I. Initiate: Contemporary South Asian Choreographic Collaboration
Sandra: Shyamala, Anjali, and I launched the collective formally in 2004, after we had already collaborated with each other in different combinations for some time. Cynthia joined in 2008. As a group of choreographer-scholars we are invested in contemporary, critical South Asian dance aesthetics – a niche interest in the field of contemporary dance. While all of us attended graduate school at the University of California in Los Angeles (not all simultaneously), the collective gradually dispersed geographically after we graduated.
Cynthia: The Post Natyam Collective members continued their artistic connection despite the distance. Why? Because the politico-artistic values that we hold dear are marginal to mainstream dance cultures in our home communities. Contemporary South Asian choreographers in Germany and the US are rare – and those whose work engages politically with postcolonial, queer, and feminist-of-color theory are even rarer. Moreover, we are committed to collaboration, embracing the collective as an organizational structure over the “standard” model of a dance company with a single artistic director. Collaborating allows us to connect while honoring our differing politico-aesthetic approaches. We have resisted developing a signature fusion vocabulary to brand our work, instead finding multiple ways to engage with our individual perspectives, the diversity of the movement traditions that we practice, and our migrations to varied performance contexts and geographical locations.
Sandra: However, the new situation of increasingly permanent geographic dispersal, combined with a continued lack of funding, family responsibilities and, for some of us, creative isolation, brought our creative collaborations to a standstill. We continued to work together administratively, planning projects and fundraising but without managing to collaborate artistically.