Why Dance? People working in dance come into the field for various reasons: aspirations of creating art, finding fame, maintaining cultural traditions etc. I find dance attractive precisely because it is not hindered by the boundaries of language.
Dance freed me from the confines of language and gave me a space to explore what I had to say, without being tied down to one specific meaning or idea.Over the years I’ve tried to integrate the various aspects of my identity—male, South Asian, Gay, Liberal and dance gave me a space where these identities could be developed and could inform and learn from each other. This nexus of culture, politics, art and intellect that dance creates for me is the most fruitful (sometimes painful) place for personal growth.
Working in dance I always have choices on what and how to consider in shaping my company’s voice and identity. Sometimes the political choices are subtle, such as using the activist song writer Mercedes Sosa’s lyrics in my dances; sometimes the choices affect us directly—such as when DARE chose not to work with us because we explore Gay themes in our dances or being unable to find a place that will host a community dance night for National Coming Out Day. It is also about trying to find a movement identity that doesn’t pigeon hole me into any one facet of my identity. I do not want to be identified as the “Indian” dancer or the “Gay” dancer—because those labels take away the freedom dance has given me. Negotiating these choices has also given me interesting choreographic options over the years.
Artists such as Maguy Marin, Bill T. Jones, Martha Clarke, Joe Goode and Mallika Sarabahi are a few of the ones that influenced my approach to making dances. They took risks by making strong statements (often logical but sometime unpopular ones) in their works. Their example encouraged me to continue exploring dance as an intersection of my various interests and identities, not as a separate, elitist absolute. I’m fortunate to be in Washington DC, where dancers and choreographers span the full spectrum of dance—from the abstract to the politically charged. It gives me a sense of belonging to a community with a more holistic approach to connects our lives and dance.
Daniel Phoenix Singh is the Artistic Director and President of Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company. Singh holds an MFA in Dance and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. He also holds a Laban Movement Analyst Certificate from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York City. He received a baccalaureate degree in Dance and Computer Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Singh trained in Bharata Natyam with Guru Meena Telikicherla of Nrityanjali, Maryland for several years.