, another Indian classical dance style that has common historical connections with Persian dance. An African American man in the audience said he was moved to tears when the dancer was playing the role of “God creating human.” These memorable moments validated the potential of our mission.

What’s a future goal or dream that you have for your organization?
Sangam Arts is primarily a presenting organization. We celebrate each culture and provide the framework for choreographers from different cultural dance backgrounds to push the boundaries of their art form and share it with the community. Our goal is to create meaningful collaborations between cultures, enabling in-depth appreciation for all dance forms.

Do you have a favorite dance move?
We have many favorite dance moves! From the perfect pointe of Ballet to the irresistible charms of Odissi; the fabulous rhythms of Flamenco to the subtle glances of Balinese dancers and the magnificent theatricals of Kathakali, we love them all!

A favorite song to dance to?
Dancing Bharatanatyam to Tchaikovsky’s “Firebird.”

Check out Sangam Arts on Facebook.

This article appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of In Dance.

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.