Announcing the Incredible Dances of South Asia

Meet Dr. Joyce Paul Siamak – a new Community Coordinator at Northwest Folklife

I first attended Folklife when I was visiting Seattle on work in 1999. I was completely hooked!  Since moving to Redmond in 2001, I have been a performer and avid supporter of Northwest FolkLife having performed or volunteered every single year. It was at a Folklife performance with my friend Meera that I was noticed by the producer at Town Hall and invited to be part of their Global Rhythms series.

Dr. Joyce Paul Siamak

It has been a long association for me and I am very excited that I can take my support one step ahead by being the Community Coordinator this year.

Some 15 years ago when I first danced, there was no Indian or South Asian showcase; we just got slots in the “International Dance” section. Over the years with more artists moving into the area, various regional showcases started being staged. In particular the “Colors and Cultures of India” took off and provided a great opportunity for young immigrant artists to share their art with the community.

Over the last 5 to 6 years, I noticed a trend that I thought was not doing justice to the art form or the talent available locally. Most Indian dancers I knew were losing interest in performing and had started using the event to present their students in training instead of dancing themselves. This resulted in the audience members not getting a chance to see professionals at work. They were also unable to see what the art form would look like, had an experienced artist chosen to perform. Also, other nations and art forms from the entire South/East Asian region seemed to be represented less and less with dominant art forms such as Bharatanatyam taking on most of the slots. One time, I remember seeing 5 groups from the same genre, with three of them doing the same pieces in the same raga and tala!

I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to bring a change in the programming to make it relevant to the larger South Asian dance community while ensuring that we present artistes and performances of caliber. I envisioned a showcase called “Incredible dances of South/East Asia.” For 2015, my first year as curator and community coordinator, my charter looks thus:

  1. Honor and invite special senior guests (artists who have decades of experience)
  2. Present interesting cross-genre programming with creative artists
  3. Present artistes and performances of caliber
  4. Continue to provide a platform for young and upcoming artistes. (provide a good mix of experience and upcoming)
  5. Showcase under represented art forms and regions of South/East Asia

How is this year’s show different?

  1. We are presenting South Asian and South East Asian countries and not just India
  2. Kicking off groups that create dance for social change (from the 4 culture ASC showcase)
  3. Introducing Jugalbandi’s or bringing two styles together.
  4. Presenting traditional folk dance such as Ghoomar and Terah Taaali from Rajasthan
  5. Blending Classicism in dance with traditional training methods such as Yoga and Kalaripayattu
  6. Honoring a senior guru

It is a big change moving from the well-established showcase theme from the past years but I am excited to bring this new showcase on

Ratna Roy

stage. Hopefully it will reach out to more folks from Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Maldives as well as South East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and West Malaysia. My desire is to present the amazing dance forms that are rarely seen in the Pacific Northwest!

I would like to thank NWFL especially Kelli Faryar for giving me the freedom to plan and execute this showcase based on my needs assessment and content expertise. It has been an amazing ride and I look forward to this weekend when it all comes together!!

Thank you and looking forward to seeing all of you this weekend. Please write to me (joyce@arpanarts.org) with your thoughts about this showcase.

– Dr. Joyce Paul

Posted in Northwest Folklife Festival.