Founded in 2019, Kalanjali Art Space (“Offering of Art”) is a safe haven for the community to freely express their creativity and passions through dance and other artistic endeavors.  Art becomes a form of therapy for those committed to the programs, providing a highly needed opportunity for those who have traditionally been silenced to tell their stories or who have been discouraged from sharing their talents to perform without shame or the pressure of societal negativity.  The hope is by participating in the Kalanjali Art Space programs, all members will gain self-confidence and inner strength, break free from cultural restrictions and, if they so choose, obtain economic self-sufficiency through a career in the arts.

While the programs offered by Kalanjali Art Space are open to anyone aged 7 and older, the target group of participants are girls and women from marginalized communities for whom self and artistic expression is considered unimportant and unacceptable.  Kalanjali Art Space offers an alternative to limiting one’s life purpose to culturally imposed gender roles of that of a dutiful daughter, wife and mother confined in the home or being employed outside of the home in “women’s work” only.  It is also the hope that by becoming a part of the Kalanjali Art Space community, girls will make a conscious decision to reject the practice of marriage at a very young age.  The goal of female engagement in the programs, whether by young or old, married or single, is to give a voice to those who have historically been silenced so as to show them the value of all they have to offer within themselves.

The two tracks of study offered by Kalanjali Art Space provides more than a mere arts education for participants but strives to develop well-informed “whole”people who are prepared to interact and thrive outside of the studio with the world around them.  Participating members are made aware of the fact that the dance and the arts do not exist in an isolatedvacuum but are impacted by what is happening in society at large so their lessons are supplemented with coursework on children’s rights, personal health and hygiene, peer education, gender orientation, marketing, and entrepreneurial skills.  Members will also learn about the social significance of what they are being instructed on:   What inspired the creator?  Why is the piece important? How does it reflect society at large?   What does it mean to you as a performer?  Workshops and special events by visiting scholars and artists will also contribute to the members’ growth.

Members of both groups are expected to go beyond their roles as students but to become contributors to the Kalanjali Art Space family by serving as Peer Educators who serve as role models and mentors to younger or newer participants.  The importance of this role is key to develop self-esteem and pride in by realizing that everyone has something valuable to share and teach.

Members of Ekjot (“Together”), the junior group for youth aged 7 to age 13, engage in afun activity-based curriculum consisting of group building games to discover their individual strengths and weaknesses through dance, body movement and other artistic mediums.

Upon aging-out of the Ekjot group, members may join those in the senior group called Nirmann (“Building up”) consisting of those aged 14 and over.  There is no upper age limit for members of the Nirmann groupso as to encourage participation by all in the community with a love and dedication to dance, art, culture and self-expression.  As would be expected of a senior group, the Nirmann course of study is more rigorous and in-depth than Ekjot’s with members introduced to a wide range of dance forms and artistic mediums from around the world ranging from classical Indian dance and martial arts to ballet to jazz and even Zumba.

In addition to providing instruction in dance and the other art forms, members will have hands on experience in all aspects of preparing for performances, learning not only what is required of performers on stage but the responsibilities of those behind the scenes to put the many pieces of a show together.    Members will join others in designing and building sets, setting up lighting, creating and procuring costumes and jewelry, applying stage makeup and fixing hair, and other duties as needed.  The hope is by learning the job of all, members will gain a deep appreciation of the work of others and the strength of a cohesive and dedicated team.

Members who discover that they are more interested in these backstage aspects of a performance than being on stage as a dancer or artist will be given the opportunity to explore the technical responsibilities.  They may opt to specialize in areas such as costume design, jewelry making, set design, tailoring, prop development, hair and makeup, sound mixing, and any other assignments necessary to create a production.

Administratively, Kalanjali Art Space is led by a Project Coordinator who is responsible for the daily operations of the entire organization in addition to conducting workshops and special sessions, interacting on a one-to-one basis with students, leadingthe staff of two specialized teams, researching new forms of dance and artistic expression, overseeing productions, overall planning and any other responsibilities that arise.

The first specialized team is the Artistic/Dance Team consisting of highly trained individuals who are responsible for implementing the members’ performances.  They provide instruction for weekly sessions, workshops and special events.

The second specialized team is the Technical Team consisting of  skilled individuals who are responsible for developing all aspects of productions including costume and jewelry, set and prop design, hair and makeup, soundtracks, and lighting.  They attend weekly sessions, workshops and special events.

Both the Artistic/Dance Team and Technical Team are entirely staffed by girls and women of all ages who have decided on their own which team to join.

The collective goal of all involved with the Kalanjali Art Space is to develop strong people who are able to channel their artistic talent and passion to tell their own stories and gain confidence in themselves.  The hope is through doing so, their communities will also be improved due to a reduction of incidents of elopement, early marriage, dropping out of school, and unemployment.  Creating individuals who believe in themselves will unquestionably create a better society.

Kalanjali’s Dancers’ troupe is called Ahlladi. This year they will celebrate their 25th year.