Dance TO Showcase Feature #7 Outspoken, Fiesty and in your corner: Hari Krishnan

He's funny, he's fresh, he's fearless.  Hari Krishnan and his company inDANCE are featured in the upcoming Dance TO Showcase performances. Read on to hear his funny, fresh and fearless responses to my Dance TO Showcase-themed questions.

LUCY: Could you tell me a few things about yourself that most people in the dance community wouldn’t know? Anything racy, funny, bizarre?

HARI: I am addicted to the movie ‘Grease’- I’ve watched it at least once a month since I was seven years old!
My favorite color is purple.
I don’t drink coffee or tea (My Mom knows why!)
My very last meal would be a PB&J sandwich.
Gay porn bores me.
I must squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube every time (it drives my boyfriend Rex crazy!)
Rex and I would kill to have Stewart Gilligan Griffin for a son along with bitch-Stewie and evil-Stewie!
We still want to kick George Bush Jnr’s ass, for “breaking” the world.
I am pissed Justin Trudeau is so bland and ill prepared.
Kathleen Wynne be MORE fierce girl!
Up yours Harper!
Under no circumstances, should Canada take Justin Bieber back!

LUCY: Wow. I do that with the toothpaste too. Drives my husband nuts as well. So other than Grease, what keeps you inspired — both to keep creating and to keep dancing?

HARI: An innate, insane, masochistic, obsession/compulsion death-wish striving for my ‘voice’ to be heard.  Of course, this struggle doesn’t pay the bills!

But the standing O, when justly earned, is just as rewarding as the other big O! Never enough.

LUCY: So the need to have your voice heard, was that the driving motivation to form your own company?

HARI: I feel I have a strong, unique artistic voice. Through experience, I realized I would have to alter, adapt, dilute or disown that voice if I were to speak through the medium of another artist or company. Therefore the birth of inDANCE.

My company is an umbrella under which I seek shelter from the common prevailing cacophony (the generic Indian dance company) that already exists. 

My artistic practice, though rooted in decades of research and training with disenfranchised hereditary dance communities stemming from critical, often forgotten feminist dance histories, is further informed by my global lived life experiences, my personal politics on gender, queer sexuality and eroticism, breaking the rules of what is considered ‘tradition’, subverting clich√© and challenging dominant discourses on global culture. 

inDANCE is instrumental in expanding my personal politics and practice while interfacing collaboratively with local and international dancers, musicians, composers, designers, scholars and activists.

LUCY:  What is your dream project? 

HARI: In a perfect world, I would sell my boyfriend AND my Mom to work on a 3-way collaboration with the National Ballet, Crystal Pite and my company inDANCE – ON MY TERMS. Of course, I believe in Unicorns too!

As far as international collaborations go, my dreams would seem even more impossible….

LUCY: I guess we'll save those for another interview....Down another avenue: what do you think dance artists can do to improve the health of the toronto dance community?

HARI: On a serious note:

We in the Toronto dance community should conduct a brutally honest audit of ourselves. Our best are bailing town and leaving for greener pastures abroad- to the US, Europe, Asia and then returning only after we’ve peaked. Why is that?

We seem fully content in our own insulated world.

Unfortunately many of us are racist, ignorant and tend to Orientalize, while grand-standing otherwise.

The awards committees are a dance mafia comprised of the usual suspects nominating, adjudicating and winning! Most jurors don’t even bother to attend most of the shows they’re evaluating.

There is a xenophobic aversion on the part of presenters and audiences to support risk taking cross-cultural work unless the risk taker is a ‘celebrated’ entity. In many instances, the undeserving mediocre still rule.

Even the dance fraternity discriminates against its own i.e. artistic directors, dancers and their collaborators in one genre hardly/rarely exhibit any curiosity to investigate the output of other artists/genres.

All of this harms the impetus to create work that is original and otherworldly. Innovation is welcome only if names/brands are bankable and this mostly ensures repetitive redundancy.

Others have proffered all of the above complaints several times over the years and their solutions put forward are very similar to the ones I have to offer. Unfortunately, it all stops at the level of JUST TALKING.

In any case, at the risk of probably losing some old friends and making fewer new ones, here is my perspective:

I strongly recommend our fraternity keep coming together in person, en masse, regularly in a round table brainstorming session to admit these issues exist and consider various options to address them, because there are many, many perspectives, as there are solutions. These meetings should provide a safe, nurturing environment for all attending to be authentic and honest, thus proving to be a productive forum for all.

While I understand that financial resources are a constraint, we should consider the option of inviting our peers (on a complementary basis) to see each other’s work as often as possible to foster a fair exchange of ideas, and understand each others’s genres on a more equitable basis. With that awareness, we should all be considered Canadian and not necessarily culture or community specific, even when some forms do not fit pre-conceived paradigms of what dance is or should be.

Reciprocally, the invitees should be respectful and curious enough to accept the generous invitations extended to them, to build bridges to kinship.

Hopefully this would help constitute a truly more inclusive integrated dance community.

I call for a bolder, more honest, TRULY progressive mindset amongst artists, presenters and audiences.

Dance artists living in the city must think about what excellence is and how that is defined in dance globally. Without this panoramic and self-reflexive attitude, the quality of dance-making and art-production in the city is going to deteriorate even further and not qualify to be showcased on international platforms.

A truly world class global city like London (UK) or Madrid (Spain) nurtures a multitude of representations in contemporary dance. Artists taking risks and making incredible work come from various ethnicities, specializing in non-European dance styles and embracing differing cultural influences. Many of these artists are the face of contemporary dance in Europe. They are nurtured and supported by arts agencies, arts councils, the dance fraternity and by the community at large. Hence their work is current and representative of a 21st century global world mosaic. 

Sadly, I do not see this kind of support and representation in Toronto and yet we pride ourselves on being a global world-class city for the arts.  I call on presenters in the city to cast a wider net and look at artists of various genres and styles who are making excellent work and are taking risks grounded in this excellence.

Art should not always be about financial profit.

In all fairness, I should not fault the artists and presenters alone, because audiences also play a crucial role through their patronage and perceptions of dance in the city. I appeal to the city’s audiences to partake in all kinds of dance while applying democratic standards in their evaluation of the artist’s unique voice.

Whether the artist is working in singular or diverse styles and genres, I encourage the audience to see their work with a fresh, open mind and not judge or dismiss them as irrelevant on the basis of their name, skin colour or dance genre.

As in most TRULY international cities, I dream of audiences in Toronto who patronize and nurture all kinds of dance with an open mind and heart.

LUCY: Again, wow. Thank you for your honesty and incisiveness. I think some of us are scared to say how we really feel sometimes, but you've shown me that with a good, open heart you can be critical without being cruel in this light.  

Ok, final question: Can you tell me about a performance that was a game-changer, art-changer for you — something you were part of as an audience member — who was it, where, when, why was it impactful to you?

HARI: Hands down it was being in the audience, watching Sylvie Guillem’s farewell performance, “A Life in Progress” at the Sadler’s Wells in London this May. It was an absolutely life changing experience as an artist and human being. Here is a dancer TRULY deserving of the much bandied about phrase “sheer poetry in motion”.
Articulate. Precise. Terse. Haunting.

Aspiring to bask in her shadow makes my artistic Sisyphean life worthwhile.

See inDANCE at Dance TO Showcase performance
Monday September 28th at 6:30 pm 
(right after the Cocktail launch party 5-6:30pm)
Harbourfront Centre Theatre (formerly ENWAVE theatre)

all about inDANCE:

all about Dance TO Showcase:

all photos courtesy of Hari Krishnan/inDANCE


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