Stretching Boundaries

Photo credit: Jeff Zavala

Photo credit: Jeff Zavala

Video Credit: Jeff Zavala

Sometimes, one just has to jump in and hope to swim!

A year after the performance of Embrace in Milwaukee, there was a reunion and a repeat performance in Austin, TX at the beautiful 100 year old Scottish Rite Theater on April 30th. This interdisciplinary  exploration of "change" melded dance, music and visual art. This year, Embrace expanded its program to include an additional piece- Kalpana, which incorporated live painting in response to music. I was asked to respond visually to veena music on stage.  I had never done anything like this before and it seemed like an exciting but challenging possibility.

All the participants involved in this collaboration were dispersed between Milwaukee, Phoenix and Austin. After futile efforts to come up with a choreographed work over email, Skype and phone conversations, it became apparent that this work will have to be done in person, on site and impromptu. I arrived in Austin and we did a brief trial at Poornima Rao's house. Poornima is an amazing veena player and we worked together to find fragments of music that would best fit a visual response.

Ultimately, everything had to be improv the day of. We did not have time to rehearse on site and the projection logistics had to be worked out. I was set up with a table in the balcony of the theater, a video camera hooked up to a projector, framing a section of oriental scroll paper, cups of sumi ink and brushes. When the lights were out and the music began to play, I tried hard to immerse myself in the music and let my body respond with the brush as an extension. There were some brilliant moments when everything seemed synchronized and complimentary to each other and there were some that were awkward. On the whole by the time the performance came to an end, I was just happy that the projection arrangement worked and there were no major hiccups! 

Reflecting on this experience, I realize that there are exciting possibilities with this kind of work. I enjoyed seeing my painting projected large on the stage with the shadowy figure of a dancer in front and music playing in the background. The scale change was startling and pressure of a live performance was exhilarating. I am grateful to Sumana Sen Mandala and the dancers of Stage Sanchaar for giving me an opportunity to stretch the boundaries of my practice! Congratulations on a thought provoking and beautiful show!