AR Bala Skandan :: www.balaskandan.com
A.R. Bala Skandan is a performer, teacher and composer in Carnatic Violin and South Indian Percussion (Mridangam, Kanjira and Konnakkol). As a Mridangist, he belongs to the school of Sruthilaya of Sri Karaikudi R. Mani of Chennai, where he has received advanced training from Guru Karaikudi Mani. As a Carnatic Violinist, he initially trained under Sri Sarweswara Sarma and obtained his Teaching Diploma. He has been under the guidance of Smt. T. Rukmini of Chennai since 2000. He has also received advanced training in Carnatic Vocal from Sri Seethrama Sharma and in general Percussion Techniques from Prof. T. V. Gopalakrishnan
Bala Skandan has accompanied established international artists such as Sri O. S. Thyagarajan, Prof. T. V. Gopalakrishnan, Sri T. K. Govinda Rao, Smt. Sankari Krishnan, Sri Maharajapuram Srinivasan, and the Carnatica Brothers among others. He has also accompanied senior Bharatanatyam dancers from both India and the US. He has been performing for over 20 years in prestigious venues around the world including India, Europe and North America. Performance credits include the Lincoln Center, NY, the Lighthouse International Theatre in NY and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. He also has several large music and dance productions to his credit, including “Urban Kutcheri,” which premiered at the Joyce/SoHo in June 2006, “Pallavi: Exchange of Ideas between Western and Indian Classical Traditions over the Century” presented in London, “Innovation and Inspiration: A Rhythmic Project to Encourage Creativity Among Young Musicians” in London, as well as the dance dramas “Mother Theresa” and “Kastur Bhai” in Canada. Bala Skandan is a featured musician on several music recordings. He is also a recognized composer of rhythmic segments, known as Jathis, in Carnatic music. He is the founder and lead artist of “Akshara,” a percussion ensemble based in New York.
Balaskandan has worked in the development of organizations promoting South Indian music and dance in Canada and in the UK. He co-founded SIMDA, a promotional organization, in Toronto, Canada. He was a founding member and trustee of Sruthi Laya Seva (UK) Trust, an educational and promotional organization under the auspices of Guru Karaikudi R Mani.
Sonali Skandan :: www.sonaliskandan.com
Sonali is a devoted and passionate disciple of Bharatanatyam and is under the guidance of the renowned dancer and teacher, Professor CV Chandrasekhar of Chennai, India. She also studies Abhinayam (the art of expression) with Smt. Bragha Bessell of Chennai, India. Prior to that, she trained extensively under Smt. Thejeswni Raj. Sonali has furthered her training in dance by studying Carnatic music, South Indian vocal percussion (mridangam) and yoga. Sonali has also trained in western dance forms since a young age.
Sonali has performed regularly at venues all over the US, Canada and India including the American Museum of Natural History, Clark Studio at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, Merce Cunningham Dance Studio, the Queens Museum of Art, the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the New York City Mayor’s Office. Notable Festivals include the Chennai Music and Dance Festival, the Natyanjali Dance Festivals, American Dance Guild Festival, the fFida International Dance Festival 2005 in Toronto and the Tradewinds Asian American Festival 2005 in San Francisco. Sonali also participated in the World Sacred Dance Festival 2002 in Los Angeles, CA. Sonali has been actively producing and presenting evening-length Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music productions in the US, including Urban Kutcheri (Joyce/Soho 2006, CMAC 2007) as well as full solo margam concerts. Sonali has also danced with Rajika Puri & Dancers at the Joyce/SoHo (2007). She recently staretd her professional dance troupe, Jiva Dance, which presents compelling works of Bharatanatyam.
A core component of Sonali’s work involves education. Sonali holds a Masters degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has been instrumental in starting up an arts education high school in Manhattan. She uses her experience in teaching to develop engaging and enriching lecture demonstrations and workshops for professional dancers, students and teachers. Sonali is on the dance faculty of Sarah Lawrence College and started to teach Baratanatyam to dance majors in the Spring 2010 semester.