For The Love Of L.A.
Achinta S. McDaniel
hiding in this cage
of visible matter
is the invisible
she is singing
-Kabir, Renowned Indian Poet (15th Century)
Through my work as an artist and advocate, I seek to interrogate preconceptions and misconceptions on Indianness and Americanness, and to reveal/challenge the expectations to which South Asian artists are forced to adhere. We are not a monolith. There is no template for the Indian American.
"Objects in Mirror..." is the phrase uniting my curated collection For the Love of L.A. 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.
Deinvisibilizing Indianness in all its complex multi-faceted beauty is a major part of not only my own work as an artist, teacher, and disruptor, but a part of my very identity as a proud and outspoken daughter of immigrants. I choose "deinvisibilize" to at once concretize that fact that we as South Asian American artists are invisible whether or not we fit into any one mold defined by structural American white supremacy and colonization (i.e., classical Indian music is elevated and excellent, while Bollywood is low art and base entertainment); and that amplifying our complex identities means an exhausting process of constantly educating the masses as to our every possible identity facet and nuance.
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 received during this time reifies the need to meaningfully elevate our visibility beyond performative gestures of diversity.
Reader/Listener, my artists are Shreya, Shalini, and Ireesh, and I am Achinta. Don’t say "I’m not even going to try to pronounce your name" Do try. Ask us how.
We require further examination.
We are not going away.
We are closer than we appear.
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 Zoom Q&A posted below. I would love to hear your thoughts before and after, and any realizations or thoughts that might have/or may not have occurred. Tag me @achintablue13 and @musiccenterla on Instagram using the hashtags #ftlola #objectsinmirror
Achinta S. McDaniel is a pioneer of contemporary Indian dance in the United States and the founder and artistic director of the country's first touring contemporary Indian dance ensemble, Blue13 Dance Company.
A first-generation South Asian American dance maker renowned for her passion to create dance works that challenge “Americanness,” McDaniel’s aesthetic is fueled by the rhythms and drama of classical and contemporary Indian art, and rooted in disciplines of contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap dance. McDaniel recently had the world premiere of her work Terpsichore in Ghungroos for Blue13 Dance Company, presented by the Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills, CA to critical acclaim:
“McDaniel steeps her work in wide-legged, ground-hugging, foot- stomping, body-syncopated, armwork-precise, infectiously rhythmic Indian dance. Working from that base, she erupts easily into fillips like head squiggles, torso shimmies, and leg flicks. She is a most fluid, and fluent, inventor, dotting her dance message with embellishments like a ne orator. She is unafraid to employ metaphor and narrative. She fluctuates her tempi, modulates her dynamics; at times she screams dance; at others her dance speaks sotto voce. Sometimes, she just tells it straight like a brave artist.” - Dance Critic, Debra Levine
She is a New York University graduate and studied classical Indian Kathak under guru Maya Rao in Bangalore, India. Her work reflects her upbringing, Eastern and Western, rebellious, and unconventional, traversing hierarchical and dividing lines of commercial dance, concert dance and pedagogy.
McDaniel has choreographed and danced in the music videos of DJ Snake and The Strokes and choreographed for Bollywood and American films and artists alike. McDaniel works as a T.V. choreographer (New Girl, Speechless with Minnie Driver), designs live Bollywood and Bhangra productions at Walt Disney World on both coasts and choreographs a multitude of projects in comedy, contemporary and Bollywood and Bhangra dance styles. She has worked as a choreographer for multiple commercials including Madden NFL, Heineken (Dir: Todd Haynes), and Snapple, and has worked with artists Timbaland, Sunny Leone and Anupam Kher.
A faculty member of USC's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she is passionate about teaching and sharing her unique perspective with students of all levels and abilities. McDaniel consults, lectures, teaches and choreographs for educational institutions across the U.S. She introduced Los Angeles to Bollywood dance over 15 years ago, also teaching a variety of Indian forms from Kathak to Bhangra, along with western styles including contemporary, jazz and tap. She has taught at EDGE Performing Arts Center, Debbie Reynolds, International Dance Academy and Athletic Garage.
McDaniel is an expert in audience and community engagement, working with Laguna Dance Festival, The Music Center of Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, University of North Carolina, Cal Poly Arts, and more.