In 2020, during the global pandemic, Sonali Skandan and Jiva Dance pivoted to create more intimate solo dance on camera works. It was a time for reflection, education and development….
A journey into the solo art of Bharatanatyam, where the art is manifested in its full form- from the intricate footwork to eloquent abhinaya. Margam meaning “path,” is a journey the dancer takes from the simple to the complex, from devotion to love and finally to bliss.
The videos are excerpts of performances at The Music Academy Dance Festival, January 2015, Lucid Body House Showcase Feb. 2018, Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai, 2014.
‘The act was done with a lot of energy and pace. Sonali came across as a dancer with a lot of technique, and her expressive eyes easily portrayed the emotional transition of Meenakshi amma on seeing Shiva….The nritta interludes were very appropriate, but her expressions were the high point of her abhinaya. She has beautiful eyes which can express a lot.”
An evening-length dance production that explores the human metaphors of the four horsemen of conquest, war, famine and death, through the very real stories of female protagonists. Challenging the notions of Indian classical dance content and technique, these intimately relatable stories bring the never-ending cycle of despair and hope vividly to life.
Running Time: 60 minutes | 1 or 4 dancers | Studio recorded music
The Four Horsemen (2019)
The Four Horsemen is an innovative Indian Classical dance production, exploring symbolism from the story of the Apocalypse through Indian classical dance, music and Sanskrit poetry. The work centers around four vignettes of life and death through four female protagonists who stand for universal human experience. The stories – a woman shackled to the life of a courtesan (conquest), a woman reminiscing the night she spent with her lover who is at war (war), a mother searching for nourishment for her child in the midst a sandstorm (famine), and finally a woman at the end of her life recalling memories that span youthful joy to hardship and loss (death) – are touchingly timely. The new work challenges the notion of Indian classical dance content and technique and moves beyond the traditional to incorporate a cross-cultural analysis of female experience.
The work highlights original choreography by Sonali Skandan and Maya Kulkarni with music commissioned to the celebrated composer Rajkumar Bharathi (Chennai, India) and Bala Skandan (NYC) with sound design by Sai Sharavanam of Resound, India. The show features a cast of four dancers. The project is supported by funds from the inaugural Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund, and the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs. The initial choreographic ideas and dramaturgy were developed in residency at Queens College through the CUNY Dance Initiative from 2017– 2018. The script was written by Shiv Subramanian and narrative guidance from our Dramaturge Kate Farrington from Pearl Theatre and Queens College.
“These dancers turns their bodies into a language; as if every hand-motion or foot stomp is a hieroglyphic. By the end of their act, you swear they could be painted on the sacred walls of pyramids because they are so visually potent. “
“Each of these women, as horsemen/ humans, chose a role, and their sufferings measured whether they were worthy of it. From being a lover to being a mother, it is a tricky question to ask if suffering is deserved or necessary because, in the end, it simply is apart of life. Yet, Four Horsemen asked its audience to see pain like a roadblock; it only hinders path until you, finally, finish building over it.”
“Also, Bharatanatyam has well and truly entered the 21st century as it engages with an increasingly wide range of themes and ideas, pushing into thought-provoking political and socio-cultural realms, the abstract and the concrete, and embracing the myths, stories and issues of the world at large.”
“The dancing, by all four dancers, was absolutely top-notch. The choreography was outstanding, and the whole production was tightly woven together and perfectly executed.”
“Tightly choreographed and interestingly varied choral interludes for the four horsemen sweep the action along, bind the apocalyptic solos into a unified composition, and showcase the technical proficiency of these capable dancers…I found this work to be an exciting development that demonstrates the strong voices and talented proponents of Indian classical arts who are creating and performing stimulating work right here in the United States.” -Karen Greenspan, Ballet Review, Fall-Winter 2019
“The sound of drums and classical Indian strings spread over the room as the lights dimmed to blue. On stage, a group of dancers swept in, waist and ankle bells keeping time with their bare feet as they tap-tapped across the stage. They cycled in an out, binding their bodies with an age-old story of the Apocalypse before casting it in a totally new light….At the end, all four of the women came together to dance on the stage, showing how their energy could come together. Individually, they seemed to say, their suffering was inevitable. But told together, maybe their stories suggested there was another way.”
Coverage from TVAsia:
A selection of solo items where the earthly become the divine, where ritual and daily life merge, and the Gods and Goddesses walk the earth. Sonali presents classical pieces and original pieces with the theme of devotion and desire as their crux, and offers parallels and contrast between the two themes.
From Heaven and Earth (2017)
A selection of solo items where the earthly become the divine, where ritual and daily life merge, and the Gods and Goddesses walk the earth. Sonali presents classical pieces and original pieces with the theme of devotion and desire as their crux.
The evening-length work uses classical poetry and literature to weave vivid images of the peacock from Indian myths and legends – from the powerful ancient Mayil Virutham which praises the peacock as Lord Muruga’s vehicle, to the lilting epics of Kalidasa describing the peacock in the rains, as a reminder of Ram’s longing for Sita, to the love songs of Andal and Mirabhai. Original music score by Rajkumar Bharathi
Mayura:Blue Peacock (2014)
The evening-length work uses classical poetry and literature to weave vivid images of the peacock from Indian myths and legends – from the powerful ancient Mayil Virutham which praises the peacock as Lord Muruga’s vehicle, to the lilting epics of Kalidasa describing the peacock in the rains, as a reminder of Ram’s longing for Sita, to the love songs of Andal and Mirabhai. Original music score by Rajkumar Bharathi and Choreography by Sonali Skandan.
The video is a trailer for our acclaimed dance film short, “Urban Nritta.” The full video can be viewed here
“The interplay of the sculptural and rhythmic aspects of Indian dance was compelling…riveting” – Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dance…Alistair Maccaulay, NY Times, August 2015
“The choreography was an impressive blending of the strength inherent in the technical aspects of the form and the exuberant emotions that exist in the stories being told…Her [Sonali Skandan] charisma on stage permeated every piece and drew the eyes of the audience as she shifted her gaze in conjunction with the movement.” -Annie Woller, Eye on Dance, 2014
Through the poetic movement and storytelling of the Indian Classical Dance form of Bharatanatyam, we encounter the dynamic forms of Shiva – from his dance of bliss to his dance of anger and destruction, to the love, longing, desire, and devotion felt by all those who seek him. Swarupa is an evening-length work that presents a suite of solos, duets and dynamic group pieces that speak of the all-mighty dance of Shiva – and the fear, joy and love that he manifests through his dance. The result is a richly evocative and soulful experience of classical music and dance.
Swarupa: Infinite Form (2011)
Swarupa is an evening-length work that presents a suite of solos, duets and dynamic group pieces that speak of the all-mighty dance of Shiva – and the fear, joy and love that he manifests through his dance. The result is a richly evocative and soulful experience of classical music and dance.
The video was taken at the Sun to Stars Festival in NYC in 2012
“Skandan’s sharp control and stunning speed culminate in ecstasy….Skandan’s choreography here has a follow-through of motion that is somehow natural yet tense with the pull of mystery.” – nytheatre.com
“The choreography – full of statuesque balances and sharp lines formed by the arms – was attractively modest and had simple but powerful geometries..” – Ryan Wenzel, dacnetabs.com
“The ensemble performed three works, of which the most vivid was perhaps Shadjam, a vignette that depicted a group of girls preparing for a visit by Shiva, in his lover-man guise. As they combed each other’s hair and praised each other’s beauty (in mime), I could see the next group preparing in a tent off-stage, busy with similar tasks. For a moment, art intermingled with life.” – Marina Harss, thefastertimes.com
“It is this devotional aspect of Indian dance that latter-day choreographers tend to emphasise, as did American Bharata Natyam practitioner Sonali Skandan with a section of Swarupa: Infinite Form, a meditative ensemble piece less to do with the gods than with our worship of them.” – Appolinaire Scherr, The Financial Times
Rasa, or flavor, mood and Laya, or rhythm combine in a joyful expression of group dance where classical items are presented in dynamic group formations and interactions. With live music or recorded music. Can be presented as a shared performance with the critical-acclaimed Akshara Music Ensemble
The video was taken in February 2018 at the Salon Series at Salaam Bombay curated by Parul Shah, and featuring Jiva Dance with Akshara Music Ensemble.