Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sunday Read: First Person - Deepali Lindblom on Satrangi

I have come to believe the reason for my delayed destiny as an artist was to understand what a precious gift and a responsibility it is to be one.
by Deepali Lindblom

When asked, what made me come here, I often reply, I didn’t choose Montreal. It chose me.

Let’s rewind. In India, where I come from, if you do not come from an artist family background, you do not become an artist. Unless you are a prodigy or get real lucky. My parents decided my career even before I was born. If a girl, doctor. If a boy, engineer. A dancer? Actor? No way!

But as long as I remember, I’ve loved to dance and act. It was my way of balancing a frustrating childhood while growing up in a tiny town, more known for its communal clashes than its rich heritage. There was no dance school I could go to but there was television. I would watch all the films and try to imitate the actresses. Their graceful dances, their emotional outburst. Deep inside, I dreamt of becoming one for real, one day.

When it became clear that I was not going to follow my elder sister into medicine or study further, my mother gave in to let me travel rural India doing folk theatre. I was still a teenager. Then just like the millions of young dreamers I went to Bombay to try Bollywood. It was short-lived because I met Johan, my Swedish husband and moved to Sweden.

Thus started a new chapter in my life, that sadly didn’t include art. But in 2006 I got a call from a woman who was organizing an Indian festival and was looking for an Indian dancer.

This event changed the course of my life. I decided to try becoming a professional dancer. First step was to go back to India to get formal training in Kathak, an Indian classical dance. Next year, my husband got an offer to work in Montreal and my life took another turn, in the direction where I find myself today.

Late bloomer
I have come to believe the reason for my delayed destiny as an artist was to understand what a precious gift and a responsibility it is to be one.

I was meant to go through the grind of a regular life, to truly aspire to be an artist. Finally when the opportunity happened, I was ready, able and available.

The first time I did Satrangi was in 2008, the year I arrived in Montreal. Seven stories from India, woven together in dance and storytelling. With the warm response I received, I felt I am finally on my way to make that dream happen.

This summer, when I met Guy Sprung, Artistic Director of Infinitheatre who was looking for a guest artist, I proposed Satrangi. He asked for a few days to reflect. He didn’t take long to give me the answer in the affirmative.

There were several reasons why I proposed Satrangi - a dance-theatre performance.

Inspiring stories
Over the years, living in three countries, I’ve met ordinary people who have had extraordinary moments in their lives that required great courage and wisdom.

I believe, where there is strife, there is a story. A spirited one. An event when lives are forever changed and generations live with the consequences. For better or worse, only time will tell.

Some stories I already had, some I looked for. Either way, these stories are deeply inspiring. And thus, in the juggle and struggle of long dark winters, with these stories I hope to spread some light. Just as it diffused in mine.

Winter festivities of Light
When I started collecting stories, I discovered that Diwali is only one of the many winter festivals of lights, celebrated in Montreal. There is Tihar from Nepal, which is similar to Diwali but lasts 5 days. Los Posados (Mexico), Le Réveillon (France), Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa from Africa are some other festivals of light. Even Santa Lucia in Sweden, where I lived for 5 years, is actually a festival of light.

All these festivals mean one thing. Bringing light into our lives. Satrangi couldn’t have had better timing.

Montreal’s Multiethnicity
Montreal soul thrives in its multi-ethnic people. It was only natural to tell stories from some of these different cultures.

Even the cast and crew of Satrangi is multi-ethnic. Indian, Moroccan, French, Anglo, Quebecer, Swedish.

Indian performing arts in Canadian contemporary context
I have always wondered why was I born in India, since, I often didn’t feel like I belonged there. The answer is clear today. To intrinsically inherit the effusiveness of our performing arts.

Indian dances and theatre are expressive, extrovert, emotional. Convert it into a Canadian context of introspection, improvisation and spontaneity, the result is striking.

Coming a full circle
I was eight years old when one evening as I was watching television with my mother, and a famous singer was performing, my mother, clearly moved by her singing, remarked, “Sometimes talent is not enough to be a good artist. It needs purpose”.

With Satrangi, I seem to have come full circle. Living up to my name. A ray of light to light up this winter solstice.

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