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February 2021: Ashvini Sundaram
Who is Ashvini Sundaram in a sentence?
A South Asian dance artist and researcher born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and trained in Delhi.
Tell us a bit about your work and practice.
The scope of my physical technique, musical and rhythmical sensibility and approach to creation is rooted deeply in the form of South Indian dance post colonially known as bharatanatyam. The intent of bharatanatyam is to address spirituality through aesthetic renditions of metaphors of the natural world. It looks to nature to describe the human condition and proposes a non-dualistic nature of the world. I am committed to creating works that further this introspection and broaden the imaginative, sensory and aesthetic considerations of this art form.
How long have you been dancing?
South Indian traditional performance arts infiltrated my life at a very early age since my parents started sending me to bharatanatyam classes at two-and-a-half years old when we lived in Singapore. My paternal grandfather was a musician from Thanjavur, an important center of South Indian Fine, Visual, and Performing Arts, therefore arts education was a focal point in my family, and it was very much part of my upbringing.
How does dance fit into your life currently?
I am remotely pursuing my Master of Fine Arts degree in dance at York University in Toronto, where I’m currently researching systems of embodied knowledge about mathematics. Since the pandemic started, I started training ballet part-time with a Vancouver-based instructor and coach, Loreli Skinner, at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
How would you describe dance’s impact on your life?
Dance has been a way for me to stay connected to my body. In our current culture, there is a dominance of the knowledge of the mind over the body. Dance has empowered me to seek important relationships between culture, identity, and systems of education, and carry the work of decolonization.
Do you have a particular practice that you carry out each day or have you implemented new practices as a way of adapting to the current climate?
Every morning I practice eye movements for about 30 minutes to strengthen my eye muscles. This is something I picked up from a Zoom acting/dance workshop in Kerala, India. I also regularly started practicing ballet four times a week with a local instructor in Vancouver since the pandemic has urged me to pick up new skills in my hometown!
What would you say are the most significant benefits for you in being a Dance Centre member?
I am so grateful to the Dance Centre for their support and investment in my professional development as an emerging dancer and choreographer. They generously offered me the Mini Re-emergence Grant last fall which afforded me invaluable time in the studio to engage in self-study and training during the pandemic. I was also offered a digital micro-commission for my project about rhythm cycles which is scheduled to broadcast this spring.
Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here
Photos: Aarathi S. and Chris Randle