Self-Portraits with Amrita

About Self-Portraits with Amrita

Arzoo Dance Theatre presents a new choreography by Deepti Gupta, pushing the boundaries of traditional Indian dance into daring new directions. Self-Portraits with Amrita is a contemporary work based in Kathak, the classical dance of north India. The piece is inspired by the life and paintings of Indo-Hungarian painter, Amrita Sher-Gil, who lived in India, Budapest and Paris between 1913-1941. Sher-Gil is a keen observer of the body and is one of the first women to paint female nudes.

Our body is a storehouse of cultural memory. In stories, songs and dances we retain, express and recreate our being. The dances in Self-Portraits with Amrita tell stories of being exiled from one’s home and from one’s own body. The dancers will reflect on their personal narrative in movement and in dialogue with Amrita’s images. In her paintings Amrita Sher-Gil explores her own image as a painter, as a traditional Indian woman, as a young European woman; yet she is the same body. The dances will unearth the stories of the tribal and rural women – women working, resting and playing. Young brides and mothers.

Creative process

Deepti invites her performers to use their body memory to articulate their story through the exploration of self-portraits by painter Amrita Sher-Gil. Tales of migration and exile. How does one deconstruct a dance as heavily codified as Kathak to tell new stories? How does one connect the dots between the physicality of the formatted dancer and that forged by women’s everyday life in rural India? The choreographer is looking to slip into other times and places though tribal dances. This dance-as-self-portrait represents the many facets of these women who are crafting a contemporary tradition.


Photo credit: YNA Photography


List of performances

KickStart 2020, Can Asian Festival
Aki Studio, Toronto, March 19 – 21, 2020

KickStart 2020, Tangente Danse
Espace Danse, Montreal, May 1 – 3, 2020


Performers and collaborators

Neetika Sharma, dancer

Born in Libya, to Indian parents, Neetika Sharma started her performance journey at the age of 10. Today, she is a passionate Kathak performer, choreographer, instructor and arts manager. She is the founding member of Millennial Arts collective that worked on a support group for young women dance artists of color that practice traditional dance forms in Toronto. She has received rigorous training in Indian classical dance form called – Kathak by Gurus Hemant & Vaishali Panwar in Toronto; and has worked with/for many renowned senior artists/organizations in the industry. Neetika has keen interest in exploring various layers of traditional Kathak repertoire and presenting them with new and relevant interpretations through research, creation and performance.



Sukriti Sharma, dancer

Toronto based Sukriti Sharma has trained under the able guidance of Sangeet Natak Academy awardee Guru Sh. Krishan Mohan Mishra and completed her 10 years of training in kathak and holds Post Diploma from National Institute of Kathak Dance- Kathak Kendra, New Delhi. She holds a degree from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh. She has taught in India for several years and now teaches here in Canada since 3 years. She has been a part of repertory of Padmashree Smt. Shovana Narayan, for many years. She has also performed in various festivals in India and abroad. Here in Canada, she has performed in Kathak Mahotsava 2016 and 2018, Aroha Fest in 2017 and 2018.


Sheniz Janmohamed, poet

Sheniz Janmohamed (MFA) is a firm believer in fostering community through collaboration, compassion and creativity. She strives to embody words through performance, land art and writing in the ghazal form. A poet, artist educator and land artist, Sheniz has performed her work in venues across the world, including the Jaipur Literature Festival, Alliance Française de Nairobi and the Aga Khan Museum. Sheniz is author of two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light (Mawenzi House, 2010) and Firesmoke (Mawenzi House, 2014), both of which have been taught at the University of Toronto. Her writing has been published in a variety of publications, including Quill & Quire, Arc Poetry Magazine, and Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers (Caitlin Press, 2019).


Peter Chin, mentor and dramaturg

Peter Chin, born in Jamaica and based in Toronto and Cambodia, is a choreographer, composer, designer, writer, and artistic director of interdisciplinary arts company, Tribal Crackling Wind. Chin’s works have been presented across Canada and around the world to much acclaim. His work is the winner of five Dora Mavor Moore awards, a Gemini award, the Murriel Sherrin award for International Achievement in Dance, among other distinctions. Mr Chin’s film “Jamaican” in collaboration with artist Jeremy Mimnagh recently won best documentary at the Caribbean Lens International Film Festival Los Angeles, and Chin’s site-specific work for 40 Cambodian artists “Here I Stand in Time” was presented in sites around Phnom Penh including at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in March 2017.



Arzoo Dance Theatre would like to acknowledge the financial support from the following institutions.

The city of ottawa