Krystal Kiran says dance is her first language. The Canadian South Asian actress, singer, dancer and choreographer will be hosting an online workshop, Sunday Funday: Song & Dance with Krystal Kiran, as part of the Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts on Aug. 22.
“[These disciplines] are all forms of catharsis for me, with storytelling at the root,” says Kiran.
The multidisciplinary artist who grew up in Penticton explains that juggling two cultures – Indian and Canadian – has allowed her to find a unique position in the Canadian arts scene. Music and dance were ways for her to find a sense of belonging in these cultures.
“Hearing AR Rahman’s music for the first time at eight years old was a deeply impacting moment for me,” Kiran recalls.
She finds it wild that 20 years later, she would have the opportunity to work with him several times.
At the age of 19, Kiran had the opportunity to audition and win a role for Bombay Dreams, the first South Asian musical on Broadway. She says she will never forget that audition; she found her best friends among the thousands of dancers who auditioned alongside her.
About her Broadway experience, she recalls her top three lessons.
“Believe in the beauty of your dreams and work towards them. If you get into the habit of doing just one thing every day that works towards your dreams, that builds up over time to help you manifest them,” says Kiran.
She also realized that artists are just like athletes.
“Discipline,” she says, “in your artistic practice is king, and knowing when to rest and take time to refuel [or] refill your well with inspiration is queen. The only way you can figure this out is getting to know yourself and your energies.”
Thirdly, take risks.
“I got expelled from theatre school for attending the Bombay Dreams audition because it was against policy to audition for anything in the first year and a half of the program,” Kiran explains. “But I knew in my heart that I had been working towards that specific show my whole life up to that point. When you’re passionate about something, don’t be afraid of high stakes – let them motivate you.”
So far Kiran has had a plethora of opportunities, including the understudy role of the lead in Bombay Dreams where she worked with many stars.
“I hope that who I am as an artist is an amalgamation of all the people I’ve worked with,” she says.
Although Kiran has been able to grow her career into full bloom, she has faced her set of challenges. She has a stutter, and says it was a struggle to cope with as an actor and a singer. Never giving up, she focused on breathwork, singing, yoga, Pilates and meditation.
Other struggles Kiran has been dealing with include the inconsistencies of the entertainment business, which she feels resonates with many artists, discrimination due to her ethnicity and, of course, the pandemic. She says the stress can take a toll on her health but being disciplined is still important. Her mantra is ‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’
Planting new seeds
Teaching is one aspect of Kiran’s artistic path, who adds that helping future generations find their way in the arts is very rewarding.
Working on the Maple project and creating scholarships for South Asian female artists at Emily Carr University has been an amazing experience for Kiran. The first ever recipient of the award, Tisha Deb Pillai, designed her House of Kiran (HOK) logo.
“I started HOK after realizing that unless I’m practicing my own agency as an artist, I will always be at the whim and mercy of who is hiring me, giving me work, etc.,” she says.
The artist will be pursuing her education and opening a studio in partnership with South Asian Arts later this year, as well as continuing her work as a performer.
“In art, as is in life, it’s all about the process. As an artist and educator, I’m curious to see how it will unfold with the intention of bringing self-expression, creativity and empowerment to the community,” Kiran says.
For more information, please visit www.monsoonartsfest.ca