Even before the South-Asian American Dance performance began, I was immediately taken by the diversity amongst the dancers. Reading bios in the short program, I was intrigued by how the various homelands and ethnic upbringings of the performers would inspire their work. From Pakistan to China to Jamaica to the United States, the Tehreema Mitha Dance Company combines the talents and fortes of its members, to produce a show that is both pleasant to watch, and intellectually stimulating. As I watched the dancers share their art with the crowd, I could not help but wonder how each of their personal styles influenced the pieces on stage.
The show itself is made up of four pieces: two classical South Indian performances, and two contemporary pieces. For someone not familiar with classical South Asian dance, I was entranced by the movements of soloists Praneetha Akula, and Tehreema Mitha (the latter being the artistic director and founder of the company). Both women walked onstage adorned in colorful costumes and tinkering bells, and confidently shared with the audience their well-rehearsed and complex pieces. Akula particularly portrayed a very entertaining character throughout her piece, smirking, laughing, and frowning appropriately to help viewers understand her message.
More interesting, however, were TMDC’s contemporary pieces. “Cherry Blossoms in DC” combined some of the movements from the classical pieces, yet told a story directly related to politics in Washington, DC. The audience laughed when a baffled president character, accompanied by Secret Service Agents, moved about stage, deflecting complex political questions, as two other dancers representing cherry blossoms gracefully played before them. The performance contrasted the beauty of the city with the corruption of the government, and seemed to be asking the audience if this beauty is being polluted because of drama on the Hill.
Rounding out the night was Tehreema Mitha’s contemporary solo, “Ghaibana Taruf (Off Our Streets),” in which the dancer portrays a homeless person in need of attention and help. Mitha intertwined the movements of classical Indian dance with an issue that is plaguing our streets, as she moved about the stage, begging passers-by for sympathy.
Though not a dance aficionado by any means, I was entranced by the company’s movements, and found their topics interesting and thought-provoking in this 50-minute compilation of dances. The Tehreema Mitha Dance Company has a fascinating conception-founded by Mitha herself, a native of Pakistan, whose bio left me wondering more about her life, and how this has influenced her company. The South-Asian American Dance performance is a short and sweet taste of this hybrid dance technique, and not a bad way to prep your palate for a night at the Capital Fringe Fest.
South Asian American Dance
The Tehreema Mitha Dance Company
Reviewed by Caitlin DeMerlis