Dance Activism

Message from the Web Content Editor

We are pleased to welcome to the homepage for the "Dance Acts and Activism" initiative. While this page is still a work in progress, we were eager to launch this space in time for World Dace Day, 29th April. On this page, you will find links to the articles published by the Seven Voices for this initiative. There is also an introduction to the page provided by Project Coordinator Michel Laverdiere and Curator Mamata Niyogi-Nakra. Due to our time constraints, we deeply regret that we haven't included inputs from three very important voices: Arshiya's Art-ivism, Premola's Corner and Sunil Kothari's Beat. We are working on rectifying this and will update the site as soon as possible. We warmly invite you to choose dance.

- Harsh Aurora

Dance Acts and Activism

Evolution of a Bharata Natya Dancer

"The evolution of a Bharata Natya Dancer" - An image created by project Coordinator Mr. Michel Laverdiere, who has inspired and created much of the artistic graphics found on the website.



- an introduction by project coordinator Michel Laverdiere (a.k.a Murari)

I was never the dancer-type person. Of course, I loved music and moving to music, but I can’t really say it was dance as an art. When I joined a spiritual movement in my late twenties, I learned that we had to become conscious of everything we do, and as such, talking was actually singing and walking was actually dancing, eating was feasting and so on… Everything was an art form in its absolute sense.

After more than thirty years of collaboration with Kala Bharati and Mamata, I can say I had gained a certain level of appreciation of the Indian classical dance, Bharata Natya, but it was still an artform which would always remain inaccessible. I was wrong, and here is the reason why. Three years ago, I undertook Tai Chi lessons in Montreal from a teacher belonging to a long tradition of masters going back centuries ago in China. I must add that Tai Chi, although being a martial art, isn’t meant to attack someone but to defend oneself. Moreover, to never get involved in a fight as such. It was created by rural families (Chang Sang Feng) who had no means to defend themselves when soldiers or bandits where invading their land. So, they studied nature and the animals around them to find a harmonious way of preparing themselves with an art which would keep them fit, conscious and aware in times of peace or war. There are 108 movements inspired by animal movements and characters linked with a 30-minute choreography: grasp the bird’s tail, carry the tiger to the mountain, white crane spreads its wings, repulse the monkey, parting the wide horse’s mane, wave the clouds with hands, etc. It may not be officially a “dance” form in itself, but in essence, it is. I may no longer be a child, but it always reminds me of Mamata’s incredible Shishu Sadhana which presents a child friendly repertoire of choreographies involving animals and games… May it be Tai Chi or Bharata Natya, ballet or ballet-jazz, one has to find his or her own dance form to move with the mind into activism.

Activism begins with the three letters A, C and T, act.  Act refers to consciousness and movement, thinking and doing. Thus, dancing is activism of the whole body and mind.

And this is what Mamata’s blog is all about: thoughts dancing in our mind, creating words dancing in a choreography of sentences to manifest oneself and share with the world.


- an introduction by curator Mamata Niyogi-Nakra


As I sat down to write  and add my own thoughts to Michel’s  comments  on the roll out for Kala Bharati’s  foray into creating a platform in cyberspace for  dance acts and activism, I gazed intently at his take  on the evolution of man to a Bharata Natya dancer wondering whether the  evolution of a dancer ever comes full circle . It dawned on me that some times growth is served better in a linear progression  as it allows an onwardpartener march to infinite possibilities ahead, limited only by our own imagination.

I cannot quite pin point what it is that has been urging me to revisit some of my dance choreographies that I had presented in the past with much joy and make them more relevant by  infusing  them with  a revisionary  dose of creativity to cry out : Arjuna… beware, Seasonscape ….alert, Kriya Marga ...... Detour Ahead, Padukaarchana … be damned, Aanchal…banned.

The constant reminders of climate change occurring everywhere with political upheaval questioning the status quo, Donald Trump’s first 100 days as President and all that it portends, terrorism and bullying reigning supreme over the innocent…it  could be any one or all of these, that is not what matters . What rings clear and loud are the words in  the poem Inheritance by John Agard :

If we, the children of the meek,

should inherit such an earth,

then we ask of the future one question:

Should we dance

or break into gnashing of teeth

at the news of our inheritance?

I recently  had the privilege  of sharing my musings in a speech to a group of dancers who performed  in Natyanjali Festival on the 19th March 2017, an event organised in Montreal by Deepa Nallapan , a Bharata Natya dancer and  Creative Head of Param Nrithyalaya , at which  a very large number of Indian Classical Dancers from seven local dance institutions participated.

A pertinent question that a dancer has to grapple with is why dance. There are veritable reasons for which we do  and because dance empowers us in so many different  ways  the responses, more often than not, reflect what we embrace as our personal calling in life.

I invite you to join me in choosing dance.


Linking of two Foundations

- a few words by the project partner, Dr. Arshiya Sethi

I am very grateful Kala Bharati has  thought of me for the Art and Activisim idea and contacted me to be part of the team. 

Given the fact that Artivism has been Kri Foundation’s creed for several years now, I am happy that we have discussed the idea of the partnership. It was because of our long standing commitment to social justice work, we offered to host the meeting reception for Carole Poiriere with the activists in Delhi. 

​​Although Kri Foundation has done all it could to carry forward the name and mission of Kala Bharati, with this partnership and entente in place, I am sure we will be working with renewed energy to promote our shared goals.

My section is called Arshiya's Art-ivism . Artivism is a portmanteau word for Art and Activism, coined by Lalit Mansingh, India's former Foreign Secretary, Former Ambassador to USA and Vice President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Ministry of  External Affairs Cultural Diplomacy wing. It was subsequently used by Leela Venkataraman in her review of our boldest social justice work “Black & White” which has been the subject of scholarly presentations this last week at New York ( Hunter College: South Asia Diaspora Seminar) and Washington DC.
Already I am planning some initiatives to foreground our efforts and to create more awareness on this issue on my return to India next year after the successful completion of my post doctoral Fulbright. Should Kala Bharati like to be part of these initiatives, I will be more than happy to facilitate its clearance with my board.


The seven voices of Dance Acts and Activism