Jamestown Dance Festival


Barkha Patel in RAMTI AAVE or Her Playful Arrival. Photo by Joseph Sinott

Year: 2024-2025
DanceForce Member: Sukanya Burman
Partnering DanceForce Member: Ivan Sygoda
Artist: Barkha Patel
Community Partners:  171 Cedar Arts Center, Corning; American Dance Asylum; Chautauqua Region Community Foundation; Reg Lenna Center for the Arts; Robert H. Jackson Center; SatyaVani Arts; Sheldon Foundation; Sukanya Burman Dance; YWCA Jamestown
Audience: 900
County: Chautauqua

Jamestown Dance Festival will be hosted for its very first inaugural year in Chautauqua County for weekend-long activities in dance performances, community workshops, dance film screening and panel discussions. Featuring four professional dance companies of distinct genres of dance (Kathak, Tap, Flamenco, Bharatanatyam and Contemporary) from different parts of New York State. Through Jamestown Dance Festival we aim to create a sense of cultural awareness and belonging in our community and beyond as a response to the pivotal need for appreciation and respect for multicultural values and heritage in the dance arts.

The festival dates for 2024 are September 6, 7 and 8 with all day long activities. The festival starts with an inauguration program on September 6 with a community block party and community dance showcase leading into the evening length performances at the 1200 seat Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. The second day of the festival, Sep 7, includes morning dance workshops, dance film screenings and panel discussions at the Robert H. Jackson Center followed by evening length performances at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. The concluding day of the festival includes a morning workshop, film screenings and panel discussion and a concluding program at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown NY.

A part of this project is funded by NYS Dance Force through project members Sukanya Burman and Ivan Sygoda. The project focuses on the presentation of the 2023 Juried Bessie Award Winning artist Barkha Patel and her dance company at the Jamestown Dance Festival along with community engagement through workshops and panel discussion. It also is supporting an extended tour of Barkha Dance Company in Corning, NY, where Barkha is presenting her solo work of Aham | Maha on Sep 14 at 171 Cedar Arts followed by a community workshop on September 15.

Barkha Patel is a kathak dancer whose artistic practice lives within two realities: upholding the lineage of dance that was passed down to her while reimagining and uncovering new movement possibilities within and beyond the form.

Aham | mahA is a live music evening-length solo performance of two works: Soham Har Damru and Ramti Aave. They will be performed to live and recorded music in both traditional and contemporary kathak.

Soham Har Damru is a stuti or invocation to Lord Shiva and his creative energy which manifests the world through the sound of his drum or damru. This work is an experience of kathak in its most traditional sense. In it is present storytelling through expressions the recitation and performance of intricate rhythmic compositions that kathak is famed for.

Ramti Aave or Her Playful Arrival explores surrendering to Kali’s playfully destructive power to access the erotic. This work weaves the insights of the erotic by poet, author, and activist Audre Lorde to the symbolism of Kali to bring forth the notion that the erotic transcends explicit sexuality, celebrating its profound and limitless strength in everyday experiences for personal and collective liberation.

While these are two different works, Barkha creatively connects the worlds of the work through the philosophies of her spiritual practice of Tantra, in which the infinite flow of consciousness is believed to be Shiva and Shakti.

The Sanskrit language lends itself to mystical-philosophical speculation on letters, words, and sentences which help us understand this reflective existence. One such word is AHAM (A-HA-M). The A represents Shiva Consciousness, the HA represents the power of Shakti, and the M represents Nara which is all of mankind. AHAM then is the flowing nature of Shiva consciousness, by the grace of his inherent Shakti, to the whole of manifested reality in the form of differentiated identities. This is the essence of who we all are. Similarly, if we send the word AHAM through a reflective glass, we get the word MAHA. MA-HA-A then is the flow of consciousness moving from Nara, through Shakti, back to Shiva.

Aham | mahA is an expression of movement and music to experience the subtle and intangible flowing of the Shiva and Shakti through Barkha, through all of us. Barkha will be joined by Mike Lukshis on tabla, Rohan Misra on sarangi, and vocalist Shweta Pandya.

This project is also supported through the community partnerships with the Reg Lenna Center For the Arts, Robert H. Jackson Center, YWCA Jamestown IDEA Coalition, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, Chautauqua Regional Community Foundation and Sheldon Foundation, Yellen Foundation, 171 Cedar Arts, American Dance Asylum, Sukanya Burman Dance, SatyaVani Arts and Council of Heritage and Arts of India, Inc.

The Jamestown Dance Festival is committed to fostering avenues in the development of a more positive, pluralistic, socially vibrant and culturally sustaining environment through this community dance arts event. Through a sliding fee scale model and selected no cost tickets we hope to keep the performances accessible to low income audience. Our anticipated number of festival attendees is around 900. We hope to bring audiences from our BIPOC communities (Latinx, Black and South Asian) who remain culturally and artistically isolated. Through this festival we aim to bring opportunities for meaningful self-expression and civic dialogue for our artists (including Barkha Patel) and the audiences from these communities; individuals who rarely encounter meaningful reflections of their own culture in popular media and performing arts.

Our age demographic target is audience members within the 10 – 70 age bracket, our programming will be family friendly, educational and entertaining. September 8 weekend is also grandparents day. We are hoping to incentivize intergenarational audiences by doing special discounts on tickets for family and senior citizens.

For Barkha Patel’s Corning residency and performance we anticipate 200 audience members attending from Steuban County with majority from the South Asian community.