Skilled in 7 Indian dance forms, Aparna Satheesan uses performing arts to create cohesive communities

Performing arts can bring people together and create a mindset of harmony — when every member of the audience is attuned to the same thing and experiences similar feelings, it could make for a more cohesive community. This is one of the aims of Samyoga Performing Arts, a non-profit organisation based in Indiana, United States of America.

A moment from the dance production ‘New Dimensions to Margam’, presented in the United States by Aparna Satheesan. Photo courtesy: Samyoga Performing Arts

Aparna Satheesan, Artistic Director of Samyoga School of Dance, Carmel, Indiana, is the founder of this non-profit and a renowned exponent of Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam — she is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She is also trained in several other Indian dance forms: Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Ottam Thullal, Kerala Nadanam, and Folk Dance.

She told Connected to India, “Samyoga Performing Arts is dedicated to preserving and promoting Indian classical dance and music, founded in an effort to support artistes and use art as a medium for community enrichment and giving back.”

Aparna Satheesan presents her recent dance production. Photo courtesy: Samyoga Performing Arts

Satheesan recently organised the dance production ‘New Dimensions to the Margam’, performed by Rama Vaidyanathan, Vaishnavi Dhore, Kavya Ganesh, Reshika Sivakumar, and Shubhamani Chandrashekhar. The production had Anurag Lakhmanan as the vocalist; Ashwin Subramanian in Nattuvangam; Vishwesh Swaminadhan in violin; Sannidhi Vaidyanathan in mridangam.

“Through workshops, performances, and community events, we provide a nurturing platform for both established and budding talents. Beyond the stage, we believe in the power of art to bring positive change to communities. Collaborative efforts with local organisations aim to create a more inclusive and harmonious society,” said the artistic director.

“With a vision of a world united in rhythm, we envision a future where Indian classical art forms transcend borders and enrich lives globally,” she added. “By fostering collaboration and celebrating cultural heritage, we are a testament to the transformative potential of art.”

Lead dancer Rama Vaidyanathan. Photo courtesy: Samyoga Performing Arts
The vocalist and musicians at the dance production. Photo courtesy: Samyoga Performing Arts

About the recent dance production, Satheesan said, “The ‘Margam’ in the Bharatanatyam classical dance tradition is a basic set of compositions that a student learns from the guru. The term ‘Margam’, which means ‘path’ in Sanskrit, is the journey that a practitioner embarks upon once the training begins….

“In ‘New Dimensions to Margam’, Rama Vaidyanathan, the choreographer and the chief dancer, explores a fresh perspective to the collection of dance compositions that comprise the ‘Margam’. She explores new themes in different languages, which have never been seen in a Bharatanatyam performance. She uses time, space, music, and movement with a contemporary approach, to add a fresh impetus to the traditional ‘Margam.’”

Through such innovation within the parameters of tradition, Satheesan takes Indian classical dance forms to a wider audience, and presents something new even to those already well versed in Indian classical dance through her creative productions.

Creativity within the parameters of Indian classical dance is what Samyoga strives for. Photo courtesy: Samyoga Performing Arts

She herself is a regular performer across the world — notable performances include those at the Heartland Film Festival, at Indianapolis, United States; Indian Council of Cultural Relations; Karur Natyanjali festival; Soorya Festival (India), Guruvayoor Temple festival; Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana; Balaji Temple in Chicago; Samarpana at Vyllopilli Samskruthi Bhavan; Kala Utsav by the Indian Consulate in Chicago.

Satheesan has even performed at an event directed by Oscar-winning music director AR Rahman.

Speaking of her recently staged production in the US, the artistic director said that she believed this event had “shed light on the importance of preserving traditional art forms and promoting cultural diversity”.