Nine Dancing Avatars: An Interview with Bageshree Vaze

Avatar (9)

DanceWorks CoWorks Series event

Bageshree Vaze

Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West

Fri. May 27 – Sat. May 28, 2011, 8 pm

Tickets: 416-979-4000


Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: How do you bring together, in your words, “contemporary manifestations and traditional forms”?

Bageshree Vaze: There is the idea that classical Indian forms are  “traditional,” but while some forms of Kathak or Bharatha Natyam existed hundreds of years ago, the style being performed today, especially in the case of Kathak, is very much a product of the late 20th century. Art is created according to the people involved, so each interpretation will be different. Every time a dancer performs, it is contemporary because it is specific to that body.

For my new work, I have used the rhythmic and movement vocabulary of Kathak, and the 9 emotions in Indian dance (Navarasas), but have interpreted them in a new way, unique to my experience and ideas about what those emotions mean. I have maintained signature movements and repertoire elements of Kathak,but changed the format and manner in which they might be performed in a traditional recital. I’ve also incorporated a Butoh perspective with the help of my outside eye/mentor, Denise Fujiwara.

LR: Avatar, though its roots are in the Hindu legend of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, is kind of a hot word in the last decade because of its use and evolution in the virtual world (not to mention that notorious James Cameron movie) — does that affect how you look at the avatar concept at all?

BV: My mother often asks me, “Which avatar are you today?” – because she can see my personality changes according to my mood. In Avatar (9) I explore different characters embodied through the nine emotions of love, wonder, fear, bravery, anger, disgust, sadness, laughter and serenity. When I started to conceive of this dance piece, James Cameron’s movie Avatar came out. I think it’s great that people in the western world are now more familiar with the word, but there is much more to the concept on a spiritual level, rather than just the physical level, as the movie suggests.

LR: What fuels your creative process, aside from the deep relationship to music that is apparent?

BV: With any project I strive to push my own boundaries of what I think I’m capable of doing and what has already been done – that may be in the form of more complex rhythmic work or footwork, or on a thematic level. A lot of choices have to do with the mood I’m in, and what inspires me from the outside world, or a conversation I’ve had.

LR: Not everyone knows that you also write. How did you come to be a writer?

BV: The same way I came to be a dancer or musician. I simply love writing, and before I became a mother, I was an avid reader. I still have a novel I’d like to give the world but I don’t know if it’ll happen in this life or the next…

LR: And you also sing — what inspired you to train your voice?

BV: My father learned singing from his father, and my mother is also a great singer, so it’s more a family tradition than dance. I started learning from my father when I was in my early teens, and am still training my voice! I think the human voice is the most intriguing instrument, and yet another illustration of how the body is capable of so many amazing feats.

This interview was edited for content and length.


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