Gitanjali Kolanad (Toronto) has been involved in the practice, performance, and teaching of bharatanatyam for close to forty years, performing in major cities in Europe, America and India with performances that uniquely incorporate folk and ritual forms of dance, theatre and martial art forms from South India.
Her short story collection “Sleeping with Movie Stars” was published in January 2011 by Penguin India, and she has written numerous articles on aspects of Indian dance for well-known Indian publications, India Magazine, Sruti and The Arts House.
In 2016 she was the Singapore International Writer in Residence National University of Singapore, and at Shiv Nadar University she was part of developing their performing arts program.
A previous book of hers “Culture Shock: India” published by Marshall Cavendish, is now into its third edition, and has been translated into Korean.
As a co-founder of IMPACT - Indian Martial and Performance Arts Collective of Toronto, she teaches the Indian martial art form of kalaripayat to at-risk youth.
Her work has often been multi-disciplinary, arising out of collaborations with artists from other disciplines: director Phillip Zarrilli, video/installation artist Ray Langenbach, poet Judith Kroll, and violinist Parmela Attariwala, to name a few.
In particular her long time collaboration with US theatre director Phillip Zarrilli, who was both a leading practitioner and scholar of Indian performance styles, led to innovative performances such as the solo dance piece “Walking Naked” which was an enigmatic performance piece which dealt with the life and poetry of the 12th century Karnataka poet-saint Mahadeviyakka.
Mahadevi was a poet who was said to have run away from her arranged marriage in order to remain a devotee of Siva. Discovered "walking naked" by a community of Siva devotees, the story went that on her wedding night when her husband grabbed hold of her sari she kept walking, leaving it unwind as she walked.
This unfathomable life of spiritual dedication met equally inspired staging and a long process of detailed investigation with Zarrilli that led to the use of three different puppets, each of which had a transformational journey enacted by Kolanad.
Her most recent work "Girl Made of Gold" is a novel set as a murder mystery and taking place around the figure of a devadasi - the female dance artist who were dedicated to worship and serve a deity or a temple in a ceremony similar to a marriage one. Historically these women took care of the temple and performed the rituals dances from a practice of classical Indian artistic traditions such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Odissi.
Kolanad walks an unique line where she delicately balances the role of both the dancer, the danced and the dancing as she embodies the role of not only the dancer but of someone able to articulate her practice from a variety of perspectives. In this capacity she is in the process of writing a non fiction book about dance. Website
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