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Courtyard Dancers blend tradition and contemporary with Asunder

Courtyard Dancers
Photo credit: JJ Tiziou

Courtyard Dancers, a cultural collective of the South Asian diaspora in Philadelphia, present their latest dance-theater creation, ASUNDER, at the Painted Bride on June 27th and 28th at 8:00PM. This evening-length composition uses classical and contemporary Indian dance, live music and percussion, and text to explore what once was and never shall be again: an undivided India.   A dance theater, using Kathak dance, poetry, Thumri and Baul songs, it evokes a landscape of nostalgia, loss, and longing for a homeland that was broken asunder during “desh bhagh” (the partition of India).

ASUNDER is conceived and choreographed by Dr. Pallabi Chakravorty, a dance anthropologist, dancer and dance-maker known for fusing ethnographic research with her artistic creations. She is a full time faculty in the department of Music and Dance at Swarthmore College. The members of Courtyard Dancers are a vibrant and diverse group that embodies the idea of multiplicity. They are engineers, doctors, bankers, lawyers, teachers and students who aspire to preserve the core and expand the boundaries of classical Indian dance, especially the North Indian form Kathak.  For them, dancing is a form of critical social engagement—to connect to the traditional arts of India but within a contemporary framework of aesthetics and progressive politics. The Courtyard Dancers aim for artistic excellence by adhering to the precision of classical Indian dance aesthetics but with an open approach to the best of modernity.

Live tabla and vocal support are provided by accomplished musicians from Pakistan: Aqeel Bhatti and Joel Rahmat. The musical compositions show the overlapping traditions of North Indian and Pakistani classical music.

About Courtyard Dancers
Courtyard Dancers is a nonprofit dance company interested in developing a socially engaged community of artists and audiences who experience the arts as the building blocks of community. Their dance-theaters juxtapose the beauty of the classical Indian dances with pedestrian movements, everyday gestures, utterances, and text to create new collages of life. The company draws on the expressive power of dance and music to narrate stories of the under-represented and the unusual, the quotidian and the mundane, to evoke dramatic and powerful images of ordinary life. Through their dance works, workshops, and speaking engagements, the company strives for sustainable and pluralistic communities that can acknowledge and bridge differences.

Courtyard Dancers presents Asunder
June 27 and 28 | 8pm
The Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia

- Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded PhiladelphiaDANCE.org as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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