BRINDA GUHA identifies as a non-disabled, caste-privileged, cisgendered, queer South-Asian American, and is a trained Indian Classical Kathak dancer for over 20 years and has traveled throughout USA and to India, England, and Spain to perform. During training and performing for years in the Kathak (Guru Malabika Guha) & Manipuri (Guru Kalavati Devi) dance disciplines, as well as Flamenco (Carmen de las Cuevas; Dionisia Garcia) and Contemporary Fusion vocabularies, she co-founded Kalamandir Dance Company in 2010 and the movement vocabulary coined as #KalamandirStyle under the rich heritage of #ContemporaryIndian dance. Through Kalamandir, Brinda choreographed for many national stages, the North American Bengali Conference at Madison Square Garden, and self-produced and choreographed original feature-length dance productions which earned her artist residencies at Dixon Place (2018) and Dancewave (2019) to continue to develop work. Now, she is represented by CESD Talent Agency and is pursuing artistic direction, performance and arts education. Brinda also dances with dynamic percussive trio Soles of Duende, featuring Flamenco (Arielle Rosales), Tap (Amanda Castro), and Kathak (Guha). Her dream of having art meet activism was realized when she created WISE FRUIT NYC, a seasonal live arts installment (est 2017) dedicated to the feminine divine and honoring select women-led organizations. For her day job, she works as the Symposium Coordinator for dance service organization based in the values of justice, equity & inclusion: Dance/NYC. Brinda thanks her colleague, friend & accountability partner, Candace Thompson-Zachery, for her final eyes on this writing prompt.
What’s one topic that you think dancers don't care enough about?
“Cultural appropriation is a problem… In dance, it’s tricky. It’s the arts, and it should be a mosaic of inspiration, ideas, lessons, and spaces shared. The issue lies with the funneling of the resources gained from artistic works, and the positionality of many practitioners who place themselves as the gatekeeper to the work. There are many reasons why that’s problematic. One is that communities that are the creators of many forms, vocabularies, and techniques are often marginalized communities that have had to find a way to position their identities in a rich, straight, cisgendered, white, male-dominated world. Their dance forms are created to preserve their culture, often culture that was systematically taken away, and to move from survival to thriving as their generational relentlessness refines itself. It is dance that continues to save people of color. So when Person A with little knowledge and connection to the origin communities of these forms gets an opportunity because of their work and there is no mechanism in place to advance the folks who gave their knowledge to Person A, it keeps the systems and hierarchies in that oppressive place. Capitalism is the foundation of why cultural appropriation is excruciatingly painful for communities of color. Simply put, don’t take what’s not yours. And if it was shared with you and you are a dedicated recipient of that deep knowledge, and support and encouragement on your side, then leverage your power and privilege to be sure your elders, mentors, teachers and origin communities are receiving a cut of the profit of your product.”
How does the political climate influence your artistic expression?
“‘An artist’s duty is to reflect the times’, Nina Simone said. The deepest well from which our artistic expression flows is dug out through our suffering and our awakening, time and time again. Simply put, the arts exist because people exist. And politics is a dirty word for civic engagement. And civic engagement in the cornerstone of democracy. And democracy allows us to fill the potential of our collective humanity. The political climate is simply a tonal shift in the ether of our day to day lives, especially since we live in such a capitalistic society. It’s kind of frightening actually, if you think about it. If a policy shift in local government limits a resource, then human beings are going to have a reaction to it because human beings have to live through the consequences of that shift. When creating work, that tension, fear and anxiety is often channeled into work that helps ultimately heal oneself. It doesn’t have to mean that a piece about tension, fear or anxiety is built — although, that’s often the case because people can relate to those relevant society emotions. But sometimes, it can mean that a person may create something joyful or unlock something restorative or exploratory in the midst of that tension, fear and anxiety, because those are the qualities that we are longing for, that feel palpable to us in moments of uncertainty. Nina Simone said it best — art should move people on a different vibration than just pragmatism, and art should tap into the spaces where words and formulas don’t fit. Art captures our complexity as human beings, and that’s why it’s inherently political.”
How are you using your voice in the dance world right now?
“I am an organizer, and a ‘gatherer’. I like to bring people together in safe ways, because capitalism is taking away our right to birth work in circles. Capitalism and its oppression is forcing us to create independently outward. Capitalism and it’s procedures take away agency, and it divides and conquers us, forcing us to fight each other for scraps while the oppressor feasts at the top. I refuse to be another person on this planet that promotes that way of creating art. All ancient and traditional art forms start and end in a circle, and I intend to create spaces that start and end in our communal responsibility, accountability and love for one another. As of now, I have pivoted into digital organizing, using my Wise Fruit NYC platform to function as a social media campaign that encourages folks to take one small action of civic engagement each day. I am also continuing to teach my students and work with my company dancers regularly, and in a way that decolonizes our minds and individual practices, deconstructs our community pain, and rebuilds its love of craft from a truthful place. I gather people to humbly join me in doing better for our planet."