CCE Global Talks discusses the dance community in 2020 with Pranita Nayar, Executive Artistic Director of Mandala South Asian Performing Arts and Ashwaty Chennat, a movement artist, choreographer and educator who was recently recognized as a 3arts Make A Wave artist.
Pranita Nayar founded Mandala Arts in 2014, where she serves as Executive Artistic Director. Pranita is a producer, curator, master teacher and choreographer whose work is rooted in South Asian dance forms and their changing contexts within the diaspora. Pranita has been an exponent of Bharatanatyam in the Chicagoland region for over 30 years, and her path has flowed into deconstruction of the movement vocabulary—from gesture to reassemblage. Pranita’s work has received many honors; she has been a Lab Artist with Chicago Dancemakers Forum (2016), has received three MacArthur Awards through her leadership for South Asian arts, and is an 11-time recipient of the Master Teacher award given by Illinois Arts Council. Her work has been presented at Lincoln Center, The Smithsonian Institute, Harris Theater (Chicago), Olympics (Salt Lake City, 2002), and the MTV VMA’s (Shakira). She has taught residencies and workshops at Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago), Muhlenberg College, Franklin & Marshall College, Wayne State University, secondary schools and has worked intimately with Chicago Public Schools.
Ashwaty Chennat is a movement and theater artist, choreographer and educator based in Chicago, she is a principal artist with Mandala Arts since 2016. Ashwaty began her extensive training in Southeast Michigan in Bharatanatyam (Sudha Chandrasekhar) and in ballet, jazz and theater forms. Her current work explores collaborations with musicians; she is working with jazz percussionist Alvin Cobb, Jr. to explore mental health narratives in communities of color, where they investigate rhythmic sequences found in Carnatic and jazz intersections. Ashwaty also collaborates with western classical musicians—in 2019 she set contemporary movement to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (conductor: Sameer Patel, Chicago Sinfonietta), and in 2016, she collaborated with renowned international cellist, Mauro Valli, to create movement for Bach’s Suite in D Minor. She looks to find new expressions by identifying movement within visual and sonic mediums. Ashwaty’s work has been presented at Chicago Symphony Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, McCormick Place (Chicago), the Logan Center for the Arts (Chicago), and Hill Auditorium (Ann Arbor).