As Assistant Artistic Director at Prakriti Dance, I am very closely associated with every project. Research for “Through Fish Eyes” has involved a lot of reading – scientific journals and poetry from around the world. It has involved watching a lot of Blue Planet on Netflix and listening to a lot of different types of music. “What is this story going to be?” and “How can we effectively tell this story?” are two big questions that Co-Artistic Director Kasi Aysola and I have endless conversations about.
Observing the behaviors of our marine protagonists over a few months helps bring out their characters and almost human-like emotions. Once we superimpose poetry on these behaviors, a distinct story emerges which use select appropriate ragams (melodies) and talams (rhythmic patterns). For this project we wanted a more global sound juxtaposed with Carnatic music. We are collaborating with Anjna Swaminathan, a wonderful violinist and Rohan Krishnamurthy, an amazing percussionist to create the melodic and rhythmic layers to our score. As and when each section is created, we record cue tracks to work on choreography. The month of April will be spent recording voice, violin and percussion tracks, and while all of this is happening, we will be working on our choreography and actively making changes to our lives!
For as long as I can remember, I have firmly believed that the reason we are put on this planet is to serve and nurture it and everything that lives on it. When I moved to the United States in 2002 as a bright-eyed graduate student, I got wrapped up (quite literally) in cling wrap, ziplock bags, and plastic milk and yogurt containers. I was happy just knowing that people actually threw their trash in cans! I shudder now to think of just how much non-biodegradable waste I alone generated. Fast forward to 2010. North Carolina received some snow; so did Texas. I suppose the alarm bells started going off in my head then, for every year consequently, we started receiving more and more snow, our winters started getting longer and now, the weather fluctuates between summer and winter on a daily basis.
Working on “Through Fish Eyes” has opened my eyes even more to the damage that the plastic revolution has caused to the ocean and its creatures. Building this production piece by piece has been very emotionally draining. Each of the oceanic habitats and its creatures that we have studied, that was once a paradise, now looks like a war-zone.
This has affected my family too (for the better) and we have started making several changes to our lifestyle. Fortunately, I grew up in India at a time when plastic products were still largely expensive. So, now in the US where everything is available at the click of a button/snap of the fingers I bring back the lessons on what is now being called “Sustainable Living” that I learnt growing up. The children too, being as little as they are will hopefully imbibe this young enough that they are able to follow through and continue to make a difference. Here’s to a cleaner, more beautiful Earth!
Ramya Kapadia is the Assistant Artistic Director & a core dancer of the company. She is the main composer for the "Through Fish Eyes" production. She teaches dance & music at the Natyarpana School of Dance in Durham NC, and is a widely known Carnatic musician and composer.
We all know that the Earth is 70% ocean, and that oceans play a vital role in hindering the impacts of climate change. Yet how many of us are actively doing something to protect this ecosystem that serves as the lifeline for our planet? We, Prakriti Dance, seek to use the language of dance to encourage dialogue around ocean conservation and sustainability. In addition to performing in our upcoming production, “Through the Fish Eyes,” I am directing a documentary that chronicles our artistic process from conception to completion of the production. What I love about the medium of film is that it has the potential to reach audiences in all corners of the world. We can share our journey of using dance to spread awareness about ocean conservation and hopefully inspire others to do the same. Through this documentary, I hope to create global family that can collectively work towards to goal of a more sustainable Earth.
As many of you know, making a film is an adventure in itself. Whenever I set out to make a film, I first make sure that I have a strong, compelling story to tell. I spent much of this past winter trying to come up with a story, but I felt like I was going in circles. Then one fine day I was at the gym talking to a friend about the “Through the Fish Eyes Production.” I explained the various steps we take to put a show together - research, choreography, music composition, rehearsals, marketing, etc. His fascination with the intricacy of the process made me realize - I’ve had the story all along! Many times when we see a production on stage, we don’t realize that behind that production is an elaborate creation story. What if we shared our creation story through film? And thus the seed was planted for the documentary. Given that our documentary is currently still in it’s nascent stage, I’ll have to wait till the next blog post or two to share more. Stay tuned!
Ok…taking off my filmmaker hat and putting on my dancer hat. When people ask “what does dance mean to you” the first answer that always pops into my head is that it is an educational tool. With dance, one can interact with the content and interpret it in a very personalized way. For example, I feel that my education in Bharatanatyam growing up provided me with a unique way to engage with both Hinduism and my Indian heritage. The act of physically embodying say, Krishna, and performing his stories based on my interpretation, gave me the opportunity to contextualize his life to my own. Similarly, dancing in “Through the Fish Eyes” has given me a chance to understand issues surrounding ocean conservation in ways that simply reading about this topic could never do. I’d definitely say that enacting these ocean creatures through dance has made me empathize with them on a whole new level and has further motivated me to take the action needed to protect them. I look forward to bringing this production to the stage and hope that the educational power of dance will inspire our audiences to create positive change.
Madhavi Reddi is a Core Dancer with Prakriti Dance. She is a Film Maker, Professor, Photographer and Artist.
Follow The Journey
This blog follows the conception, creation and presentation of our new project "Through Fish Eyes" - an Art/Science work that urges ocean awareness and conservation through the medium of Bharata Natyam. This work has been supported by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, The Boston Foundation, Boston Cultural Council.