- St. Paul, Minnesota-based Indian American dancer is the founder and artistic director of Aniccha Arts, an experimental arts group.
Indian American dancer Pramila Vasudevan of St. Paul, Minnesota, is the lone Indian American selected for a United States Artists fellowship which recognizes “the most compelling artists working and living in the U.S. Each fellow will receive $50,000, the Chicago-based nonprofit announced. The honorees — working across the disciplines of architecture and design, craft, dance, film, media, music, theater and performance, traditional arts, visual art, and writing—together comprise the organization’s largest class of fellows,” United States Artists said.
Vasudevan, a choreographer and interdisciplinary artist, is the founder and artistic director of Aniccha Arts, an experimental arts group. Vasudevan, who goes by the pronouns them/they, has more than 30 years of experience in Bharatanatyam and contemporary Indian dance. The artist told the Star Tribune newspaper that the award is an affirmation for her contemporary community-based work. “Experimental is not something you look to brown people for necessarily.”
In addition to their practice, Vasudevan is the director of Naked Stages, a fellowship program for emerging performance artists at Pillsbury House Theatre; and a Teaching Artist with Upstream Arts, which activates and amplifies the voice and choice of individuals with disabilities at every stage of life.
According to the Star Tribune, Vasudevan’s “current work is evolving from a period of reflection and from discussions about the Hoya Project, which calls attention to social justice causes that have stemmed from the awakening after George Floyd’s murder and systemic racism within institutions.” They are focused on environmental justice and use dance and interdisciplinary art forms as the path to find new ways of understanding different points of view. Vasudevan has a B.F.A. in Interactive Media and a B.A. in Political Science.
This is not Vasudevan’s first national grant. They are a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2016 McKnight Fellow for choreography.
Born in Illinois, Vasudevan began studying Bharatanatyam in New Jersey as a child and continued to pursue it when the family moved to Madurai in India, after the dancer turned 8. Vasudevan told the Star Tribune that they were “raised as a Hindu but now identify as a spiritual atheist.” They said they examine their caste privilege as part of their artistic journey and work with the community. “Caste disclosure is part of a caste-awakening movement — to be in solidarity with the communities where these forms are being appropriated from.” Vasudevan said. “To be in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, I have to go through caste awareness. I have to look internally through my own background to call on my history.”