When I perform... Aeilushi

My name is Aeilushi Mistry. Aeilushi - daughter of Saint Aeilush known as Aeilushi. Mistry - are also known as Suthar, carpenters.

I practice Gujarati Folk traditional dances such as Garba, Raas, Divada, supada. This is a community. Garba (ગરબા in Gujarati) is a form of dance which was originated in the state of Gujarat in India. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term Garbha ("womb") and Deep ("a small earthenware lamp"). Many traditional garbas are performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the Goddess Shakti. The circular and spiral figures of Garba have similarities to other spiritual dances, such as those of Sufi culture. Traditionally, it is performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navarātrī(Gujarati નવરા'ી Nava = 9, rātrī = nights). Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess, Durga (also called Amba) is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of veneration. It is also performed wedding and other celebration. Traditionally female will wear chaniya - long embroidered skirt, choli- blouse, and dupatta - long 3 meters fabric with beautiful ornaments and hair is decorated with flowers.

Also, I practice Bharathanatyam, a traditional dance from Tamil Nadu. This dance style is more than 3000 year old. This dance performed in temple as a prayer dance. Bha - means bhav = expression, ra - means raga = melody, tala- means = rhythm , natayam = dance. Now, the time is change and dance is regularly performed on the stage. The dance form is based on 'Adavu' (steps/technique) and 'Hasthamudra' (hand gestures). Stories are performed and communicated using 'bhavabhinaya' (facial expression) and 'hasthamudra' (hand gestures). The performance starts with the prayers to Lord Ganash and worship of Lord Nataraja, Lord of dance. Cosutmes and make-up is also carefully done.The hair is usually either wrapped in a big bun with orange and white flowers wrapped around it. Or more commonly in a very long braid with flowers wrapped around. The makeup, great emphasis placed on the eyes. The eyeliner is very bold. Also, the tips of the fingers and toes are colored red. There are various costumes styles. These costumes are prepared using Kanchipuram silk and Banaras silk sarees. The jadatada jewelry is used in Bharatanatyam. It is decorated with white, red, green colored stones. The jewelry that adorns the head includes a headpiece that sits just on the hairline with a piece coming down the center. There is another headpiece which represents sun and moon, sun ornament is placed on the right side of the head, the other is the moon and is on the left. Then long earrings that are set into place at the earhole and up the length of the ear and then attached at the hair. A nose ring is worn in the middle of the nose, and can be accompanied by the usual stud on the left or right side. There are two necklaces, once short and other is long. A decorated belt is worn at the waist. And finish with tying Dancing bells both ankles.

Garba and Raas, it is a community dance, I don’t recall exactly at what age, I started participating in Garba by once joining the circle and learn dancing by following the movement. And, Bharatnatyam, I started learning Bharatnatyam at the age of nine. I still continue to practice these dances and still continue to learn every day.

I received BA degree from Gandrava University, Gujarat and Advance degree from Kerala Kalamandalam, school of performing arts, Kerala, India. To enhance her performance, she studied with numerous renowned Bharatnatyam dance gurus. In addition, to better understand and learn how different dance styles use unique movements and use of space, she studied other styles of dance such as Kathak, Kuchipudi, modern dance, and West African dance. Currently, I am associated with the Brooklyn Art Council, NY as an arts educator and performer teaching World Culture through Dance. And award 2015 NYFA Fellow Folk/Traditional Arts.

"When performing, it brings me joy and happiness. It helps me to connect people with one another. I thank myself that I am allowing myself to share my culture. It is the most satisfying moment." ~Aeilushi

In Garba, the instruments used are Dhol - a double headed percussion, kanjira - hand cymbals, harmonium, singer sings Garba folk songs base on gods and goddesses such Krishna and Parvati ma. Using household items such as sticks, earthen pots, winnowing basket in daily chores and singing folk song while doing daily chores around the house gave birth to these folk dances. Now they are know as folk dance such as Raas, Bheda dance, Supada dance, deeva dance, tipani dance. Props used in Raas - wooden stick is used, divada dance - oil lamps are held in hand and dance, Bheda dance - earthen water pot is used and dance, supada dance - using winnowing, a basket made from bamboo.In Bharatnayam, it is a storytelling dance. Stories are performed using gestures and expression. The music in Bharatanatyam is based on Carnatic classical music.In Bharatnatyam, the instruments used are Veena, Flute, Mridangam and Violin. There is a singer and the dance guru gives the Thaalam using hand symbols. The singer will sing poetry in praise of god and goddesses such as Lord Natraga, Lord Ganesh, Goddess Durga, Lord Krishna and many more. These songs are set in a rhythm and beats. Dancer and Musician work together and choreograph the dance.

Yes, born and raised in Navasari, Gujarat, India to parents who are also from Asian - India origin. In my Gujarati Hindu family, coming from Mistry - carpentry background, beside carpentry background, many family members were self-taught singers, dancers, and musicians. When I perform my first public performance, my family member compliment me that now we have a new dancer in our family. I respectfully give this credit to my parents. They both are artist themselves. My father who played Dilruba - a string instrument and an architect. My mother is a artist as well. She paints on glass, creates wonderful sand rangoli, great needle work and created beautiful embroidery work. Both had a keen eye is perfection and value art. When my mom was growing up she really wanted to learn dance. She completed her wish by enrolling me to dance class and begin my training in Bharatnatyam at the age of 9. I admire and respect My parents for providing this opportunity. Their support is very valuable. And such support from my husband continued and I am able to continue it further. So, yes, My family, culture, tradition and heritage play an important part of my being. The dance arts, cultural traditions and ceremonies of my Hindu tradition and India have played an important part in my upbringing and are an integral part of my being. Its memories are part of my identity and inspire my art making.

As I continue my journey, I feel, I am reaching deeper and deeper within my culture and roots. It gives me more inspiration to search more and find answers. It is my responsibility to learn my culture and pass it on. When I perform and see audience smiling and dancing, it brings a joy to me seeing the connection. When sharing culture to one another and seeing the similarity between two cultures, it is the most satisfying moment. This reminds me of a verse said in Sanskrit language:

“vasudhaiva kutumbakam” - meaning vasudha - earth; eva-indeed is’ and kutumbakam family “world is one family.”