YaliniDream / An Artist, Constantly Evolving

I first met performer/poet/dancer YaliniDream when I moved to New York three years ago. I was hunting for a profile subject for my Arts & Culture journalism seminar, and wanted to write about a Sri Lankan artist. A friend directed me to one of YaliniDream’s collaborators. I headed to a performance, thinking: wow, I live in a town where there are Sri Lankan/diasporic artists!

The performance was cool–and funny, and dark, and raw, touching upon issues related to the conflict in Sri Lanka. The combination of dance, music (particularly the exquisite, keening cello of Varuni Tiruchelvam), spoken word/poetry and visuals was deeply transporting and complex. Foolishly, I hadn’t expected a show–any show, really–to pull such an intense reaction from me. I left the show almost (okay, who am I kidding, actually) in tears at the power of what the performers had done, and their sheer bravery. (After all, I chose a profession where I spend most of my time alone in a room with a computer.)

While the blogosphere is a poor substitute for live performance (sorry, Internet, it’s true), here are some snippets.

Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen Vol. II: YaliniDream from Jennifer Hobdy on Vimeo.

This work seems newly relevant now, and YaliniDream has a slew of performances coming up—-New Yorkers can check her out this weekend (including tonight, in the Bronx), and on other upcoming dates (see website). (Keep reading for an audio clip with the cello.)Over the past three years, I’ve seen YaliniDream perform many times. One of the most interesting things about the performance is the way it rewards repeated viewing. While I find this generally true of theatre, YaliniDream keeps evolving in very particular ways—-parts of the show fall away, others change, and the new parts are created. She takes on new characters and new voices. One of my favorite pieces to see/listen to is called “To Catch Just One Tear.” That’s the piece in the video above. The music in the video differs from the way I originally heard it, when she was performing with Varuni.

The audio snippet, on her website (http://www.myspace.com/yalinidream) comes a bit closer to what I first heard. (Click the second link down in the player on the top right.)

I like YaliniDream’s work because of its bald courage. It pushes issues of sexuality and gender that are sometimes overlooked in conflict situations, and also conveys deep empathy for people from different walks of life. She’s often quite funny, but she doesn’t hesitate to touch on unbelievable pain, both in Sri Lanka and its diaspora.

I asked her how her work had changed over time—-she has been performing parts of this piece for several years–and she offered up that it had become more humorous as she had come to the realization that truth is not only “heart-wrenching” but also “hilarious.”

Ed: 6/19/2009 8:00 PM at BAAD!’s The Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance’s Out Like That Festival 841 Barretto Street, Bronx, New York 10474 Cost: $15

Want to watch more YaliniDream? Look here.

11 thoughts on “YaliniDream / An Artist, Constantly Evolving

  1. the lack of ‘acceptable’ cultural filtering is encouraging but one has to engage with stakeholders in SL before declaring rhetorical success. Hipsters, academics, writers and progressive blogger types (especially those embracing the theory of gender and sexuality as Rosetta stone for all human experiences) are not the people who need convincing that diaspora tamils aren’t a unitary mass of tiger loving fools. The more diaspora tamils focus on acting in venues where Bernie Goonetilleka wouldn’t dream of treading, the less credibility we will have with those who are within the farms and without; the more we will repeat the grave errors of MIA, Jan Jananayagam’s campagin, the VMM and the TRO. We don’t have to present a mainstream face but we do have to recognize that people in SL have agency, act on it and can’t be reasonably expected to engage with anyone who, by their actions, appears to be blithely unaware of that fact.

  2. Let’s not degenerate into remarks about a performers looks, OK?

    Why not? It happens on every thread. However, I wasn’t talking about her looks, I was talking about the vibe. Very aggressive and unfeminine. I understand the performance wasn’t created to “look pretty” but still. It seems that everything that comes out of the US right now is testosterone fueled aggression and rage. Whatever happened to peace, love and beauty?

  3. Sometimes aggression can be very beautiful. ;-)

    Love, peace and beauty are relative – keep that in mind. I think this piece was great and imbued all three.

  4. Nayagan,

    I read your comment, watched the clip, read your comment several more times, and still can’t figure out how they relate to each other.

    How does this performance deny Sri Lankans’ agency?

    Also, the group you identified might not need convincing that all diaspora Tamils are a bunch of mindless Tiger-lovers, but some of them might need a blunt reminder to think critically about the existing socio-political situations in countries they romanticize, which I thought the clip did brilliantly

  5. Thanks for this post. I’ve performed with YaliniDream before, and what I appreciate about her is her refusal to be categorized. So much of the polarization of politics in Sri Lanka and the diaspora hinges on the desire to categorize. One is either considered pro-Tamil or a patriot. One either loves Sri Lanka or is considered a traitor. By refusing to be categorized, she reminds us that such political tactics silence most experiences and therefore need to be destabilized and questioned.

  6. I’ve seen YaliniDream perform many times, and each time I’m blown away by her talent. Whether its a solo performance or a collaborative show, I always leave inspired.

  7. enable segregation of comments into word count categories is called for allowing the user to skim a list of three word answers,

    or make a cup of coffee and spend some time with the longer, more developed ideas.