© 2015 Sheetal Gandhi
all rights reserved
Sheetal Gandhi is embarking on the “Dear Heart” Project, a multi-year, multi-dimensional creative process that spirals around her personal, familial and cultural relationship to love. Through dance and theater, installation, video and sound work, the “Dear Heart” Project will engage various artists and participants in an investigation around the many paradoxes and contradictory impulses of love, as well as the unique, divine, mundane and culturally-specific ways that we connect (and long to connect) to one another. The “Dear Heart” Project currently has two works at different stages of development, with a third work being planned for the future. Funding and support for the projects are actively being sought out. Interested collaborators: theaters, museums and cultural organizations, are encouraged to reach out to begin a conversation about how to bring one or more aspects of the work to their community in the near future!
I Am You - Exploring the 'divine' in love
In Sufism, the concept of tawhīd is expressed as the union with the beloved (the primal root) from which/whom one has been cut off and become aloof - and the longing and desire to restore it. I Am You explores tawhīd by reflecting on the nature of duality - of the complex relationship between the soul and the personality, and the perception of the “inner” and “outer” person. The work incorporates dance, text and live singing, and features the timeless poetry of the Persian mystic poet, Rumi.
The genesis of this project came through a commission and accompanying artist residency with the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, CA. The evening-length work was originally created on the site of the beach house, inspired by the expansive natural landscape as well as the many unique architectural elements to be found in and around the beach house. The show was built for two dancers but also features a unique collaboration with non-performers of all ages, invited by Gandhi to participate in the performance.
Original music and sound design by Ellen Reid
Costumes by Tiffany Maxwell
Currently, the work is being re-cast and adapted from its site-specific format to be staged and presented in theaters and alternative spaces. Gandhi has reached out to ka
thak dancer and choreographer Parul Shah and both artists are looking forward to developing the next iteration of I Am You.
Between the Lines - When love and art, exist and thrive in liminal spaces
The research that Sheetal is doing for Between The Lines mines the little-known facts around the impact of Indian classical dance on the origin of American Jazz Dance, particularly through the work of Jazz innovators like Jack Cole. From a movement perspective, Gandhi is unraveling the threads of her dance lineage and addressing a fusion of styles that occurred over 60-70 years ago in this country, making a strong impact on her own development as a dancer. From a thematic perspective, she is looking at the unique ways that she and other young South Asian Americans learned to love and “read” love, growing up in a South Asian family.
Jack Cole, known as the “Father of Jazz Dance”, started out as a modern dancer with the Denishawn Dance Company, and later mastered the Indian classical dance technique of bharata natyam. He fused this style with the modern and jazz that he was accustomed to, and performed this new fusion to a swing and jazz beat. He virtually invented the idiom of American show dancing known as “theatrical jazz dance” and influenced countless other well-known choreographers including Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Michael Bennett and Alvin Ailey. Sheetal has been drawn to jazz and tap all her life, and now is finding a renewed fascination with these iconic American dance forms from the vantage point of her own cultural heritage.
Surprisingly, Gandhi did not train first in Indian dance and music, but in Black vernacular forms such as tap and jazz. It wasn’t until later, when she was studying Modern dance in college with her mentor, Donald McKayle (an African American man), that she received her first introduction to Indian classical dance. Making Between The Lines is an opportunity for Sheetal to address a fusion of styles that occurred over 60-70 years ago in this country, and had a strong impact on her own development as a dancer. It unravels the threads of Sheetal’s dance lineage while shedding light on movement intersections that were taking place on a global scale.
In the initial stages of developing the choreography, Sheetal has invited a South Asian dancer, Namita Kapoor to join her in workshopping movement ideas. Namita comes from a similar background as Sheetal, and is a well known Jazz and tap dancer in the SF Bay area where she is a member of the body percussion band, Crosspulse. The two have been in conversation about this piece, and Namita is engaged in her own research and exploration of the fascinating cross-over between American Jazz and Classical Indian dance forms
I AM YOU
BETWEEN THE LINES
“...it’s through her nuanced physicality that she connects best...inhabiting the skin of each of her creations as easily as she wraps herself in a length of striped fabric...”
Nicole Gluckstern; SF Bay Guardian