Shalaka Kulkarni is an interdisciplinary dance artist. Her work revolves around the ideas of female identity, questioning societal norms, celebrating gender fluidity, empowering marginal voices and narrating lost stories of female contribution within Indian culture. Her movement journey started as a kid in India with her time divided between learning dance and martial art. In India, her dance training began in Bharatnatyam- Indian Classical dance form originating from South India. As her family immigrated to US, she began her training in Kathak- Indian Classical dance form originating from North India.
Her work revolves around creating a hybrid movement form that uses techniques of Bharatnatyam and Kathak while not hesitating to bring in other movement influences like Ballet, yoga and Martial arts. Her choreography shifts between creating works that use traditional technique of Indian Classical dance forms while delivering a contemporary narrative or an idea that is based in current happenings in the society and sometimes her work derives influences from Indian Classical dance forms to build a unique movement language for the particular piece that is being created. In that context, the work includes set choreography as well as improvisation and making vernacular gestures as ‘technique’ sections for narrating a certain idea. Aesthetically, visual imagery and text is also at times incorporated with movement.
The prime focus of every work is to create a space for the audience to feel hope or a release of negative energy so that they can take what they see through the work whether created as a serious work or work filled with absurd hillarity that can give them a thread to create a ripple of positivity for others. If nothing else, hope is that the viewer will have questions and curiosity of how they can or have already changed the world for the better.
She has performed in India and in US. She has danced, taught and toured in and around Chicago. She has toured and choreographed with Kalapriya Dance company in IL. She has toured with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, was one of the residents with La Pocha Nostra in Chicago under the guidance of Guiermo Gomez-Pena, was a winner for one of her works at Chicago Dance Festival, was commissioned to create work for DanceBridge residency with Chicago Cultural Center, won two grants through Columbia College Chicago, was commissioned to create work for Lions Club, presented her work at Chicago Dramatist, commissioned to present work for Federation of Indian Associations in Chicago, Performed and choreographed for Mandala Dance company and founded a collective called ‘SurTaal’ for exploring Indian Classical dance forms through perspective of other dance forms. She has been a teaching artist and created classes for kids and adults based in Indian Classical dance, dance & media and storytelling. She has taught at after school programs, dance studios and for various undergrad classes.