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Dance and choreographer Nova Bhattacharya.

John Lauener

In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour.

The Citadel + Compagnie program Decoding Bharatnatyam (Feb. 14 to 17 at the Citadel in Toronto) celebrates the work of Nova Bhattacharya. As part of a triple-bill, the Toronto choreographer will perform her 2006 solo, Calm Abiding. But how and where does the industrious Bhattacharya find tranquillity for herself? The dancemaker talks downtime and lying down.

I was recently on holiday, but even then, I was working an hour a day. My husband and I went to Kerala, a magical bubble of a place in the southern part of India. I was dreaming of some artistic projects I have coming up, and I was doing some of the organizing I needed to do to make the dreams become reality.

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It can be quite subconscious, but often my work is influenced by travel. About seven years ago, I went on a research trip to India, visiting museums and galleries and looking at the more intellectual idea of visual art. A year after I came back to Canada, I was commissioned by Dancemakers for a piece. Looking back at it, the work that evolved was influenced by that trip to India – the colours and the vibrancy.

For that work, I had five dancers. We were working on these ideas of when is a group a group and when are you an individual inside that group, and how do you find time and space for yourself. That idea had really struck me in India, where there were throngs and throngs of people. The Ganges would be filled with people on a pilgrimage, but you would see one woman standing in the water who had obviously managed to completely tune everything out around her and was in peace and contemplation. The piece that I made with Dancemakers was really playing with those kind of ideas.

I keep track of when my battery is running low, and I know when I need horizontal time. I'll make dates with friends and let them know I'm going to be lying on the floor, whether at their place or mine. I'm still there and enjoying that time with them, but I'm acknowledging the fact that I can't be upright and be smiling and charming the whole time.

I suffer from migraines. The conventional wisdom is that when you get the migraine, you shut yourself up in a room. For myself, that's what causes anxiety. Being alone in a room and feeling like I'm not a functioning member of society is what causes stress. I think being a dancer really helped me to develop the tools I needed to survive this condition. Because dancers are used to making peace with pain and getting on with it.

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