Ishti Collective’s newest work, Prana, will be presented along with five other works in the Utopian Performance Tour at the 2021 Pivot Arts Festival: Reimagining Utopia. Kinnari Vora, Preeti Veerlapati, and Tuli Bera of Ishti Collective talked with Gina Wrolstad (2021 spring season Marketing Manager) about Bharatanatyam influences and the origins of Prana.

GW: You describe Prana as “an invitation to rest and recuperate” as well as a chance to “restore balance and harmony with our natural state.” How, if at all, has this concept of rest been inspired by the events of this past year?

IC: While the need to pause, rest, and recuperate has always been necessary, the events of the past year have stirred an urgency to continue exploring tools that allow us look inwards and heal. How can we take care of the body that we inhabit–a vessel that needs to be cared for and nurtured?

Last year, we began a weekly breathing and meditation session that was offered free to the public. The sessions helped to refocus the mind and body, and are how Prana came to be.

We would also like to acknowledge those who have been advocating for this process well before the events of this past year, specifically The Nap Ministry:  “Rest Is Resistance”.

GW: Particularly for audiences who may be unfamiliar with the traditions of Bharatanatyam, how does this form of South Indian Classical dance inform your contemporary works?

IC: You may see some movement aesthetics such as the use of mudras (hand gestures) and abhinaya (facial expressions) for storytelling. There is also particular footwork in our work that is informed by Bharatanatyam.

More importantly, our works are guided by the Natyashastra, an ancient Sanskrit treatise on performing arts. A driving theory of the Natyashastra is that “entertainment is a desired effect of performance arts, but not the primary goal.”

Rather, the primary goal is to transport the audience member into a parallel reality where they experience the essence of their own consciousness, and reflect on spiritual and moral questions.

GW: The costuming in all of your works is always so stunning. Can you talk about how the traditions of Bharatanatyam influence your costuming decisions?

IC: Thank you! Just like we are stripping down the form to its essential distinct components, our costumes are also inspired by minimalist Bharatanatyam aesthetics. Each component has a meaning or story, and the colors reflect the emotions of that story. Some costumes are also born out of necessity, utility and limitations in resources.

GW: What is your dream performance venue?

KV: The Tierradentro underground burial tombs in Colombia.

TB: I’ll perform anywhere as long as it’s with people I love!

PV: Vitsoe’s Headquarters in the UK OR to build my own dream venue by working with an architect to transform a warehouse space with an emphasis on movement and bringing the natural environment inside.

GW: What are you listening to right now? (music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.)

KV: On Being by Krista Tippett and A Promised Land by Barack Obama

TB: Spotify Playlist Black Joy 2021

PV: Baratunde Thurston’s 2019 Ted Talk

Thank you Kinnari, Tuli, and Preeti for your beautiful, informative responses! Don’t miss the premiere of Prana at the Utopian Performance Tour from May 21-June 5.

Tickets are on sale now for staggered start times on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays!

Header image: Ishti Collective, photo by Doug Hanson