Scholarly Research: Enhancing activism and connectivity through environmental, political, social, and cross-cultural infused creative research by Bala Sarasvati (AKA Shelley Shepherd)

Monday, April 26, 2021 @ 12:00 pm CST

Bala Sarasvati (AKA Shelley Shepherd)
Jane Willson Professor in the Arts

Keywords: interdisciplinary, multimedia production, experiential creative research, 21st Century dance production

The research presentation includes a dialogue regarding experiential creative research, multimedia film excerpts and follow-up discussion reflecting three interdisciplinary creative research projects that explore various connections originating from environmental, political, social, and cross-cultural perspectives and themes that permeate our collective world. The first project interprets issues surrounding conservation, sustainability, and other environmental concerns. The second project explores themes about internal and external boundaries—personal, cultural, political and spatial—and perceptions about both concrete and invisible walls that are created and destroyed. The third project explores perceptions about past indigenous legend; children at the border and guest artist Mario Vircha’s journey to four countries to better understand current worldwide migration of refugee artists. As we portray various scenarios, we begin to better understand the various perspectives of activism that emanate from various communities and cultures. Through the process of making dance that explores and interprets current and immanent global issues, the artistic ventures provide us growth and personal empowerment through experiential portrayal. Our collective hopes are to further motivate positive personal choices in day-to-day living as well as encourage community engagement for the better.  As we make choices directions in our art-making, we hope to further impact and contribute positive directions in the world we live in. At the same time, we endeavor to enlarge the expressive and performance ideas in ways that explore interdisciplinary dance works relevant to 21st C dance production. Through the incorporation of interdisciplinary disciplines including dance, aerial dance, spoken word and the integration of digital media and video mapping, the performance excerpts provided in this presentation are enhanced through a visual landscape incorporating projection mapping, film cyc and floor projections and aerial dance incorporating silks, slings, lyra, trapeze. The creative research projects serve as a vehicle to convey information that we are passionate about, and strive to reach beyond our immediate dance community and to serve as an advocate and voice in the larger global arena.


Professor in the Arts, Bala Sarasvati (AKA Shelley Shepherd) is a Certified Movement Analyst specializing in the application of movement theory to dance training and performance. Her dance choreography, film integration, and movement training approaches have been presented throughout the US, at international conferences, festivals and concerts including John F. Kennedy Performing Arts, Centro Coreográfico da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Laban Centre, London, Beijing International Arts Festival, National le Danse, Paris, France and Scotia Dance Center, Vancouver, BC. She has served as a graduate faculty member for Nacionale Universidad de Costa Rica and was a dance specialist in somatic theory application to dance training for the Danza Universitaria dance company, and for Programa Danza Abierta at the University of Costa Rica. She has developed and integrated film projection with aerial dance in contemporary dance production for 19 years, utilizing lyra, slings, silks, trapeze, and bungee.

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