In The Studio: Preeti Vasudevan Brings Personal Influences to Traditional Bharatanatyam

Award-winning choreographer Preeti Vasudevan has been praised for the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary elements of Bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance) she implements in her work. We ventured to New York Live Arts where Vasudevan will be performing her new work, titled Stories By Hand, later this week.

Preeti Vasudevan "Stories By Hand" photo by Peter Cunningham

So much of Bharatanatyam is story driven. How do you implement that same communication to your audience when you are doing a non-traditional performance?

I think the biggest difference in this project is actually breaking the boundaries of Bharatanatyam to make it accessible. Because with all the gestures we have and the makeup and costumes we put on as well, there's a distancing that goes on. Even in India, not just here. People who know will sort of get it, but generally not too many people know all the fine layers of it unless you're part of the profession. Over here, the idea of also bringing personal stories is to break that wall. People immediately get access to the gestures. I think that's the difference in communication between this project and if I were to do, say, a traditional Bharatanatyam show.

Preeti Vasudevan "Stories By Hand" photo by Peter Cunningham

What are your thoughts on bringing Bharatanatyam off the proscenium stage and onto more commercial platforms?

When it came out of the temple for the proscenium stage it was a statement -- a nationalistic statement at the time of the independence of India. But now it's been more than 70 years and we're still doing the same thing. I have a big problem about the spaces which Bharatanatyam inhabits. I think it affects the way the dancer responds viscerally to her or his own body. The projection of what they do becomes a performance and then their inner narrative goes away.

Stories By Hand runs November 2-4 at New York Live Arts.

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