Gitanjali Kolanad

World Lit featuring Gitanjali Kolanad



This World Lit session features the *2016 Singapore Creative Writing Resident, Gitanjali Kolanad.

Gitanjali turned to writing after more than 40 years as a bharata natyam dancer, teacher and choreographer. Her first short story collection, Sleeping with Movie Stars, was written using words that emulate gestures in a dance, offering an insightful and sensuous telling of a young woman’s coming-of-age experience. It is loosely inspired by her own experience of being sent to Madras in the 1970s where she studied bharata natyam.

Gitanjali will read from her published works and first novel which explores the world of hereditary dancers in the 1920s, just as a new morality was bringing their lifestyle to an end.

This session is moderated by poet Cyril Wong. 

About Gitanjali Kolanad

Gitanjali Kolanad was involved in the practice, performance, and teaching of bharata natyam for more than 40 years. She performed in major cities in Europe, America and India, including London, New York, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Toronto, Tokyo, New Delhi, Bombay, and Madras. Critics praised her traditional performances, while her contemporary choreographic works won new audiences for bharata natyam.

Her works were often multi-disciplinary, arising from collaborations with artists from other disciplines: director Phillip Zarrilli, video/installation artist Ray Langenbach, poet Judith Kroll and violinist Parmela Attariwala, to name a few. Her performances incorporated folk and ritual forms of dance, theatre and martial art forms from South India. She created eight major full-length dance works, many of which were performed all over the world.

Gitanjali's short story The American Girl won second prize in the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. The story is part of a collection published in 2011 by Penguin India and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award that year. Her previous book, Culture Shock: India, published by Marshall Cavendish, is now into its third edition, and has been translated into Korean. She has written numerous articles on aspects of Indian dance for well-known Indian publications, such as Open Magazine and Seminar. For two years, she contributed a column on arts and culture to the New Indian Express newspaper.

She co-founded IMPACT - Indian Martial and Performance Arts Collective of Toronto, which teaches the Indian martial art form of kalaripayat to at-risk youths in underserved neighbourhoods. Presently, she is teaching courses at the Department of Art, Design and Performing Arts while simultaneously developing a full-fledged performing arts programme at Shiv Nadar University.

About Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong is a Singapore Literature Prize-winning poet, fictionist and critic who completed his doctoral degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore in 2012. He received the Young Artist Award from the National Arts Council in 2005. His intense, complex and deeply personal poetry was featured in the 2008 W.W. Norton & Co. anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, and he has been a featured poet at numerous literary festivals, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. He presently edits the poetry webjournal, SOFTBLOW.

Image of Gitanjali Kolanad courtesy of Ashoke Charles.

* The Singapore Creative Writing Residency is co-organised by The Arts House and the National University of Singapore.

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