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Leela Samson, an award-winning interpreter of the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, is the 2013 Shan and Jaya Chandrasekar Visiting Artist in the Department of Dance in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
A virtuoso performer, choreographer and sensitive interpreter of the nuances of Bharatanatyam, Samson has performed across India and in Europe, Africa, East Asia, North and South America. She is also a highly respected teacher and mentor, and has taught Bharatanatyam around the world. Her accolades include the Padma Shri Award, Sanskriti Award, Kalaimamani Award, Nritya Choodamani Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, India’s highest recognition for practicing artists. An alumna of the prestigious cultural academy Kalakshetra in Chennai, India, she served as director of the Kalakshetra Foundation from 2005 to 2012. Currently, she chairs the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s national academy for music, dance and drama.
Samson’s one-week residency, which started Sept. 23 and will continue to Sept. 28, offers many public components including a free performance and film screenings, plus an opportunity for dancers to participate in a master class with this internationally renowned instructor.
A highlight of Samson’s residency is her solo performance titled Hara Hari – the majestic and beautiful, featuring a selection of her original choreographic works.
In Sankara Sri Giri, a composition of the celebrated poet Maharaja Swati Tirunal, she explores the ananda tandava or joyous dance of Shiva. Ashtapadi is based on a celebrated Sanskrit love poem taken from the work of Jayadev. Ardhanareeshwara explores the androgynous form of Shiva representing the male and female halves of human nature. In Javali, Samson continues her exploration of love with a coquettish young nayika, or heroine, beckoning to her beloved. Finishing on a more serious note, Kalabhairava Ashtakam depicts the fearsome aspect of Shiva as the controller and manager of time.
The performance takes place Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7:30pm in the McLean Performance Studio, 244 Accolade East Building. Admission is free but seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, call the Fine Arts Box Office at 416.736.5888 or email email@example.com.
Samson’s work as an artist and educator is the focus of two documentary films being presented in partnership the York Centre for Asian Research. Arun Khopka’s Sanchari (1991) offers a holistic view of the form and structure of Bharatanatyam, and how this dance tradition is passed on from the teacher to her student. It screens Thursday, Sept. 26 at 5pm, paired with a lecture by Samson. The Flowering Tree (1996, 2007) by Ein Lall will be shown at 3pm on Saturday, Sept. 28. Both screenings are in the McLean Performance Studio. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
Preceding the screening on Sept. 28, Samson will lead a master class for advanced and intermediate Bharatanatyam dancers. The class takes place from 10am to 2pm in Room 253, Accolade East Building. The participation fee is $20 and registration is required. To register, call 416.736.5888 or register online through the Fine Arts Box Office website.
Leela Samson’s visit is made possible by The Shan & Jaya Chandrasekar Visiting Artist/ScholarResidency. The residency program was established in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts by Shan Chandrasekar, the founder, president and CEO and Jaya Chandrasekar, executive vice-president and vice-president, programming, of Asian Television Network International Ltd.