Shilpa Darivemula: Choreographer/Dancer
What Moves You?
“I am moved by the stories I see in the communities around me. Kuchipudi has always been about the community and about sharing narratives and as a medical student, narrative is the core of our profession. We take histories and physicals to determine the cause of illness. The parallels between both fields excites my imagination constantly and it is what drives my choreographies in the Aseemkala Initiaitive. These stories of medicine–of healing and illness–have been told for centuries in so many dance forms and mythologies. It is time we revive and juxtapose the past with the present through global, indigenous traditional dances, empowering them to see the potential that lies within. ”
Shilpa Darivemula is both a scientist and an artist. A fascination for science and a love for conversation directed Shilpa towards medicine while her training in Kuchipudi and her exposure to various traditional dances drove her towards movement. Kuchipudi is one of seven classical dances from India, a form that requires exquisite footwork, hand gestures, and facial expressions to narrate stories of Hindu mythology.
Shilpa began training in Kuchipudi at the age of 8 with Ms. Sasikala Penumarthy at the Academy of Kuchipudi Dance and performed her solo debut recital—her Rangapravesham—in 2011 with Ms. Anuradha Nehru and Mr. Kishore Mosalikanti at the Kalanidhi Dance school.
Captivated by the power of dance, Shilpa developed projects to use it as a tool for community development, spending her summers in college teaching dance to inner-city youth in Schenectady, interning in Dance Movement Therapy at Ellis Hospital, and teaching refugee women to share their traditional dances in a weekly women’s group at RISSE in Albany. In her senior year at Union College, she directed and choreographed Anamika, a mixed-media piece that combined ballet, praise dancing, and Kuchipudi, to serve as a call to action against the harms of human trafficking.
She was the recipient of a 2013-2014 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the connection between traditional dance cultures of the world, their healing systems, and their current states of healthcare delivery. She has performed at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (2014) and at the International Dance Festival in Fes, Morocco (2015).
Inspired by the traditional dances and stories of women facing illness and health, Shilpa started the Aseemkala Initiative. This initiative–which is Sanskrit for “arts beyond boundaries”–uses traditional dances to narrate stories of women in medicine from all cultures around the world. These are stories of physcians, healers, patients, and their families as told through the mudras and movements of Kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam and hopefully, in the future, more traditional dance forms.
Shilpa was selected to be the Artist in Residence for 2016-2017 for the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). During her time as AMWA’s Artist-in-Residence, she published an article on using art in waiting rooms to decrease wait time perception, performed at the International Human Rights Arts Festival in NYC, and was selected to perform at the Fertile Ground Showcase. Shilpa also collaborated with the Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer (GIAHC) to create a dance piece promoting cervical cancer screening which was shared by Dr. Shobha Krishnan at the 31st International Papilloma Virus Conference.
Shilpa is a third year medical student at Albany Medical College and plans to pursue a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Shilpa continues as Founder of the Aseemkala Initiative, a project aimed at transforming medicine through traditional dance, along with Rohini Bhatia as co-director. Her work can be seen at www.aseemkala.org.
For more: www.aseemkala.org; May 14th-Green Space: The Incubator of Art in Queens; Fertile Ground Showcase performance in NYC