Local Dancer Fuses East & West Traditions, Sparks Conversations

May. 2, 2014 / By

By CSULB Senior Seminar Reporter Elizabeth Schmidt

Shyamala Moorty extends her arms in the air with closed fists, while using her voice to deliver explicit messages. This is a fight and a dance all in one — a song to bring awareness to important global issues.

“I love the expressive possibilities in dance,” Moorty said. “I love being able to get lost in kinesthetic sensation, like a sort of moving meditation, as the mind stops thinking about things, and unites with the body.”

Moorty, who has performed at Long Beach venues like the Khmer Arts Academy, the Long Beach Convention Center, the Martha Knoebel Theater, and the Carpenter Center, was recently awarded the Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowship in 2013 and in 2008.

She is currently teaching a creative world dance in elementary schools and performing assemblies about storytelling through dance in Southern California.

Her dance inspiration comes from a mishmash of life experience working with South Asians, Muslims, survivors of domestic violence, taxi drivers, and restaurant workers.

“I really want to be a part of bettering my community,” Moorty said. “I really feel like touching people through creativity and expanding their possibilities to understand themselves deeper.”

Moorty, 40, hopes to spark a conversation through her unique blend of contemporary dance, theatre, and Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form.

Having practiced dance since she was very young, her bi-racial roots — she is half Indian and half Caucasian—has influenced the fusion of her dance, and when Moorty was 18, she shifted her focus on ballet to contemporary Indian dance that roots from Bharatanatyam.

But when Moorty first started mixing dance forms there was trepidation because people had said that hybridity meant watering down the dance form.

“There was this separation of Indian dance as a sacred dance and that it shouldn’t be experimented with,” Moorty said.

She realized that she needed to use different forms of dance together for creative expression and to make political statements.

“I felt there was need for me to use all my body and all the tools I was training in with the different dance forms,” Moorty said. “If they are there, why should I ignore it?”

She added that she hopes that cultural dance from different ethnic communities in Long Beach will intersect with each other more because the local dance scene is currently dominated by Western forms of dance.

“There are a lot of great contemporary western dancers living here, and more are coming out of Cal State Long Beach all the time; I am excited by their presence but am also excited to see classical Cambodian dance thriving at the Khmer Arts Academy,” said Moorty.


Khmer Arts Academy associate artistic director Prumsodun Ok said he appreciates Moorty’s blend of contemporary and classical dance.

“She is trained in the traditional vocabulary but is also using it as a means of exploring the issues of our world today,” Ok said.Ok added that he would describe Moorty as a “playful artist.”

Freelance arts management consultant Romalyn Tilghman said that Moorty is becoming a model for fusion dance in the Long Beach area.

“She represents what I consider the current SoCal dance style of infusion of a traditional culture with contemporary sensibilities,” said Tilghman. “I’m convinced this is what our region will become known for and Shyamala is leading the way.”

When Tilghman first met Moorty, she said she stood out from the rest.

“From the beginning, she was a smart, thoughtful, sensitive, message-delivering dancer,” Tilghman said. “Her dancing has intensified over the years with her maturity.”

Moorty said she loves to perform and is fortunate to make a living doing art.

“It’s exciting to wake up every morning and believe in what I do,” Moorty said. “A lot of times people don’t realize what’s available to them and by using their creative tools they learn something about themselves that they never knew.”

Moorty’s next scheduled performances are the Slow Motion Restaurant Worker Flash Mob on May 1 in Los Angeles, Super Ruwaxi with The Post Natyam Collective in San Francisco July 9, 10, 12, and Global Taxi Driver will be at East West Players in Los Angeles on August 9.

For more information you can visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/933792, www.postnatyam.net, www.dancingstorytellers.com,https://vimeo.com/channels/shyamala, www.facebook.com/Shyamala and follow on Twitter @shyamaladance


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VoiceWaves partners with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) each semester to mentor students' community reporting. The Journalism 495 Enterprise Reporting in Diverse Communities course challenges students to build on their journalism skills covering various neighborhoods throughout Long Beach, including North Long Beach, Central Long Beach, Downtown, and the Westside.