It is understood

Nirmala Seshadri

My artistic practice, that is reflected through my 2-part project, The Problematic Danseuse and The Problematic Dance (2019/20), hinges on the mature body and its relationship with movement, expression, its history, as well as the sociocultural milieux in which it is located.

As a mature woman whose past was steeped in the learning, practice and performance of classical Indian dance, how can I now engage with Dance in ways that are authentic, empowering and empathetic?

Just before the Circuit Breaker, I was working on the translation of my paper The Problematic Danseuse: Reclaiming Space to Dance the Lived Feminine (2017) into a retrospective lecture performance. However Covid-19 and an accident that led to a wrist fracture and subsequent surgery, prevented me from going ahead with my plans. I then reviewed my working process microscopically, through one segment of my script that opens with the phrase: “It is understood”

It is understood that the Danseuse (nartaki) should be very lovely, young, with full round breasts, self-confident, charming, agreeable, dexterous in handling the critical passages … with wide-open eyes … adorned with costly jewels, with a charming lotus-face, neither very stout nor very thin, nor very tall nor very short.

My process involved tracing my journey from Paper towards Lecture Performance through archival and production material, continuing research as well as conversations with my collaborators. “It is understood” provided an entry point for an online residency and collaboration that has been focussed on gender, caste, privilege and appropriation, with Chennai-based dancer Nrithya Pillai.

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"It is understood"
Danseuse Iteration 2


Nirmala Seshadri is a dance artist and researcher who seeks to recontextualise her classical dance form, Bharatanatyam. Her social justice perspective leads her to use the body and performance space to interrogate existing inequalities, problematizing boundaries of time, place, gender, and caste, among other social constructs. Her quest for autonomy and sensorial perception led her to Butoh.

Bridging dance practice with theory, her research interests include kinesthesia and corporeality, gender, tradition and transition, site specificity, cultural hybridisation and the politics of identity. With her practice and research focus lying at the intersection of Bharatanatyam, Butoh, Breathwork and Yoga, she draws from these elements in creating her therapeutic movement approach Antarika. A recipient of the Young Artist Award from the National Arts Council (Singapore), she graduated with an MA in Dance Anthropology (distinction) from the University of Roehampton, London. Nirmala is currently an associate member of Dance Nucleus, Singapore.