Mandala Arts Choreographer Showcase

Event Type
Event Description

Mandala Arts celebrates its return to the stage with a showcase of South Asian perspectives in contemporary dance. Dancemakers Ashwaty Chennat and Shalaka Kulkarni premiere excerpts from new works, drawing upon experiences of solo dance making during the pandemic. This performance features a music interlude by Tabla artist, Krissy Bergmark.

Mandala Arts is proud to share the unique contributions of artists from the South Asian diaspora. Both Kulkarni and Chennat re-interpret ancient temple and court South Asian dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kathak; they find intersections with American and Western forms of dance, music and visual arts. Chennat is Associate Artistic Director with Mandala Arts and Kulkarni is Mandala's 2022 Resident Artist.

Chennat collaborates with experimental sound artist PM Tummala to create a haunting score with co-choreography and performances by Misha Talapatra and Tuli Bera. Chennat’s work, Alight, addresses questions such as: is it possible to find inspiration – just to live and be – without understanding what awaits us? Without friendship and conversation? The artist can be seen as a metaphor for the process of existing: what do we draw from when we are totally alone? . Using Zoom conversations, digital art creation, and various disjointed collaborations during the pandemic, Alight explores creating in isolation and where we can turn to ground, comfort, and nurture during challenges we universally encounter.

Ashwaty Chennat is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist and Associate Artistic Director of Mandala. With a background in Bharatanatyam dance, she draws on her experience and training in dance, music and theater to develop and evolve her practice. With Mandala Arts, she has directed and choreographed works throughout the Midwest. Highlights include Firebird Suite at the Chicago Symphony Center, Masks and Myths at the Logan Center for the Arts, and the annual Mandala Makers Festival. She has developed new works with support from the Ragdale Foundation, City of Chicago, Pivot Arts, 3Arts and the Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

Kulkarni presents solo work in collaboration with media artist Justin Boltz. Kulkarni’s Nyra's Dream is based on the idea of ​​myths in Indian culture, the work merges two classical Indian dance forms, Bharatanatyam and Kathak, with other forms of movement, text and technology. The work takes the viewer through an absurd day in the life of a mythical goddess reincarnated and identified as a woman from Indian culture. Born as a human for a month in 2085, she meets her followers and explores the realities and expectations of women through text, a hybrid form of classical Indian dance, and interactive technology.

Shalaka Kulkarni studied Bharatnatyam and Kathak in her native India. Her practice intersects classical Indian dance with other forms, texts and technologies. She explores feminine identity and erased narratives, in Western and Indian cultures, through dance. Her dance aims to illuminate the undocumented history of classical Indian dance forms that she discerns in the wider Indian culture and to share a personal experience of life in the Indian diaspora. She has performed her original work in India and Chicago at Prop Thtr Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center, Rhinofest, Links Hall and as part of the virtual Mandala Makers Festival. In addition to her residency with Mandala, she is a 2022 Artist-in-Residence with High Concept Labs.

Krissy Bergmark is a tabla player, percussionist, composer and educator. She centers her creative work on bringing tabla to new genres and cross-genres through composition and performance with a grounded understanding of the traditions of the instrument. She has received commissions and grants through the Cedar Commissions, the Jerome Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Minnesota State Arts Board for her tabla studies and compositions for tabla, percussion, and strings. She composes and performs with her progressive folk trio Sprig of That, experimental duo Lo.mocean and various other artists in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Chicago and New York. She is a teaching artist with Mandala.

Misha Talapatra is a dance artist based in Odissi dance, a disciplined and ornate form from East India. She has trained with dance maestros Manoranjan Pradhan, Jhelum Paranjape, Ratikant Mohapatra and Sreyashi Dey. She has performed across the US and India in productions and festivals. Beyond Odissi, Misha is a practitioner and choreographer of contemporary forms, folk and Bollywood dance; in fact, she founded a competitive Bollywood dance team at her alma mater, University of Michigan! She currently teaches Odissi with Mandala Arts.

Tuli Bera is a Bengali American movement artist. She draws from various styles of dance: Indian folk and classical forms, classical and contemporary ballet, modern, aerial dance and improvisation. Tuli holds a BFA in dance and has performed across Chicago’s stages and has been a soloist with Mandala Arts. Beyond performance, Tuli has supported independent artists as a producer and curator for dance and teaches ballet and aerial dance for all ages.

PM Tummala is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer whose work explores identity and false memories as an imaginary aural companion to Indian modernism and Indo-futurism.  Using a wide range of instrumentation that can include synthesizers, vibraphone, harmonium, electric piano, tape, and sampler, he reimagines the Hindustani, Carnatic, and Tollywood/Bollywood sounds of his childhood through a blurred lens of Western musical influences that span spiritual jazz, dub, musique concrète, Tropicália, ambient, and hip-hop/vinyl culture. He has recently released two solo albums, Abstractions in Meera and Brindavan Mon Amour, on the Monastral label.

Running Time
1 hour
Dance Styles
Modern / Contemporary
Traditional/Indigenous Dance


Chicago History Museum

1601 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 642-4600