March 2021: Kiruthika Rathanaswami
What would you like us to know about you?
My name is Kiruthika Rathanaswami and I am a South Asian Dance artist who has been practicing the dance form Bharatanatyam for over 25 years. I live an active lifestyle filled with all kinds of movement.
Tell us a bit about your work and practice.
I am a South Asian dance artist primarily working in one of India’s Classical dance styles, Bharatanatyam. Though my work is rooted in this dance form, I have always been open to exploration and learning of various movement vocabulary to enhance my own practice. I currently mentor and train under Jai Govinda, Artistic Director of Mandala Arts & Culture.
Over the years, I have worked with and performed a number of his choreographies and I feel I connect with his choreographic process, development and aesthetics. I have found a place of comfort, challenge and growth where my body feels natural in his choreography.
I have mainly trained and performed as a soloist in my dance journey, which has also worked in my favour since I have lived in different Canadian cities in the last 10 years. I am currently also working with Nova Dance on the production Svāhā.
How long have you been dancing?
From a young age, I have always been an active participant through the medium of dance at various Indian cultural events. My formal dance training in Bharatanatyam began at the age of 8 with the Jai Govinda Dance Academy and I also completed arangetram (graduation) at the academy in 2004.
How does dance fit into your life currently?
Dance has been, is, and will always be a part of my life in some shape or form. I continue to practice and revisit past choreographies, which always creates new challenges, curiosities and added layers of meaning to the work. I have found that any time I give a work a pause or gap and go back to it even if it’s just 1 month, I find so much in the work for it to evolve.
Since the pandemic hit the Jai Govinda Dance academy group classes have continued via Zoom. I have been taking these classes via Zoom but at Scotiabank Dance Centre. Through these classes, I have learnt new choreography and it has kept me connected with my dance peers at the academy. It is one day of the week I really look forward to because of the sense of community and belonging. I also teach online which brings me a lot of joy to be able to transfer what I have learned onto others.
I have also continued working with Nova Dance online, which has been such an enriching, and satisfying experience. Though the dancers are not physically together in the same space we have connected so much on a deeper level, that I don’t think we could have experienced if it wasn’t for this virtual medium. This time has also been a great opportunity for me to really delve more into my practice and work on specific aspects with no specific end goal of an immediate performance. I think the space that my body is in now gives me flexibility and freedom to really listen to it and react. I feel time is so precious and we must find ways to use this time to our advantage.
How would you describe dance’s impact on your life?
Dance has had a huge impact on my life both personally and professionally. Through dance, I have learnt about self-awareness of my own body and what it can do. I find what the body can create in space so fascinating. I also have acquired skill sets that can transfer into so many aspects of my life.
Dance has been the one constant in my life for over 25 years. Dance has given me everything that I am today, it continues to keep me on my toes, literally, and that is the best part of it. Dance has also introduced me to so many wonderful people around the world and many of these connections have turned into lifelong friendships. I hold my dance circle very dear to me and they are more like my family. It gives me a sense of belonging, community, and reassurance to know that others share similar experiences.
What are the core values that drive your engagement with dance?
Constant growth and development. Self-expression through movement. Sensation of the body. Joy/happiness.
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?
I don’t have a particular practice that I carry out each day, but I am trying to be more present and live in the moment. The pandemic again made me realize life is short, to live for each moment and really appreciate everything that is around you. We have all had to adapt our ways to continue our engagement with our art form if that has meant dancing in confined spaces, not being able to rehearse, dancing with masks on, online classes etc. The journey of getting from point A to B has become so much more important than the outcome. I believe that this time will bring forth a lot of self-reflection, questions, growth, and connections.
What would you say are the most significant benefits for you in being a Dance Centre member?
My first association with the Dance Centre was through my dance company Mandala Arts and Cultural Society. The Academy group classes take place at Scotiabank Dance Centre and it became a ritual and a way of life for me every Saturday. I immediately felt I was part of the bigger dance community just by entering the building because it housed various events, workshops, classes, performances, and development opportunities. It is the hub for dance in BC.
I also believe that because our academy group classes happen in the studios there, many onlookers have been able to see this dance form, as they would walk by our classes on Saturdays. For 5 1/2 years, I lived in Edmonton but any time I came to Vancouver during the weekend I was always at Scotiabank Dance Centre. I have moved back to BC now, and immediately became a Full Artist member myself. I feel grateful that there is a space for artists to continue practicing their work in a safe environment during this time.
Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here
Photos: Sridar Elumalai, Raymond Kam