Finding Refuge in Movement: ’’(Un) Thread’’ and the Power of Dance to Transform

Feb 21 2024.

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In a world often torn by conflict, where identity struggles persist, art stands as a beacon of expression and understanding. For one individual, dance became not only a form of artistic expression but also a means of grappling with the complexities of existence amidst turmoil. Meet Umeshi Rajeendra, a dancer whose journey intertwines with the cultural landscape of Sri Lanka, navigating through personal and societal strife to establish a platform for movement arts and collective expression.

Born to a Tamil father and a Sinhala mother during the tumultuous period of civil war in Sri Lanka, Umeshi found solace and purpose in the world of dance. In a recent interview, she reflected on her upbringing, stating, "I developed a deep desire for deeper understanding, transformation, and empathy for oneself and others. Dance became the vehicle to achieve this as I feel it is the most honest and truthful way of communicating, and so, dance became my refuge."

Driven by this passion, Umeshi co-founded MeshGround, a Platform for Movement Arts, with a vision to create a space where diverse voices could be amplified and celebrated. However, establishing such a platform came with its own set of challenges. In a society where traditional norms often overshadow experimental art forms, finding sustainable support for MeshGround proved to be a daunting task. Yet, Umeshi remained undeterred, driven by a relentless commitment to fostering a community where creativity knows no bounds.

At the core of Umesh's artistic practice lies choreography, a process driven by a deep connection to the body and its myriad expressions. She explained, "The body, whether human, oceanic, and/or planetary, is my driving place, where the somatic knowledge of cultural, ancestral, social, political, and economic identity resides." Through collaborative efforts with performers, sound artists, writers, and designers, Umeshi endeavours to explore and honour differences, weaving together narratives that challenge conventional notions of belonging.

Beyond her role as an artist, Umeshi is also a dedicated teacher, believing that dance serves as a potent tool for mobilization and critical inquiry. She shared, "I teach dance as a means of conveying bodily knowledge, as an art form that is at the crossroads of performance, cultures, and multiple practices." This commitment to education not only enriches Umeshi's choreographic endeavours but also fosters a new generation of dancers capable of engaging critically with the world around them.

In the realm of performance, Umeshi seeks to provoke thought and evoke emotion, believing in the transformative power of art to incite meaningful dialogue. “Performance is a powerful tool to uncover and generate a space in which more profound conversations and feelings can be achieved." By inviting audiences to actively participate in the experience, Umeshi creates immersive environments where boundaries blur, and connections deepen.

An upcoming performance titled "(Un) Thread" promises to captivate audiences with its sensorial exploration of existence in an uncertain world. Describing the performance, Umeshi shared, "Un Thread attempts to embrace unexpected possibilities of being when the movements and forces that shape our world—past, present, future—feel impossible to fully understand and perceive." 

As Umeshi continues to push boundaries and challenge perceptions through her art, she remains steadfast in her commitment to fostering a more inclusive and empathetic society. Through dance, she invites us to explore the depths of our humanity, transcending barriers and embracing the beauty of our shared experience. In a world often divided, Umeshi reminds us that through movement, we find unity.

Scheduled for the 16th and 17th of March at the Lotus Room in BMICH, tickets for the event are available on tickets.lk.   

Photo credit: Malaka Premasiri for the shoot and Conflictorium, India, for the performance pictures

 

 

 

 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rihaab Mowlana

Rihaab Mowlana is a journalist specializing in feature writing. With a commitment to authenticity and a genuine love for her craft, she brings stories to life by delving deep into captivating subjects and offering unique perspectives. Beyond journalism, Rihaab is a content creator, entrepreneur, and educator. Stay connected with Rihaab on Twitter & Instagram: @rihaabmowlana


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