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A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
Choreographies of isolation: in conversation with Nova Bhattacharya and Kevin A. Ormsby
Monday, February 15, 2021 | Brannavy Jeyasundaram
In another timeline, Nova Bhattacharya and Kevin A. Ormsby would have premiered the largest productions of their careers at the crest of fall. Works that invited participation from artists across the globe, filled 3000-seat theatres, and brought a chorus of Black and brown bodies in motion. Bhattacharya, the Artistic Director of Nova Dance, was preparing to debut Svāhā — a pageant of dance, chant, and ritual performed by women — at Meridian Hall. Ormsby, the Artistic Director of KasheDance, was set to debut a choreographic work with the National Ballet of Canada and the 10th anniversary production of his company. When the pandemic hit Toronto in March, everything came to a halt. Suddenly, they were ushered into a sociological experiment with significant creative potential. As dance artists heavily dependent on experimentations of touch, Bhattacharya and Ormsby were forced to reimagine what it means to work. They shifted from building choreography to focusing on the mental well-being of their dancers. Furthermore, as mid-career artists who have relentlessly advocated for meaningful inclusion in Canada's arts sector, the pandemic has shifted their understanding of progress. Bhattacharya uses the vocabulary of Bharatanatyam, a South Indian classical style to build works that explores the interfaces between cultures and creative disciplines. Similarly, Ormsby traverses Afro-Caribbean diasporas through the language of dancehall, modern dance, and ballet. The recognition that they receive today as recipients of grants from federal and provincial arts institutions did not come easy.