Nirmala Seshadri is a multidisciplinary artist, choreographer, movement educator, researcher and writer.
Nirmala Seshadri began training in Bharatanatyam in Singapore in 1971 at Bhaskars’ Academy of Dance under pioneering dance Gurus of Singapore - Mr. KP Bhaskar and Mrs. Santha Bhaskar. She studied music, rhythm and vocal percussion at Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society. She furthered her training in dance and dance theory from eminent teachers in India including Sri TS Parthasarathy, Guru TK Mahalingam Pillai, Padma Bhushan Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, Padma Bhushan Prof. CV Chandrasekhar and Guru Jayanthi Subramaniam.
She gradually moved into a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary and feminist choreographic approach, seeking to recontextualise her classical dance form. Her quest for autonomy, self-awareness and sensorial perception in dance led her to train in Butoh – in London under Marie-Gabrielle Rotie and in Singapore from Syv Bruzeau. Her present practice and research focus is the intersection of Bharatanatyam, Butoh, Breathwork, Yoga and Mindfulness. Drawing from these elements, she created her movement approach – Antarika, upon which her practice and teaching now hinges.
Her artistic works include Outcaste Eternal (1999), Moments in Time (2002), Crossroads (2003), Then and Now (2003), Radha Now (2006), This & That (2009), I watched the flowers (2012), I Carry Your Heart (2015), The Vanishing Point ? (2015), Supermoon (2016) and Charting the Multiverse of our Dreams (2017).
As choreographer – she sensitively blends classical Indian dance, contemporary themes and diverse movement practices, music, rhythm, voice and text. Her social justice perspective leads her to use the body and performance space to interrogate existing inequalities, problematising boundaries of time, place, gender, and caste, among other social constructs. She nudges her audiences and students to experience dance as a tool for introspection, communication and transformation.
As researcher and writer – she bridges dance practice with theory. Her research interests include kinesthesia and corporeality, gender, tradition and transition, site specificity, cultural hybridisation and the politics of identity.
As educator – she pushes for internalisation, excellence and innovation, and recontextualising traditional forms in the contemporary milieu. She started developing Antarika at NAFA’s Dance Department as a tool for focus, introspection, conceptual improvisation and choreography.
Believing Dance exists as a fundamental urge in human beings, she reaches out to the community through special events, site specific work and through Antarika that nurtures creative movement regardless of age, background or body condition.
Her local and international awards received include Singar Mani (Mumbai, 1992), National Arts Council’s (NAC) Young Artist Award (Singapore, 1995) and Balasaraswati Endowment Award (Chennai, 1997). She served as a Council Member and on Specialist Panels at NAC, Arts and Culture Strategic Review Committee, Chairperson for Singapore Dance Week (World Dance Alliance Singapore), and Network Chair for the World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific.
She graduated with an M.A in Dance Anthropology (distinction) from the University of Roehampton (2013). She conceived and curated the International Conference on Bharatanatyam in Singapore (2014). An adjunct lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, she is an artist collaborator at the Lalu Lalang Laboratory.
She reviewed and wrote on dance for publications in Singapore, India and U.K. Her M.A Dissertation Shifting Representations of the Nayika (Heroine) in Bharatanatyam examined Bharatanatyam as a site for feminist intervention, facilitating the emergence of empowering alternatives to the traditional representation of the female dancer. She presented her paper Revisiting the Ramayana through Women Performing Artists in Singapore at the ASEAN Cultural Heritage and Identities Conference 2015. Her chapter Bharatanatyam and Butoh: An Emerging Gendered Conversation Through Site Specific Dance in Chennai and Singapore has been published in the book “The Moving Body: Women in Dance” (2017). Her paper The Problematic Danseuse: Reclaiming Space to Dance the Lived Feminine has been accepted for publication in “Diotima’s: A Journal of New Readings” (2017).