the bringer of grace
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Sri Keshava spent her youth practicing ballet and gymnastics, while developing a taste for British pop music and, somewhat unusually, ancient hymns. “There was a certain spiritual magic when I was young, a taste that sort of dwindled as grew I older, until there came a time as a teen when I forgot about magic at all,” she says. After graduation, Kesava followed her peers and backpacked through Europe, unimpressed until she reached India. Here, she rediscovered the magic she had lost in her youth.
Insipired by a newfound sense of the world, she journeyed to Australia, where she became a monk in a Vaishnav ashram; here she laid the spiritual foundation for what would ultimately inspire her artistic career. Eventually, she left the ashram, hungry for other experiences. “Most of what I learned in the ashram was scriptual and quite cerebral, and while I am sure that works for some, I needed something more physical and aural.” Keshava set out to pursue a career in music, first in New York City and then in the City of Angels and it was there that she embraced a healthier life, full of raw foods and yoga, loving her new life in Los Angeles.
And it was in L.A. that she rediscovered dance. This time she chose to focus on classical Indian dance, a form that uses mudras (hand gestures) and body movements to tell stories. “There are many stunning traditional dance pieces, which I love, yet I find the most bliss when I freestyle, without set choreography.” Without the boundaries of set movements, Keshava lets the music guide her, feeling its natural ebb and flow and dancing the mood she feels. Her favorite story to tell is that of the love affair between Radha and Krishna. “There is something so sweet, so insatiable about God as a lover that it helps remind me that love is all there is.”
Keshava also studies North Indian vocals, which she describes as “literally a drug.” Singing their powerful words and mantras is another spiritual vehicle she uses in her art. She still enjoys popular music as well, and likes to mix classical Indian music with driving hip-hop or dance beats. “I am torn between the traditional and the modern. I guess I, too, am a cultural hybrid, so it’s natural that I approach music in a similar way…I think as long as I keep the essence, it’s healthy to explore.”
Keshava is co-director of Taal Dance Company, an artistic venture known for its progressive fusion of classical East Indian dance with more modern styles. Keshava collaborates with like-minded artists, experimenting with Indian choreography set to popular music and vice versa. Through it all, Keshava tries to stay connected to the spirituality inherent in her work. “It’s always a balance between exploration into unchartered waters and protecting the sanctity and chastity of the classical arts.”