Sunya – the beginning of a new journey

Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Four dancers and three musicians will be offering an “energetic, sensual and poetic” performance called Sunya on Nov. 10–14 at the Cultch. Sunya is a show about meetings: east and west, music and dance, cultures, men. The work originates from the desire of artistic director and choreographer, Roger Sinha, and musician Kiya Tabassian to work together with the collaboration of dramaturge Jo Leslie.

Sunya is about migration told in a very poetic way. The spectator gets a sense of travel through time and space: a voyage,” says Sinha, who founded the Sinha Dance company as the meeting of classical Indian and contemporary dance.

“It’s all about synchronicity. The right moment,” Sinha says about meeting Tabassian. “It was the right time for [Kiya] and I. We wanted to do something new and different. We had an affinity.”

Migration, transformation and creation

Born in London, England to an Armenian mother and an Indian father, Sinha moved to Saskatoon with his family at the age of eight. They eventually moved to Ottawa and then finally to Montreal. Similarly, Tabassian was born in Teheran, Iran and emigrated to Quebec with his family when he was 14.

Both artists moved to Canada when they were young and inexperienced in North American culture.

“Kiya and I expressed the same kind of desire to move beyond our cultural identity,” says Sinha.

He describes how meetings can transform the art to make it different and unique.

“My work has been transformed through my meeting with Kiya, and Kiya’s music has been transformed through his meeting with me. All the history that we have behind us comes together and creates something new,” he says.

Sinha explains that Sunya means “zero” in Sanskrit.

“Zero: it’s a beginning, it’s not the beginning,” he says.

According to Sinha, a beginning can be the beginning of an artistic process or the arrival to another country and starting from zero, a prospect that many refugees face, for instance.

“My zero was the moment I decided to become an artist,” adds Sinha. “Migration and transformation, that’s really what the work is about.”

Dancer Roger Sinha and musician Kiya Tabassian.! Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Dancer Roger Sinha and musician Kiya Tabassian.! Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Diversity as a source of inspiration

Among the elements that inspires him as an artist, Sinha explains that the breadth of diversity in Canadian society enables him and a myriad of other artists, through collaboration, to create something unique and positive.

“Literature often inspires me – like Hanif Kureishi, because he also grew up of mixed-heritage, half British, half Pakistani,” adds Sinha.

When it comes to music, the American musical All That Jazz by jazz choreographer Bob Fosse holds a place of importance in Sinha’s artistic approach.

“I’ve always loved dancing. I’m a guy. Girls like guys who dance. I danced all the time. Saturday Night Fever was my life,” he says.

Sunya was also inspired by a poem by the Persian poet Râzi: “Listen in order to know, know to do, do to progress, progress to arrive, arrive to find, find to lose yourself, lose yourself to find yourself, find yourself again to know yourself, know yourself to love, love to be loved. Then everything will become clear.”

Sunya encompasses all of the artists’ experiences regarding themes of migration, isolation, cultural differences and, as such, offers a unique experience.

“When I became an artist, it was important for me to understand who I am because ‘who I am’ is a tool which I use to express my art. That’s what makes your art personal, unique and interesting to other people,” says Sinha.


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