“Temple Courtesan in Crisis” – A Performance Proposal


The project I am proposing is a musical-movement-poetry piece titled “Temple Courtesan in Crisis.”

This will be a standalone piece that will be performed in parts at various venues through the spring and summer, culminating in a debut show in the Fall.

I am partnering with a flautist Alison Dagger, guitarist Mohan Krishnan, sitar player and tabla player, all local artists. The producer is my long-time collaborator Loreto P. Ansaldo.

In this piece, I plan to explore (spoken poetry song and movement) the paradox that women face when compelled to enter sexual relationships primarily as objects of sexual pleasure, and thus, even with particular knowledge of sensual pleasure, not be able to attain the wholeness of unity promised by sacred sex. I choose the voice of a courtesan because she faces this inner conflict. She is highly educated but ultimately only for the purpose of providing sensual entertainment for her male patrons. She knows she cannot claim ownership of her own talents and body yet interprets from her learnings that it is only through autonomy that she may attain self-actualization in sacred sex. Can she find grace within this tension or must she seek liberation at any cost? This question is relevant today because women continue to struggle within a dynamic framework of patriarchy that insidiously shifts and unsettles whole societies while its core underpinnings remain unrelenting.

The musicians and I are learning and performing a section of the Durga Raga. We will perform to the segment 4:42-10:36

Visual Look:

Vocabulary: (from wiki)
The tabla is a membranophone percussion instrument (similar to bongos), used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres.

The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Indian classical music, which is believed to have been derived from the ancient Indian instrument Veena and modified by a Mughal court musician to conform with the tastes of his Persian patrons and named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning “three strings”). Since then, it underwent many changes, and the modern sitar evolved in 18th century India. It derives its resonance from sympathetic strings, a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber.

A raga is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music. A raga uses a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga.

Letters of Support


My name is Loreto P. Ansaldo, and I have collaborated on art performance projects with Pampi since 2001. I write in full support of “Temple Courtesan in Crisis.” Pampi always grounds her work in negotiating provocative socio-political concepts and develops performance elements that seek to reveal to the audience what lies at the root of these dynamic issues. Together, Pampi and I ensure that projects engage viewers aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually. “Courtesan in Crisis” explores an inner conflict that womyn commonly face and fits into the long series of work that Pampi has created surrounding womyn’s themes, including the work on the “Divine Feminine” we produced together for Somerville Open Studios in 2012 < http://thirdeyefell.com/category/sos/>. This work will be thought-provoking and beautiful to watch.

-Loreto P. Ansaldo
Producer, “Temple Courtesan in Crisis”


Pampi is, without a doubt, one of the most talented people I have ever met- name an art form and she is sure to have experimented with it in her own way.  I admire Pampi because she possesses the talent, drive, and clarity of mind to bring together multiple art forms and artists from diverse backgrounds. She has the rare talent of clearly envisioning what she wants out of her collaborations but with the flexibility to accept suggestions from her fellow artists. This is why Pampi’s productions are rich with beauty, intellectual stimulation, and culture.

”Temple Courtesan in Crisis” will be the third production I’ve had the pleasure of participating in with Pampi, and we have huge aspirations for it! Not so different from many of her other pieces, this piece will draw upon Pampi’s background in temple dance and her dedication to producing pieces that strive to show the possibility for a more equal partnership between the male and female perspectives. This performance features a womyn’s (the courtesan) struggles to understand the true meaning of the exploration of sacred love and its placement in a gendered world.

The music is being structured to best convey and support the story through dance and song. We are using both traditional and non-traditional Indian instruments (flute, guitar, tabla, and sitar) to play a classical Indian raga. My flute will represent the voice of possibilities not currently available to the courtesan – the dream that a womyn can fully embrace and own herself. In this dance, while the flute represents the courtesan’s hope for fulfillment in sacred sex, the sitar reflects her situation as an owned womyn and the only world she knows. The flute and sitar alternate playing the melody throughout the piece, in effect, sparring with each other. The tabla represents her practice of and desire for love- the beating of her heart. As the piece continues, you will begin to hear the guitar break away from the traditional raga into a blues based on the same pentatonic scale as the raga. The guitar represents the uncontrollable and inevitable break from a way of being that occurs with freedom of thought. This leaves the courtesan conflicted: does she make a break from everything she knows, possibly at high cost to her life and the life of her lover?

I feel this piece is a very important artistic interpretation of the struggle womyn still face across the world today- We are still hearing about deadly rapes the world over, including our own country. This would not be happening if womyn were openly and institutionally respected and valued. It is therefore incredibly important for the art world to continue bringing awareness to these issues. Our piece will be a powerful homage to womyn’s sexual equality and autonomy. Thank you for your consideration in supporting this extremely important socially relevant piece!

Alison Dagger,
Flautist, “Temple Courtesan in Crisis”