CARAVANA Freethinkers 2021 Edition returns with an energetic and lively twist of the body and soul with an inspiring dancer helping to create change through dance: Vandana Hart.
A multifaceted and creative human being, Vandana has been a United Nations advisor, and the host of the Netflix Docuseries We Speak Dance. The series explored dance as an international language of connection across cultures, with Vandana traveling to different communities across the globe and learning their unique form of dancing.
Celebration of culture, connection, and self-expression are integral to CARAVANA; therefore, our collaboration with Vandana and the message she spreads through dance is synchronic with our ethos.
When I dance, I feel like there’s no separation between me and those around me, including nature. There’s something magical in human existence. Without dance, I’m not sure what life is.
Read below Vandana’s words on how to express yourself through the art of dance.
When and why did dance become your medium of expression? I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. I started in Sweden as a refugee, getting kicked out of my first ballet class. I danced across India, in California and New York. In New York, I moved to the city to train at the Alvin Ailey school of dance. By day I was doing ballet and modern, and by night I was dance-battling with the greats of hip-hop.
Across cultures, I have seen dance as the language that unites a community that heals hearts and inspires people in challenging times.
What about dance do you feel coincides with spirituality? Across cultures, I have seen dance as the language that unites a community that heals hearts and inspires people in challenging times. Dancers in Cuba, Bali, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, New York City all describe the feeling of dance as freedom, peace, love, and a way to connect directly with something bigger than ourselves. When I dance, I feel like there’s no separation between me and those around me, including nature. There’s something magical in human existence. Without dance, I’m not sure what life is.
What challenges have you faced in society- if any- on your journey of using dance as a platform of change? I’ve worked for the United Nations for many years across communities in over 30 countries. When we dance together, we build trust and a strong bond within seconds, usually taking years to build. We can use music and dance to tackle challenges we have on the planet: women’s rights, racial injustice, poverty, and preserving our environment.
For people who feel shy about dancing and movement, how do you encourage them to find their rhythm and freedom to express themselves? There are dances for every element in nature: water, fire, the sun and moon, trees, and animals. It’s such a simple thing but profound: if we unite people and create harmony, I believe that is our DNA. Dance is in our DNA. To be fully alive and tap into thousands of footsteps and dance moves of our ancestors, we must start shaking and laughing to create instant joy. We each have the power to create and share.
I love all forms of dance. All the diverse styles of slow, syncopated, smooth, sexy, fierce movements. There are so many language expressions in the whole human experience in every style of dance.
What are some of your favorite tribal dances or routines that you’ve practiced or witnessed? I love all forms of dance. All the diverse styles of slow, syncopated, smooth, sexy, fierce movements from ballroom vogue dance that I witnessed in New York and Paris to ballerinas in the Bolshoi in Russia. There are so many language expressions in the whole human experience in every style of dance. I get lost in seeing the thousands of years of history within each finger position of ancient Indian dance, the dances of Iran- from the twirling dervishes into the divine to breakdancing to fight injustice.
What are some of your spiritual practices or meditations that keep you grounded and energized for dance? The Netflix Docuseries We Speak Dance was created to carry this energy of power, struggle, history, love, politics, all coming from the roots of dancers and community. As our dances and stories rise, so will our planet.