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Meet Sangita Shresthova

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sangita Shresthova.

Hi Sangita, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As a Czech-Nepali child of the final years of the Cold War, I grew up between Prague and Kathmandu. I crossed cultures and navigated differences everyday. I learned how to observe and listen, really listen, to what people had to share. I think of myself as someone who makes connections and bridges – people, ideas, and practices.

My early childhood was shaped by hostile visa policies and travel restrictions. In what could be seen as a reaction to this restrictive experience, I have since taken the opportunity to call many cities home (among them Brussels, London, Kandy, Ahmedabad, Berlin). I relish any opportunity to draw on my mixed-race background and routinely keep track of multiple times zones. I am still most comfortable when my carry-on is packed and believe home is a place where there is someone waiting for you; right now that is Los Angeles.

Throughout my life, I have tapped dance as an entry into cross-cultural dialogue and exchange and incorporate what I have learned into all my work. Over the years, I studied Bharata Natyam (classical Indian dance), Charya Nritya (Nepalese Dance), Kalaripayat (South Indian martial art) and contemporary dance techniques. I was part of several dance companies and even started my own in Prague, Czech Republic. I have taught dance in schools, conservatories, nightclubs, and public squares. I bring the joy of movement to everything I do and see this as a signature of my approach cross cultural communication.

My creative work has been presented in academic and creative venues around the world including the Schaubuehne (Berlin), AIGA Boston/ATE Massaging Media Conference (Boston), the Other Festival (Chennai), the EBS International Documentary Festival (Seoul), the American Dance Festival (Durham, NC), and Akademi’s Frame by Frame (London, UK). Dancing Kathmandu, my documentary on the cultural marginalization of dancers in Nepal, was a curtain raiser at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival.

Right now, I am based at the University of Southern California, where I co-run a group that focuses on civic participation in the digital age and includes research, educator outreach, and partnerships with community groups and media organizations, and companies. My own research focuses on the intersections among popular culture, performance, new media, politics, and cross-cultural parenting. I hold a Ph.D. from UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures and MSc. degrees from MIT and LSE. I received my BA from Princeton University. My first book on Bollywood dance and globalization (Is It All About Hips?) was published by SAGE Publications in 2011.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I am a person who has never fit existing molds. I have many interests and see the connections between topics, ideas, creative practices, people and places. I am endlessly curious and want to learn and understand. I am not afraid to start something new, in fact I relish those moments that surprise me and make me rethink my assumptions.

For me, the biggest struggle has been accepting that this is how I want (and need) to live my life. Once I understood that there are many paths forward and that staying in a wonderful clearing for a while is just fine, my world expanded in ways I could have never imagined.

I guess I do not believe in set paths, which can be a challenge. I have often found that overgrown paths in the woods lead to unexpected clearings. In that sense, don’t believe in linear trajectories and career paths. Learning and support can come from many unexpected places. It really is not about the destination. It’s the journey that matters.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I focus on the places where media, dance, and cultures meet. As a dancer, I trained in Bharata Natyam (Indian classical dance), Charya Nritya (Nepalese Dance), Kalaripayat (South Indian martial art) alongside contemporary dance techniques. As a media maker and scholar, I have made documentaries and studied how people use media to connect with each other.

I have danced with several dance companies including the Boston-based Lasandhi Dance Theater and Aparna Sindhoor’s Navarasa Dance Theater (Boston, MA) and choreographed for Constanza Macras/DorkyPark production “Big in Bombay” in Berlin, Germany. My debut documentary, Dancing Kathmandu, was a curtain raiser at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival and screened at festivals around the world.

I now focus most of my creative efforts on teaching. I love bringing Indian dance-themed workshops to youth in the Pasadena area and (pre-Covid) brought dance to Pasadena Dance Festival with Lineage Performing Arts Center. I am known for making movement accessible and use it to help people feel comfortable in their bodies and with each other as they cross cultures through dance. I also continue to think deeply about how we move through the world and how this connects with how we experience digital media. As a mom of a now seven years old, I now bring this approach to my own approach to cross-cultural parenting.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
Speak to as many people as you can. Observe. Listen and learn. Make connections and nurture them in genuine and caring ways.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
A. Desai, Lasandhi Dance

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