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Q&A with Nova Bhattacharya

March 23, 2021 Headshot of Nova Bhattacharya Photo by Dahlia Katz

As we prepare for Citadel LIVE presents Nova Dance on March 26, 2021 at 7pm ET, choreographer and performer Nova Bhattacharya shares her thoughts on the double bill of Calm Abiding (a work that C+C was proud to previously present in its 2017/18 Bright Nights season, as part of the mixed program Decoding Bharatnatyam), and Elemental, created by José Navas.


March 26, 2021 at 7pm ET
Limited time replay available until March 27 at 11:59pm

Presented by Citadel + Compagnie in collaboration with Harbourfront Centre
Audiences will be invited to send in their questions for a moderated artist Q&A immediately following the performance, hosted by Laurence Lemieux.

Do you have any highlights from the process of remounting Calm Abiding?
I’ve been dancing Calm Abiding for 15 years now, and each time I come back to it is like taking that favourite dress out of the closet, the one that you found at a consignment store and had to save up to buy, the one that always feels great on your body, and makes you feel like the best version of yourself, reminding you of the parties you went to, the people you laughed with, the dreams that came true.  The dance lives inside me at all times, and the work of bringing it out from mind, muscles and tissues into a tangible expression has been a comfort and a solace as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

What themes do you explore in your work? How does this program relate to these themes?
Love and loss, ritual and repetition, pain and pleasure, life and death – these are themes that began with solos Maskura and Ma both made in 2000 and can be found in Unspoken (2009), Aditi (2010) as well as in ensemble works for TDT (Related Fragments, 2007), Dancemakers (Red & Yellow, 2011) and my own Infinite Storms (2016).  Joy and humour found their way in too and can be found in works including two collaborations Louis Laberge-Côté (Yirri Birri Birds of the Yago Bago, 2003 and Romeo and Juliet Before Parting, 2006) and with Isolated Incidents (2010) and Broken Lines (2016).  All of these things are sublimated into Elemental and Calm Abiding – both are dances that are “about” dancing and so it is inevitable that the recurring themes penetrate their performance.

What excites you most in creating for a livestream?
I’m excited for the opportunity to work with my colleagues on creating an experience that transcends the limitations of this moment in history.  Barbara is an incredibly sensitive and skilled director, everything I’ve seen of hers since the pandemic has brought something new to performance and streaming.  I’m so curious and excited to see how her approach will create context and connections for viewers to experience these works.

Focusing on creative practice in a pandemic, and the ongoing development of Elemental, recently supported through Nova Dance’s participation in C+C’s Creative Incubator pilot project:

What is the hardest challenge you faced creatively in the pandemic? 
While I found many ways to stay creatively engaged, keeping the choreographic muscles activated was difficult.  I had been very focused on the creation of a large ensemble work when the pandemic hit, so the pendulum swing into isolation and the obvious response of retrenching in the solo form – worked for my dancer self, but the choreographer was submerged in a blanket of silence.

Have there been any unexpected joys of creating during a pandemic?
I’ve been working with the company dancers online and it has been joyous to see how our art form can transcend the limitations and serve to connect our spirits.  I’ve dabbled in some photography and film projects and the practice of visual composition in different mediums has sparked new connections and ways of approaching my work.

Do you have any highlights from the process of remounting Elemental? 
Elemental has been undergoing an exciting transformation as Laurence Lemieux and I have been conceptualizing the livestream.  It is a newer piece that was only performed a few times and now it is inching closer to an even more honest revelation of the basic and primary elements of my practice and creative inspirations.

What do you think audiences will love about this program?
I never think about what the audience will feel in such a subjective way!  I always assume that they will view the work through their own lens, their own experiences of the day, their own perspectives about life and dance.  I always want the imagery to be open enough to read differently for each person in the audience.  I trust that the power of the art form, it’s transformative function and its ability to arouse the imagination will have an impact – love, surrender, joy, confusion, frustration are all valid responses.  Dance should make you feel and wonder.