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30mins, September 2002
Concept and Choreography: ANITA RATNAM
Dancers: ANILA MAHARAJ, SUBHA NAVARATNASINGAM , UPPEKHA JAIN & VIDYA RAO
Musicians: DEBASHIS SINHA & ERNIE TOLLAR
Costumes: ANITA RATNAM
Text: Written and vocalised by the dancers in collaboration with Anita Ratnam
Anita's Acknowledgment: To all the dancers who invited me into their lives to grab a peek at their internal 'hyphens'... and to Lata who believed in me enough to hang on to this dream for the last four years
HYPHENATED was premiered on September 27 & 28, 2002 during Life Lines: an evening of women's lives in dance and theatre presented by Lata Pada and Sampradaya Dance Creations at Harbourfront Centre's Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto, Canada. Four dancers explore the hybridity in their lives as second generation South Asian - Canadian women. Straddling the cultural worlds of East and West, they constantly negotiate their diverse and often conflicting identities. In speaking of the work, Ratnam noted, "It is the hyphen that connects who we are and identifies our inner selves. It is in that state of hyphenation that we live our daily lives, comfortable in our dual skins."
Of the 12 million South Asians living outside their native homelands, the diaspora which engages with life in North America is particularly interesting. It is a demographic and sociological phenomenon at how smoothly these immigrants have been able to imagine their homelands and intersect with the great North American dream. Affluence, upward mobility, status, achievement have not come without their share of conflicts and identity struggles.
HYPHENATED takes a peek through the psychological and emotional window of Canadian-born South Asians: the negotiations with their cultures and their vigorous daily engagement with traditional parents and contemporary ideas. Confidence is mixed with conflict, desires delicately laced with tiptoeing through the minefield of two worlds, one imagined and one real.
Janus-faced and confident, the current generation plunges into their unique lives. Bollywood movies blend with temple sculptures, values blur and are redefined in a new time and space…
Is the idea of South Asia a geographical border or a desire? Are they creating fictions, not actual cities but invisible ones, imaginary homeland? Are they South Asians of the mind?
Ratnam's piece, Hyphenated, was arrestingly contemporary... Dressed in brightly coloured tunics over black flared pants, Hyphenated incorporarted the dancers' daily experiences such as putting on make-up, dressing up for a date or playing sports. To the jazz compositions of Ernie Tollar and the percussion of Debashis Sinha, the young women created new mimes and new recitative patterns that mirrored the classical techniques of Bharatanatyam. The piece reached a climax when the dancers performed to a live rendition of "Fever" sung by Nandita Das. The contemporary elements had the effect, in the best moments of Hyphenated, of displaying the beauty and expressiveness of Indian dance.
- SUSAN WALKER, Dance Writer, TORONTO STAR, Canada, September 2002
The background of Pada and Ratnam is bharatanatyam, the dance form which originated in South India, but both have layered this ancient art with contemporary sensibility. As a result, their fusion choreography is fascinating. They bring movement and gestures from the past and merge them with present-day modernisms, although in different ways. Both women also understand production values, and their set pieces and lighting were exquisite.
Completely different from the inner turmoil of Vaitharani, was the energetic Hyphenated that dealt with the collision of cultures in young people born to immigrant families. This humorous yet provocative work for four dancers, two musicians and a singer used text to reflect their rebellion, while the dance and music cleverly merged South Asian and Western dance forms to show their "hyphenation."
- Paula Citron in THE GLOBE AND MAIL,Tuesday, October 1, 2002 - Page R4
The young dancers of "Hyphenated" speak out:
It was truly amazing to experience your incredible grasp of what us "hyphenated kids" go thru' ! - UPPEKHA
I love the circle we did yesterday. Your wisdom is truly inspiring. - NANDITA DAS
My experience learning from you has been truly extraordinary. - ANEELA
I never thought I could do a speech on the stage in the middle of a dance….... thank you so much. - SUBA
It was a lovely opportunity to work with you. I really look forward to many more projects. - VIJI
What a wonderful show this evening. Thank you for giving your art so honestly and gracefully. I truly enjoyed the evening. Beautiful collaborations. .
- Karen Kaeja,Co-Artistic Director,Kaeja d’Dance, Canada
"Hyphenated" - this was a wonderful and apt dance production. As a mother of an 18 year-old daughter and a Muslim feminist intellectual, I negotiate my commitment to my feminist values, my Muslim ethical and moral values and everyday white racism and sexism and my role as a mother and a mentor to my daughter. Consequently, I closely identified with the struggles, contradictions faced by the young women dancers in "hyphenated." Amina Mire is a Phd candidate in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a PhD candidate in the Collaborative Women Studies Program in the institute for Women Studies and Gender Studies of the University of Toronto..
- Amina Mire is a Phd candidate in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a PhD candidate in the Collaborative Women Studies Program in the institute for Women Studies and Gender Studies of the University of Toronto