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  • Shalaka Kulkarni

High Concept Lab 2022 Artist

I am so excited to be one of the 2022 artist in residence with High Concept Labs! I will be documenting my research and progress with this project so please bookmark my blog :)


The Project

HCL is supporting Shalaka to develop a new dance solo that incorporates text and new media. She anticipates adopting a semi-autobiographical interpretation of the term “wearing ethnicity” to help shape her process for making connections across different movement forms, including Bharatnatyam, Kathak, ballet, yoga, and martial arts.


The dance forms Bharatnatyam (originally temple dance) and Kathak (initially court dance for the monarchy) have served primarily for performers to represent stories about Hindu mythology and the Indian culture of the time. Traditionally, the two forms breach the line between sacred and secular movement and worship. The dancers themselves were once considered sacred and divine while dancing, but derided and degraded as public property when not performing. Shalaka is interested in the changes of the dancers’ historical context. Specifically, she is investigating the gradual secularization of these dances sourced in the Vedas, regarded to be the earliest literary record of Indo-Aryan civilization and the most sacred books of India, including original scriptures of Hindu teachings about spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of life.


Shalaka aims to create an opening into a contemporary understanding of the tradition, from a contemporary feminist perspective, and using video, poetry, and mixed movement styles. In addition to movement research and rehearsals, the HCL studio is serving for her writing and meetings with writing mentors. Primary material she is considering includes crowd-sourced creative responses, original text written for the project, and the writings of American poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) and the poet Sujatha Bhatt, from Ahmedabad, India and currently living in Germany.

In addition, Shalaka is investing in new technology, including Isadora. Curious about its potential as wearable technology, she may use the interactive software to visually transform the traditional costumery of Bharatnatyam and Kathak, such as the ankle bells. She is optimizing her year at HCL by participating in a concurrent residency with MoCo, the movement and computing community, meeting regularly with a tech mentor of the group in their Mana studio space.





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