US-based troupe connects dance with social themes

Performers from ‘Dakshina’ mix bharathanatyam, modern dance and martial arts.

Dakshina, a dance company based in Washington DC and led by artistic director Daniel Phoenix Singh, gives artists and communities an opportunity to experience dance as a movement that links the arts, cultures, and social causes.

Performers from Dakshina were recently in the city to perform on an invitation from the US Consulate General in Chennai.

They stunned the audience with their precise and swift movements. In an interview with Metrolife, Karen Bernstein, rehearsal director, spoke about the team and more.

What prompted you to call yourselves ‘Dakshina’?

Dakshina means “offering” in Sanskrit and in keeping with this spirit, Dakshina offers artists and communities the unique opportunity to experience dance as a movement that links the arts, cultures, and societal causes.

How do you connect social themes with dance?

Each piece in Dakshina’s repertory is very meaningful to the artistic director Daniel Singh. One of Dakshina’s missions is to engage in dance not only as a means for aesthetic and artistic growth, but also as a vehicle for social change and community development.
Daniel creates vibrant dances that mirror the communities that inspire him.

What makes you unique as a group?

As performers, we explore and present dance in this complexity and multiplicity, celebrating tradition while constantly creating new vocabularies in movement and dance. The company connects traditions with trend-setting work and pushes participants to approach dance in a thought-provoking manner.

Could you tell us about your performances in Bengaluru?

In a piece called ‘Chakra’, Daniel uses myths from ancient Indian epics to look at themes of love, loss, and the destruction of war. Daniel is known for his fusion work and ‘Chakra’ is a perfect example. It builds on Daniel’s distinct blend of different vocabularies drawing on bharathanatyam, modern dance, and martial arts. The next performance was called ‘The Four Seasons’. It is a modern ballet.

Daniel worked very closely to the architecture of the music, its highs and lows to create this piece. The dancers actually become the music.

He used ballet and modern dance vocabulary to inspire the movement along with what you would see and feel within spring, summer, fall, and winter.

What do you like most about performing in Bengaluru?

There is wonderful artistic energy in the city. We also sometimes hold workshops with local dancers where our dancers teach techniques people are not familiar with.

Do you find many takers for Indian dance in the US?

The Washington DC area has a very large population of Indians. We have a unique mission of both performing and presenting leading artistes and emerging artistes side-by-side to create a dialogue across generations and cultures.

Do you always try to bring in new perspectives into dance?

In recent years, Dakshina has examined the connections between Indian, social, and modern dance forms; brought dance out of the auditorium and into the schools and community centers; and pushed the boundaries of the form through the use of film, popular music, and theatre.

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US-based troupe connects dance with social themes

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