Sherene Jeevitha Joseph: Breaking Boundaries

Sherene Jeevitha Joseph is making big waves with her upcoming production, ‘Maria’, by combining the two things she’s most passionate about, dance and religion. A humanised portrayal of a prominent biblical figure through the narrative and expressive form of bharathanatyam, Sherene is navigating uncharted territories beyond conventional boundaries. We had the pleasure of chatting with her about her work so far and the choices she’s had to make for producing this dance feature!



Tell us a little bit about your bharathanatyam dance feature.
Sherene: Okay, well basically the title of this dance feature is ‘Maria’, which as the name suggests outlines the life of Mother Mary. I chose to do it because firstly, the storyline is very close to my heart religiously because I am Catholic. I’ve always been inspired by this character. I think this elegant dance form is the perfect way to portray her struggle with being human yet still performing godly duties and to celebrate her. 

Another aspect of this is that I’ve always been intrigued by bringing forward concepts that are not so easily touched by bharathanatyam. There’s always been a certain way to explore the dance form so far, and it is mostly associated with Hindu epics to depict the religion because that’s what the art form is based on. But I want to break such boundaries because all I want to do is tell a story through dance and of prominent female character I’ve always looked up to.

Could you elaborate on your views of bharathanatyam as a dance form, why you chose this dance form in particular and how you were first introduced to it?
I’ve been dancing since I was 7 years old, but to be very honest it was my mom that coaxed me into it! I didn’t really have a choice when I was younger. But it grew on me and I stuck by it even after getting married and having a kid simply because I’ve always been attracted to the arts. Dance, in particular, is a beautiful way to express your soul. Bharathnatyam, of the other dance forms, is a very fine art and its meticulousness has transcended time. It’s expressive in the way you want it to be, yet relies on the same grammar of bharathanatyam.



What is the main message you’re trying to get across with ‘Maria’?
I’ve always believed that any concept can be explored through dance. If you have strong vision and a reliable script and concept, there’s nothing holding you back! As long as you have a sound understanding of the dance, and an ability to learn on the job with a very good choreographer and mentor, you can achieve anything..

As mentioned earlier, ‘Maria’ is the exploration of a Catholic storyline through a Hindu dance form. Can you comment a bit more on why this combination works and your predictions of how the audience will interpret it?
So like I’ve said before, dance adds an emotional dimension to any storyline and portrays in depth what might appear to be a simple character. Mother Mary, for instance, is a biblical persona that has lived years ago and the only information we have about her life and experiences are contained in scriptures. But with dance, the story of Mother Mary becomes more than just a lesson from the Bible. It humanizes her as a godly character so that you can see what she has gone through for what it is. She goes through the same character arc as Sita, Kunti or any other prominent female character from other religions. Regardless of where the dance form originated, it is but a tool to do a biopic on a character and I think that’s what I’m hoping everyone will see too.

How did this innovative portrayal affect your sound and music choices?
To be honest we didn’t alter the sounds too much. It’s about choice. We’re using the same raagas and thaalas that a conventional bharathanatyam feature would have if it were portraying the story of a Hindu God. Since the production is set to outline human emotion, our artistic director and music Composer have chosen the raagas required depending on what we’re portraying on stage at the time. But of course, as this is a biblical story, there will be some Gregorian chants implemented in the music too which is such a wonderful collaboration between 2 different genres of music!



How have your cast and crew been so far?
Sherene: I have nothing but good things to say about the cast and crew because everyone has been equally dedicated and supportive. Especially my dancers, who are all working on this production part-time. We dedicate our spare time after our work to rehearse and perfect the feature and I can tell that everyone is passionate about it because everyone is willing to come down to practice whenever and for however long. I’m really impressed by everyone’s talent and commitment and I definitely couldn’t have asked for a better team to come on this journey with me.

Have you faced any challenges so far?
Sherene: Well one of the biggest difficulties I’ve had this time is finding grants. I’ve produced a dance feature before but this one is a little different and most fear that it might have a lot of religious repercussions and have hence been hesitant to grant me any funds.  I’m still looking out for sponsors and donors to help out with whatever amount possible because anything means a lot and can help. But I am committed to finish no matter what because I cannot compromise on the efforts and artistic direction of my cast and crew. I also believe in never leaving a project halfway and so I want to pull through regardless.


 

Sherene is very excited and passionate to see this dance feature come together and after learning more about it, so are we! Maria is set to have two shows: one on June 30 at 7 PM and the other on July 1 at 2:30 PM, both at the Gateway theatre. Join her cast and crew to see this innovative and lovely vision come to fruition because we’re sure this is a production you don’t want to miss!
CALL 92341266 / 81837446 to get your tickets

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