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Dancing outside the body

French dancer's encounter with an Indian street beggar sparked interest in craft that he'll display at UCI this week.

October 22, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani

Saturday will be marked by three free panel discussions — before the 7 p.m. show — with one following on Sunday. Conversations will center on the use of ancient gestures, performative explorations of Indian dance theater and the future of the craft within global parameters, including war and terrorism.

Harishankar said she has been keen to offer this type of event in an academic environment for years. "Dance Conversations," she noted, will construct a more "universal" dialogue, shared not only with cultural patrons but the community at large.

As the artistic director of Arpana Dance Company, Harishankar, a resident of Irvine, finds that Claire Trevor is the ideal venue. She considers the institution "unique" because it offers training in visual arts, dance, drama, music and other fields. Indian dance is similarly multidisciplinary and encompasses text, sculpture, theater and more.


She is pleased to know that some professors are offering credit to students who attend "Dance Conversations" seminars, adding that in the future, she hopes to attract a larger cross-section of departments — perhaps even engineers.

As a longtime Bharatanatyam practitioner and mentor, Harishankar said she's looking to have an effect beyond local dancers.

"I don't want this to just be a profession where I teach for 30 or 40 years and then I'm gone," she said. "It needs to be more than that. How are you making a difference in your own community? How are you adding value? What is going to happen to these arts when we are not here?"

Toward this end, she wants to build bridges among performers, local organizations and academics so participants can learn from one another. This is imperative, she said, to build an understanding of arts and culture, triggering tolerance and friendship, enhancing enjoyment and enabling increased interaction among communities. Such awareness, for example, has the power to broaden the view of India as a country that houses Bollywood, she said, and it's the same for other ethnicities as well.

And that's what Delorme plans to do.

He will present karnas, dance and theater units of ancient India that had mostly disappeared for about seven centuries. His guru, Padma Subrahmanyam, is credited with reviving the technique by poring over texts and studying postures of temple sculptures, which were then assimilated into movement patterns.

Delorme, who as a devout disciple is overjoyed to showcase her work, doesn't believe that dancing is an intellectual choice. Instead, it has more to do with an inner calling and connection.

"We had to do something together, dance and I," he said. "I was in need of dance. When we met, that was it. And it has remained a form that is absolutely compatible for me."

If You Go

What: "Dance Conversations: Theatres in Dance"

Where: Colloquium Room, 3rd floor, Contemporary Arts Center, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, 4002 Mesa Road, Irvine; Winifred Smith Hall, Building 710

When: Saturday and Sunday (look at website for individual times)

Cost: Panel discussions are free; $50 VIP tickets for performance and reception, $25 general admission for performance only and $20 tickets for seniors and UCI students with ID for performance only

Information:, or (949) 824-2787

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