When poetry covers rent …

On November 13, 2012 by pampi

Photos by Loreto Paz Ansaldo + Peter Everett

REFLECTING HOUSATONIC
Performing as a poet at Housatonic Community College was an empowering experience for me. I got to perform, workshop and articulate what exactly it is I’ve been doing these past four years.

When Loreto and I arrived, we saw beautiful mango posters featuring me quite prominently throughout the building. It was a giddy feeling to be treated so legitimately.

We met Peter Everett at the Library and he walked us over to the Performing Arts Center. Students were finishing up with their professor in front of a slightly raised platform.

The media services folks were just lovely. This was the first time I was able to hook up all my gear for a multimedia presentation. I met the two professors, Geoff Sheehan and Karyn Smith, whose classes were hosting my performance, and it was Geoff who suggested the house lights be changed to theater lighting, which immediately changed the mood of the space from starkly academic to affably intimate.

The College itself is beautifully made. Loreto and I were astonished at the amount of artwork and gallery spaces the College was showcasing – chocked full of inspiring pieces. Peter proudly informed us that Housatonic is the community college with the largest art collection in the States.

My 1st performance was for Karyn’s Writers in the Housatonic Classroom Program. Since this class is writing-focused, I led a haiku-to-movement workshop following my poetry-in-movement demo. My 2nd performance was for Geoff’s Theater Arts Professional Development Series. Since this class is a professional-development one, I shared my best-practices following my poetry-in-movement demo. See below for my presentation topics per session – focused on my poetry to movement process

By the second session, I began projecting my voice and became confident.

WORKSHOPPING
I challenged students to take five minutes to write a kinesthetically-inspired haiku. Later, I had a few volunteer to join me on stage with me to work out lines from their poems. I had them read aloud the haiku and identify a set of words that generated motion. I then asked them to demonstrate the feel of the motion they had in mind. Subsequently, I demonstrated my interpretation of those same lines in movement. There were differences every time. I explained that by its very nature with only 17 syllables, a haiku allows for more interpretation than the average poem. Still, this brief exercise served to elucidate the importance of accurate word choice in conveying intent and notions of interpretation – a theme relevant all afternoon.

I think after the haiku workshop I became myself. Students seemed engaged and amused by the exercise.

What I learned
I was fielded some great questions that got me thinking about how my work is received and what type of curiosity it may awaken. How much to explain has always been a point I consider for each piece I create. These questions helped me to acknowledge that I often go into auto-pilot when I do pieces that may appear similar but may not really be. These questions also got me to consider finally revamping my twitter account, specifically to convey my philosophy in answering these questions. For Questions posed by audience, see below

It was fulfilling to have to delineate what it is I do in front of my parents and see them break into smile when I tell them at dinner afterwards that I got compensated for it. Poetry can pay for rent!

What I presented (intro slide)

for Karyn Smith’s Writers in the Housatonic Classroom 12:30 – 1:50

PERFORMANCE
illustrated chapbook – Snake ate the Moon – a pitch to use the imagery and story as a game + slideshow of images

experimental temple dance – Alarippu – first piece learned in BHarat Natyam training, a dance that seeks blessing, singing the taal and performing it simultaneously

performance video + spoken word – Abhinaya Compromised – performance art video – demonstrate workshopping into improvised poetry and movement

politics – “there comes a moment” – video of performace that was responsive and situated within political social climate of the time – anticipated occupy boston and troy davis death by lethal injection

politics – Die on this Bank – performed song and dance simulteneously, discussing the performance and projection of voice in movement

poetry in movement – “didu”

WORKSHOP
exploring language to movement through haiku

PROCESS
how my writing process works
how i generate ideas
how often i draft
how i revise
how i examine my process
how i bridge creative and working worlds

PHILOSOPHY
any kind of writing is work
writing across disciplines

for Geoff Sheehan’s Theater Arts Professional Development Series 2:00 – 3:20

PERFORMANCE
illustrated chapbook – Snake ate the Moon – a pitch to use the imagery and story as a game + slideshow of images

experimental temple dance – Alarippu – first piece learned in BHarat Natyam training, a dance that seeks blessing, singing the taal and performing it simultaneously

performance video + spoken word – Abhinaya Compromised – performance art video – demonstrate workshopping into improvised poetry and movement

politics – Die on this Bank – performed song and dance simulteneously, discussing the performance and projection of voice in movement

musical theater – A boy Sadhu meets a Goddess – video of cabaret that explores South Asian American identity

PROCESS
creating opportunities:
networking and marketing
producing and showing
elevator pitch
inspiration
projecting voice and yoga
why this medium? why poetry + movement?
what i do and why i do it?
professionally
personal
development
how i do it
personal writing process
best advice received
faith and practice
history

Questions I was asked

Can you explain some of the cultural references? Specifically the Bengali and Carnatic vocabulary prominent in your work?

What is the thought process behind your temple wear (asked by my mum with a delightful laugh and smiling eyes)?

why Third eye fell? (my Mum again after four years)

How can contemporary temple dance make topics I am exploring both simultaneously accessible and inaccessible ?

Do you consider yourself spiritual? What is your religion?
What is the divine feminine to you?

What made me take that leap after all these years? Many students were late bloomers… so this felt like a really good space to be myself

Writers in the Housatonic Classroom presents
Aparna Das, PERFORMING ARTIST/DANCER

Thursday, November 8, 2012
@ Performing Arts Center, Lafayette Hall

12:30 to 1:50 p.m.
1st performance – Writers in the Housatonic Classroom Program

2:00 to 3:20 pm.
2nd performance – As part of the Theater Arts Professional Development Series

This event is co-sponsored by the HCC Library and the HCC Theater Department

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