When we talk about the pandemic, we think of breathlessness, fever and fear for our lives. What we rarely do think however, is about mental well-being and about being trapped in our homes during long lockdowns. What we also do not always realize is the claustrophobia that the social distancing and pandemic has brought along with it. The cringing and loneliness in mind or the various triggers and signs of mental illness have only heightened during this pandemic.
One can, in fact, talk about mental health on all days, but 10th October this year is a good time as any other. Why? 10th October is celebrated as World Mental Health Day. And to highlight the importance of mental health and spread awareness around it, 5 artists from India have come together to create an intriguing and spectacular dance video. Called ‘A Brighter Place’, the dance video will be live on 9th October.
A Few Facts About Mental Disorder
According to a recent study by the World Health Organization or WHO, ‘a close to 1 billion are living with a mental disorder. 3 million die every year from harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. ‘The ongoing pandemic has only increased the anxiety further leading to larger number of people being affected by mental illness and issues.
‘A Brighter Place’
Conceptualized by Nenita Praveen, ‘A Brigter Place’ is a YouTube dance video that launches on 9th October 2020. It ‘is a dramatic illustration of different personalities who encounter their own set of mental struggles during the quarantine and lockdown’. Five renowned dance artists have collaborated on this effort which sincerely and honestly hopes that through their personal dance and musical stories, there emerges a brighter place for those struggling with their own mental conflicts. The artists collectively believe that everyone’s feelings are valid and need to be expressed. Each artist has portrayed their individual experience with mental health. Not fully aware of what the final outcome would be, all the artists have put together an inspiring work of art to bring back hope to the discouraged.
About the Artists
The artists of the video include Nenita Praveen, Priya Kumar, Preethi Bharadwaj, Harsha Maheshwari and Tao Issaro.
Nenita Praveen is a multi-faceted artist. She is trained in Bharatanatyam and has also performed across India and internationally. She speaks regularly about women empowerment and the role of art in building the society. She has her own studio called Meenakshi Studio for Arts. Here students learn the dance form and also understand their body in stillness and movement because dance is in actuality a language in motion. She is a teacher, performer, choreographer and a yoga enthusiast. When asked about what she brings to this dance video, she says, “The process of choreography, to begin with, was nerve wrecking. I love working with stories and my bit was about the struggle that a person has to just let go and go with the flow, to connect with their inner child. My internal struggle became the story for my piece.”
Priya Kumar is the owner of the Piah Dance Company and is known for her dance moves that blend traditional folk forms with contemporary forms, Classical Indian with Bollywood dance forms etc. An engineer by education, she practices yoga and loves cooking and making DIY videos. Priya’s real life shouldered more than the usual chaos amidst the lockdown as she came to terms with her biggest challenge of uncertainty while creating this video.
Preethi Bharadwaj is a freelance Bharatanatyam and Indian Contemporary dancer. She is also an actress collaborating with theatre productions, short films and feature films as well. She endured tons of inter-questioning during the lockdown phase, however she says, “I have a very supportive partner who lets me have demotivated days and that’s very important to jump back.”
Harsha Maheshwari aka KOMET is a dance and fitness enthusiast. She has been a speaker and performer for TEDx more than 4 times and has collaborated with artists from all walks of life for various events. Her art movements #TheMagicalWorldofDance for children from orphanages and #HEALnotHATE for spreading body positivity are well-known. Harsha the director of the Happy Hour Dance Studio muddled through positive COVID-19 cases in her family by staying calm, and healing her inner-self.
Tao Issaro is an Indian/Australian percussionist, composer and music producer. He has performed over 3000 performances in 30 countries since the young age of 9. His music is specifically for the stage combining percussion, movement, physical theatre and story-telling. Tao has developed a unique and dynamic live performance language over the years and is continuing to work on this in India and Australia. Some notable commissions and performances include BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall (U.K), Maximum India Festival at John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts (USA), BRICS Summit 2016 (India) Woodford Folk Festival (Australia) and many more. Tao’s music provides the composition on which the dance moves of this video are choreographed. What was his take on the video? “One common motif that kept popping up in my head during COVID-19 was how do I motivate myself as a performer in a world where performances are no longer possible. I found my answers by forcing myself to look for a better output, ‘A Brighter Place’”, he shares smilingly.
Finally, during testing times the need to connect and stay positive are imperative. Expressions, such as the dance video ‘A Brighter Place’ put the spotlight on matters of mental health through their dance and music. A well intentioned effort, the artists reflect their true thoughts artistically conveying not only their mental struggles, but also how creating this video gave them victory to a brighter place. And they hope that it does the same for others too.
You can check the video’s teaser here: