Shantala wins Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance

November 4, 2013

Madras-born, Paris-based artiste Shantala Shivalingappa, celebrated for the “luminosity and clarity” of her dancing (The Financial Times) and lauded for “redefining rhythm with space” through her choreography (The New York Times), was granted New York City’s coveted Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance on October 7, 2013 at the Apollo Theater in New York City. Shantala is the first recipient to ever receive this award for the presentation of a South  Asian dance form. She is also the first ever artiste to have been nominated for this prestigious award two years in a row.

“We are honored to recognize Shantala, for the inspiration her performances have brought to New York audiences through her supreme dancing and deeply personal refinement of the traditional Indian dance form of Kuchipudi,” said Lucy Sexton, Director of the NY Dance and Performance Awards, known locally as “The Bessies.” The Bessie Committee awarded Shantala this honor with the following distinction: “For embodying the god Shiva and the spirit of the River Ganges in one riveting performance, shimmering with celestial anger one moment, and melting into serenely flowing water the next: a vibrant athletic battle of life force portrayed in her work Shiva Ganga.”

Produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, the NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work by independent dance artists in NYC for 29 years. Known as “The Bessie” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schonberg, the awards were established in 1983 by David White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize exceptional work in choreography, performance, music composition and visual design. A 40-member Selection Committee comprised of artistes, presenters, producers, and writers choose nominees. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League -members participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the Selection Committee.

Shantala Shivalingappa has reveled in both eastern and western traditions since early childhood. She grew up in a world filled with dance and music, her artistic exposure and education fostered by her mother, dancer Savitry Nair. Deeply moved and inspired by Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam’s pure and elegant form of Kuchipudi, she became his devoted pupil at his academy in Madras.  Since 2007, Shantala has been presented at some of the finest venues and festivals in North America, such as New York City Center (New York, NY), The Joyce Theater (New York, NY), Place des Arts (Montréal, QC), and San Francisco Performances (San Francisco, CA). Having spent much of her life living in Paris, Shantala’s exposure to western dance forms has been immense, studying and collaborating with luminaries such as Maurice Béjart, Peter Brook, Bartabas, Pina Bausch, and Ushio Amagatsu, to name a few. She currently performs solo works that had been set on her by Pina Bausch, while touring a new work (“Play”) with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a duet which the two artistes collaboratively assembled in 2010. Through these high profile collaborations and performances, considerable enthusiasm has grown among western audiences for Shantala’s original works of Kuchipudi, opening new hearts and minds to the vast richness of this classical form. Blending eastern and western concepts of performance, Shantala has retained the core tenets of classical Kuchipudi learned from Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, while exhibiting production values that reflect an aesthetic of contemporary elegance, at turns innovative and minimal, from lighting to stage design.

While Shantala Shivalingappa has seldom had the opportunity to perform in India, planning is underway for a program of Kuchipudi and contemporary solos, supported by The Park’s New Festival, in partnership with the Prakriti Foundation and the French Embassy in New Delhi.