Sound affair






QSamadhi Dance group –
how did it come into being?
My sisters and I ( Rasarani, Vraja sundari) grew
up with the principles of the Vedanta philosophy,
as my parents are disciples from Srila Prabhupada
and were wed after meeting each other in the Hare
Krishna movement in the ’70’s. By the guru
representing Srila Prabhupada my sisters and I were
given Sanskrit names as is a custom in the
Vaishnava culture.

Thereafter we went to school, college and
professional dance school with ‘normal’ students,
so we have always been between worlds. Our
parents are artists; my mother (1951-2010) was a
dancer and dance teacher and my father is a
philosopher and musician. So it was but natural for
us to develop artistic skills at home and combine
our arts with the given philosophy as well as to
merge aesthetics and certain elements of the Indian
culture with our Western culture, as this felt completely
natural being raised in an environment
where we were always associating with both cultures.
Through arts we always found freedom to express
ourselves as well as to give a place to our
struggles and confusion born from the differences
in these worlds. Inspired by our mother we all
turned out to be professional dancers, dance
teachers and choreographers now specializing in
fusing the best of these two worlds, without claiming
to be Indian or traditional. This is another field
that we highly respect and view as a strong source
of inspiration.

As a student of the acclaimed dance performance
department at Codarts in Rotterdam I started creating
own work from 2001 as a means to express
myself freely. This turned out to be successful and
ever since then it became a habit with me to create.
After graduating in 2004 I received many bookings
as a soloist to perform my own choreography.
Several young talented dancers became a fan of this
work and wanted to study this style and technique
under my guidance. This developed into a small
group of dedicated and very talented dancers. When
I was requested to create group work, it felt natural
to create something with this group of dancers and
myself. When asked what the name of our group
would be in 2007, I immediately felt ‘Samadhi’
would be appropriate as the goal of our work is to
be absorbed in the moment during a performance
as well as to give our audience an experience where
they could be fully absorbed in the moment, creating
a meditation like collective emotion or collective
‘rasa’. I never felt right naming the company
the Vraja Sundari Company and through the years
‘Samadhi Dance company’ (SDC) developed in a
steady and respected contemporary dance
company, unique for it’s devotion to dance.

Of course ‘Samadhi’ is a Sanskrit word so
naturally it has a clear connection with India. As we
specialize in integrating elements from the science
of dance and art originating in India (Bharata
natyam, Odissi, Navarasa) it felt appropriate to
have a title that is easily associated with India.

QThe contents of your productions are
characterized by fusing knowledge of the
ancient Vedas with Western art and dance
techniques…what makes you choose the
teachings of Vedas and Indian music?
As I mentioned I grew up surrounded by the
teachings of the Vedas, the fashion and colors of the
Vaishnavism, the music (bhajan, kirtan) and poetry
(sloka’s, artiks), all originating in the Vedanta
philosophy. So it has become very natural for me
to bring these worlds together as my world has
always consisted of these two cultures, supporting
and enriching each other. It would be unnatural for
me to only create Western dance or only Indian
based work, it would feel like I am faking something.
And to me the most important aspect is the
integrity of an artist: no matter what the outcome
is, I need to go to sleep at night with a feeling, that
I am doing the right thing in my life and truly the
best that I can do; that I believe in my art and that
I believe it can inspire, touch and mean something
for someone, even if its just me….

QHow do you train your students and what is
the first lesson you teach them as a GURU, as
the path to learning ballet is not that easy as it
It is indeed a very long road full of trials and
tribulations. The dancer is tested on many occasions.
First thing I teach my students is that the only
and real obligation a human has is to be responsible
for their own happiness. And that dance, once loged
firmly in the heart, can be a great means to happiness:
as a dancer we can share our ‘diary’ so to
speak to our audience including the fragility,
sincerity, humility and vulnerability, but it remains
in ‘code'; people can feel the emotion but they
would never really know exactly, so the dancer’s
‘secrets’ still stay safe. This way dance becomes
something that no one can take away from them.
This increases the trust in oneself (zelf –
vertrouwen), which is essential in taking the next
step in one’s development. Second rule is that you
can never EVER laugh at yourself or at others when
learning or practicing, as this can form the biggest
block in the development of an artist. It is always ‘
yes and’ instead of ‘NO.’

Boundaries, discipline and developing independence
is crucial. Students and dancers learn that a
compliment is as valuable as criticism as we need
both to stay focused and inspired in order to keep
learning: as an artist but especially as a human; we
need to always be prepared for the fact that we will
always make mistakes. And the harder the ‘test’,
the more important the mission is! Finally we
explain that the intention and essence of an
emotion ( ‘e’ is Latin for ‘exit’ and ‘motion’ is Latin
for ‘movement’, so dancing is literally ’emotion’) or
intention/story must start in the heart, then go to/ is expressed through the eyes and the eyes then connect
with the hands (mudras). Then from the
mudra it comes back to the eyes to arrive again in
the heart. This is continuously happening during a
performance and if successful, will result in a
collective ‘rasa’ or emotion, meaning that the
audience and the performer experience the same
emotion together, connecting them and truly
making it a collaboration between the two. In the
Samadhi dance technique the feet are simultaneously
connected with the hands and once hands
and feet are moving, the body follows. This idea
originates from Bharata Natyam, and we followed
several classes in this technique from various
qualified teachers, just to strengthen the fusion of
Indian dance into contemporary Western dance
techniques. From contemporary dance the
‘steering’ of the back – an essential principle of
modern dance – is implemented to expand the
technical possibilities of the dancer. We call
technique ‘freedom of movement’ and being
professional means to be ‘self-sufficient': i.e. if the
choreographer gives the dancer the task to perform
in a certain way, one can expect from a
professional dancer that they will do so, so the
choreographer can always count on the dancer.
Reliability is essential. So these are some principles
that we teach our students, from a very
young age up to the professional and mature age.


QHanuman is your latest production, what is
the message you have tried to convey through
this production?
The story of ‘ Hanuman ‘ has many meanings
and depths and with this performance SDC wants
to give her audience the opportunity to experience
such depths and meanings through the art of dance
and music. Underlying theme of ‘Hanuman is
“Force” or Strength.’ Physical, but also inner
strength and vigor. Think of the power of loyalty,
perseverance, dedication, hope and faith. One
of the quotes that was central to the creative
process of ‘Hanuman’ is : “Darkness is the absence
of light , but light is not the absence of darkness”;
‘Light’ or positive thoughts and a positive mindset
will always “triumph” over dark and negative
moods. The moment that “light” enters, darkness
will increasingly disappear. The essence of
‘Hanuman’ is that even if something seems impossible,
through dedication, humility, intelligence,
perseverance and a positive attitude, one can reach
unprecedented heights (to take a ‘leap of faith’)
whenserving the right cause.

QWhat is your perception about having a
disciplined training when it comes to such
kind of performing arts?
Art is relatively somewhat chaotic, unexpected,
fleeting and fully based on inspiration, dedication,
perseverance, chance and collaboration. Without
this, it is less than a sport. So to reach the level of
magic one must go deep, be open to learn at all
times, remain humble and submissive when
working together and remain fully dedicated. What
you put into it, is what you will get out of it.
Finally it is the personality and the mindset that
determine the course and durance of ones career.


Milan Mela is one of the largest
festivals to be introduced to the
Netherlands by the post-colonial
immigrants in this land. It’s a yearly
festival that takes place every year
in The Hague. Known to be the biggest outdoor
Hindustani event in mainland Europe, it is
organized largely by the Hindustani community. A
fair where the Hindustani community celebrates its
identity, it attracts at least 50,000 visitors each year.
It is one of the most anticipated, most influential
festivals of the year. This year the Milan Mela
celebrates its 31st year and hopes to grace the
occasion with fresh energy, innovative ideas and
creative challenges.

The term ‘Mela’ was inspired by the melas in
India which technically means ‘a coming together
of a large group of people.’ ‘Milan ’ means ‘meeting
together’. And it is indeed a meeting point, for
people from various communities who come with
friends and families to be a part of this colorful
festivity. It is but also a merging point for the
business professionals and companies to broaden
their network. It was started in 1983 with the aim to
establish a meeting place for all the citizens of
Surinamese Descent and to provide a multicultural
platform for all the citizens of The Hague.

The Milan festival is an Open-air event that takes
place in The Hague’s Zuiderpark with numerous
food stalls selling Hindustani snacks, gorgeous
costumes, Hindustani music Cd’s. It is organised
by the Stichting Interculturele Ontmoetkingsmanifestatie
(Foundation for Intercultural
Interaction). The festival resembles a vibrant party
a buzz with dazzling costumes, live music and
dance, Bollywood especially, children’s activities,
funfair, sports and performances from almost all
other ethnic groups in the Netherlands. Initially it
was a free entry event, but slowly, to cover the costs
the festival organizers introduced a small entry fee.
Not only this, in the subsequent years the Mela also
addressed many significant issues relevant to the
Hindustani Community.

This mega cultural event is undergoing a
metamorphosis this year. Milan Mela will come to
be known as the Milan Summer festival.The main
festival area will continue to be the central place
which is getting ready to welcome the visitors
amidst its grand bazar. This year the stage is set
with new concepts, new ideas amidst a new setting
and the 3 days from July 24 to July 26 promise to
be exciting, as always.

In the maddeningly fast paced life in the
Netherlands and despite all odds and struggles,
Milan Mela has continued to grow and has
managed to build bridges between various ethnic
groups in the Dutch society. It continues to be a
setting where the immigrants come not only to
assert and renew their collective cultural ties, but
also to explore and celebrate their ethnic identities.


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