Dancing the Immigrant Experience

I previously posted about Ragas and Airs in anticipation of its premiere on July 26, 2014. It was such an inspiring performance that I need to share more about the event itself.

The Philadelphia Irish Memorial was created in 2003 at Front and Chestnut Streets. The centerpiece, An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) is a large sculpture by Glenna Goodacre. It features thirty five life size figures depicting the immigrant experience of the Irish who came to the United States about 150 years ago. It’s a moving piece which engages the viewer in an emotional narrative of sadness and hope.

Shaily Dadiala, the Artistic Director of Usiloquy Dance Designs, is someone who understands this immigrant experience. As an immigrant herself, when Shaily first came upon Goodacre’s sculpture, she identified so strongly with its message that she vowed to perform here one day.

Since that time, Shaily has researched extensively about the cultural connections between the Irish and India. This research culminated in a performance that riveted audiences at two performances on July 26.

As a Board member of Usiloquy, I don’t get to as many performances as I would like and often I am occupied with tasks to help oversee an event and unable to witness the best parts of the dance. For me personally, I was thrilled to be able to not only participate in the oversight of this event, but to watch the performance in its entirety.

The costumes were created by artist Michelle Yeager, who sometimes dances with Usiloquy. Each outfit blended the style of a traditional bharatanatyam costume, its pleats and skirting with a plaid Celtic influence. I loved the costumes so much that I would love to have one for myself.

You may think that it’s natural that I would be thrilled since I am part of this organization, but others’ opinions echoed my own impressions.

Denise Foley of Irish Philadelphia wrote about the event.

“The rhythms of the Celtic folk song harkened to the ancient beat of Indian music. Ragas, as it turns out, are a lot like airs.”

Read her full post here.

Additionally, Global Philadelphia wrote about the cultural impact of Usiloquy’s work.

“Ragas and Airs” brings one of the oldest immigrant communities in the Americas to the modern generation. This work is a platform exploring the intersection of diverse genres and cultures.”

Read the full post here.

This was the premiere of Ragas and Airs, but it is still a work in progress. Shaily is continuing to add to the work, so stay turned for upcoming performances of Ragas and Airs.

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