For The Love Of L.A.: "Crown" by Shalini Bathina
Many For The Love Of L.A. curators ask their artists questions and post them here. You are the reader of this collection, so for context, prior to your viewership, some questions for you instead:
- How does a South Asian person dance?
- Who do you see when you hear “Girl next door,” or “America’s sweetheart?”
- What does Indian music sound like?
- What does contemporary dance look like?
- What is authentic Indian art?
Write down your answers, then please watch the pieces and the artist Q&A. I would love to hear your thoughts before and after, and any realizations or thoughts that might have/or may not have occurred. Tag @achintablue13 and @musiccenterla on Instagram using the hashtags #ftlola #objectsinmirror.
The concept of Ardhanareeswara comes to mind when considering the idea of “objects in mirror... are not what they appear." Ardhanareeswara is a composite form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. It is depicted as half male and half female, equally split down the middle. This inspired the thought that we are all born with and have male and female energies, in every way.
Whether as South Asians or women, our identities are often misconstrued to fit a certain Western narrative. Through the exploration of Ardhanareeswara, we can reclaim the masculine and feminine energies that exist in all of us and find peace, authenticity and freedom. Through this journey, we find an ever-present movement and flow, unawareness and awareness, misalignment and alignment, and finally balance.
We are never just what we seem to be when we look in the mirror. There is always something deeper that exists just beneath the surface should we take it upon ourselves to look beyond the glass. How can we bring both energies forward, trusting that they can co-exist on the surface in all their glory?
This piece is an exploration of this very question through the medium of Kuchipudi, film and the story of two characters reminiscent of Shiva and Parvati.
I am performing a dance as two different characters to Ireesh Lal’s track “Mvmt VII: Crown Chakra,” filmed and edited by Brittany Elamparo and Sharayu Mahale, in a loft studio space in Downtown, Los Angeles.
Shalini Bathina began her training in Kuchipudi, an Indian classical dance form, at the age of five with Raju Garu in India. She continued her training in the U.S. under Jyothi Lakkaraju at Natyalaya School of Dance. Bathina then pursued theatre and continued to dance at the University of California.
After graduating, along with being a professional actress, Bathina has been exploring various other styles of dance by joining several other dance companies based in Los Angeles and has performed throughout Los Angeles, Chicago and Canada. Some notable performances including Disneyland, Hollywood Bowl Summer Sounds for the L.A. Philharmonic and Skirball Center.
Bathina continues to work with Shivani Thakkar’s dance company, MKM Bollystars. She joined as a core company member and is now the co-artistic director as well as a choreographer. Most recently, the company was in residency at A Noise Within Theatre Company, exploring ways to incorporate Indian classical dance and Western classical theatre. Their diverse yet complementary dance experience lends itself to creating unique work that respects traditional constructs while maintaining a contemporary point of view.
Curated by Achinta S. McDaniel
“'Objects in Mirror...' is the phrase which first inspired my curated collection For the Love of LA. I deliberately selected Indian/South Asian American identifying performing artists for this curation and, to catalyze the work, asked each to fill in the rest of the above sentence.
The Objects in Mirror projects center this deinvisibilization process through dance, music and film created in L.A. during the height of the pandemic. The isolation, the 2020 election, our inspiration from Black Lives Matter and anti-racist movements across the U.S., coupled with the violence our communities endured during this time reifies the need to meaningfully elevate our visibility, not just as in performative gestures of diversity. My artists are Shreya, Shalini, and Ireesh and I am Achinta. Don’t say you’re not even going to try to pronounce them. Ask us how."