Sidi Larbi's Play and Shantala Shivalingappa's Namasya




Photo by Koen Broos. Pictured: Shantala Shivalingappa Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

A highlight of the 15th annual FringeArts Festival (then the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival) was the American debut of Play, a performance work by international choreographers and dancers Sidi Larbi and Shantala Shivalingappa. They performed this duet for the first time in the United States, and Shivalingappa also presented her solo program, Namasya. Born in India and raised in Paris, Shivalingappa practices the classical, expressive Indian dance form of Kuchipudi. Her program Namasya concentrated on contemporary choreography commissioned for the artist. Larbi's interest in the framework of cultural identity reflects his background as a Belgian-born dancer with a Muslim father and Catholic mother. Larbi and Shivalingappa "examine the connection between contemporary art-making and traditional approaches" and "incorporate personal identity and ethnic background" into their work.

A full schedule of activities took place around the presentation of Larbi and Shivalingappa, and addressed the current impact of cross-genre and cross-cultural work that characterizes the dance landscape. These activities were designed for local artists and audiences who wished to learn more about South Asian dance in a global context. They included film screenings; a rare week-long workshop in the Indian martial art form Kalaripayattu for selected Philadelphia dancers; and a day-long symposium that explored intercultural dance and practice in North America, South Asia, Africa, and the African Diaspora.