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Meet Chicago’s Women Led South Asian Dance Organization, Ameya Performing Arts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samy Simha, Mona Rajdev, Masumi Jadia, and Sneha Bhattacharyya.

Samy, Mona, Masumi, and Sneha, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Ameya was founded in June 2016 by 7 impassioned dancers in Chicago.

For so long it was a conversation we had at dinner parties, in the gym, and over hundreds of texts, and emails. We spoke spiritedly about creating a dance community, led and driven by women. While our inception was in June 2016, it took us 3 months to create a business plan, choreograph viable performances, and establish a successful ecosystem between creative and management efforts. We unveiled the company and our first video to the world on September 7, 2016. Currently, Ameya Performing Arts is comprised of 9 local dancers and 2 remotes.

Our dancers have 20+ years of continuous dance training and performance. This multitude of experience leads our conversations to be “when can we make this happen” and “what is our next step” rather than “how do we do this”. Each woman on the troupe brings her multifaceted talents and knowledge to the company with choreography, artistic vision, video editing, business acumen, costume design and leadership abilities. Ameya is a passion project fueled by our dancers.

Has it been a smooth road?
Thankfully, because we have such an amazingly dedicated troupe, we have been able to establish a set weekly practice schedule that the dancers can commit to in advance. Because of the intricacies, we strive for in our choreography, we would ideally like to hold rehearsals more than once a week, however, we are unable to do so due to all troupe members having full-time jobs or being full-time graduate students.

Additionally, to be able to build our brand, a dance company typically requires visual marketing including photography and videography. We are still building our finances so things such as regular photo and video shoots become de-prioritized while finding studio space and getting costumes made take precedence.

We’ve also had clients approach us for additional services we don’t typically offer which has resulted in Ameya having to develop additional infrastructure to support the specific requests. Since our troupe is mostly comprised of women in the workforce, it can get difficult to accommodate. In every client interaction, our goal is to ensure the client is 100% satisfied. Internally, we often spread ourselves quite thin to accomplish the desired result.

Our biggest challenge thus far has been: how we do continue to get our name out there and raise awareness? While all of our performances and event gigs have been organically sourced, we want to continue to find more ways to integrate with the community.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We provide a platform for Indian women to further their passion for Indian dance after they’ve left the constructs of school and collegiate dance teams. Since all of us were in the same position in our early twenties, we have created an environment where the creativity is not compromised or simplified. Every single person in the troupe has a passion to dance. This is what makes us so special. Everyone wants to be there, giving it they’re all, every single rehearsal and performance.

What makes Ameya’s style so unique is that each dancer is a graduate of Bharat Natyam but has also mastered 2-3 additional styles of Indian dance including Bhangra, Folk, Kuchipudi, and Kathak. On Ameya we push the limits by training in Western styles of dance like Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary and incorporating those styles into our choreography seamlessly. This range of expertise allows us to create pieces that are unique, intricate and exciting to watch.

Our mission is to engage with the Chicago community and bring clients performances that are tailored to their needs, exciting to watch, and invigorating for us to perform and create. Our dance style is truly “Indian fusion”. The choreography effortlessly blends together styles like Bharatanatyam, Bollywood, Bhangra, Contemporary, Folk, and Semi-Classical into each dance. A step may start out Bollywood with a thumka and turn into a Pas de Bourree with Classical mudras (hand gestures).

This exemplifies how our style doesn’t start and stop with each move, it’s a combination of different styles with each step. Each dancer at Ameya has a unique dance background that allows them to contribute to the choreography in new, expressive ways. As we choreograph and put steps together it naturally becomes a blend of movement that our bodies find challenging and exciting.

As a company, we are most proud of our debut showcase BOUNDLESS. By January 2017, the troupe had grown to eleven members and together we set out to produce a show which would eventually find its title, BOUNDLESS, the English translation of our company’s name, Ameya. We aimed to build a show around a theme we could all relate to but, more importantly, spread awareness about the issues women were struggling within the 21st century. The show was an artistic portrayal of empowered women and their stories of struggle and triumph told through Indian, Contemporary dance.

The dances in BOUNDLESS depicted themes such as conquering stereotypes, gender equality, social pressures, and the unwavering strength of a woman through it all. The stories shed light on sexual and domestic abuse, the struggle of choosing oneself over obligations and finding the determination to overcome societal and familial pressures. Between the show’s three Acts, speakers from the community took the stage to share their own experiences and how they found the strength and empowerment from within to fight past their circumstances.

Ameya showcased optimism and liberation within each dance piece to illustrate powerful women who are relentless in the pursuit of finding personal happiness and freedom. The overwhelmingly positive response that BOUNDLESS received has enabled us to partner with various women’s empowerment organizations to further the conversation as well as take BOUNDLESS across state lines to Michigan. The show was a stupendous success with sold out auditoriums in Chicago and Michigan.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
From Ameya’s perspective, the dance scene in Chicago is still growing. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it, however, the resources, specifically studio space, photographers, and videographers are very limited.

It’s at a stage where new companies like us have the opportunity to create our own space in the professional Indian dance community and promote our brand. It isn’t over saturated yet and that is our greatest advantage. Moreover, the people are welcoming and open to learning new types of dance!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Kelly Stachura Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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