This year, star performer and founder of the Sona Lisa Dance Company, Sonia Chandaria Tillu, appeared in Oxford as a solo dancer, having established her own choreography and proving that alone on a stage she is able to hold her audience to a spell-binding performance of Kathak dance.  She now bills herself as “an independent artist working in dance, choreography and education.” Her formal training in the classical dance form of Kathak expands to show the influence of other dramatic forms including ballet, yoga, kalaripayattu and ballroom dancing.  Sonia notes that she particularly enjoys performing work which evokes an emotional response in her audiences. (more…)

A powerful new dance show based on issues of migration, culture and identity premieres in Oxford, ahead of its international tour. Sona Lisa Dance Company presents the first outing of its new triple bill solo dance show – UNTAGGED – at the Old Fire Station.  The show comprises three distinct dance pieces themed around issues of identity and discarding labels attached by society. These powerful narratives are told through the medium of Indian classical dance form Kathak and contemporary dance with flamenco influences by award-winning dancer and University of Oxford alumni Sonia Chandaria Tillu.

Commissioned by Midlands-based arts organisation Sampad (and with grant funding from Arts Council England and the British Council), Breaking Ground depicts the journey of Sonia’s family migratory story traversing India, Kenya and finally the UK. More broadly, the piece explores how we can resolve some of the emotional conflicts that arise from multicultural identity by viewing them as heritage rather than cultural baggage.  The performance has been choreographed by UK’s renowned Kathak exponent Urja Thakore, with music by the hugely popular Shammi Pithia and poetry by Ugandan poet Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere.

Āgraha is inspired by the extraordinary life of Indian freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali and the many contradictions that defined this compassionate radical. Through stunning contemporary dance, with influences from Kathak and flamenco, Āgraha explores deeply ingrained notions of binary identity, challenging us to break out of the boxes we are cooped into by society and ourselves.
Commissioned by Dance Hub Birmingham, Āgraha has been choreographed by renowned contemporary dancer Jose Agudo and the bespoke music score has been created by Bernhard Schimpelsberger.

A pure classical Kathak dance production, Devi (Goddess) uses the expressional and rhythmical qualities of the dance form to explore ideas of spiritual identity, and what it means to be spiritual. The piece has been choreographed by UK’s foremost Kathak dancer and choreographer Sujata Banerjee MBE.

Performance:  Thursday 27th February 7.30pm

Venue:  The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £10-£14, book online here or buy at the Box Office

Sonia Chandaria Tillu is an award-winning Kathak dancer and Artistic Director of the Sona Lisa Dance Company. Disciple of UK’s leading Kathak expert Sujata Banerjee MBE, Sonia’s dance imbibes the rhythmical and musical richness of Kathak, while also extending the fabric of classical movements. Sonia’s work is influenced by her exposure to dramatic arts, ballet, yoga, kalaripayattu and ballroom dancing. Sonia has performed extensively within the UK at prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Sadler’s Wells as well as internationally, including in the USA, Kenya, Spain and India.

Sonia says “The purpose of Sona Lisa Dance Company is to develop new audiences that span generations, ethnicities and cultures and this is exactly what ‘Untagged’ does. It takes an age-old art form and applies it to reflect the contemporary world, in this instance by interrogating notions of binary identity. I am really excited to be premiering the show at the OFS, ahead of its tour in Kenya and across the UK. Being OU alumni, I just love Oxford! I received a very warm response from the audiences here when I premiered a previous production here last June as part of Oxford’s Offbeat festival.”

Find out more about Sona Lisa Dance Company here

 

 

 

As part of the Oxford Offbeat Festival, the Sona Lisa Dance Company performed Eleven, twelve, thirteen at The Old Fire Station, a series of dances and spoken reflections based around the traditional rhythms of Indian Kathak. It was a fascinating program, impressive in its professional standard and its often breath-taking beauty; a show of multiple collaborations, devised and woven together by Artistic Director Sonia Chandaria Tillu.

Kathak is the Hindustani name for one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance. The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the traveling bards of ancient northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers.  It is important to the art of these North Indian dances that they communicate an entire story through non-verbal actions and bodily movements: head turnings, eye glancings, finger shapings, distinctive torso positions from squats to turns and leaps. The intricacies of the stories must be honoured, as well, by the costume colours, the breathing, the hair style and its ornaments of flowers and/or jewels. All the visible details of deportment and dress signify elements of the dramatic story. (more…)