Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Colleena’s profile reveals the timeless grace of India. With a meditative presence, each turn and subtle glance of the eye is illuminated with detail and improvisation, bringing classical and ‘Gypsy’ together in one body.

Colleena is a classically trained Odissi dancer (Odissi is one of India’s 7 classical dance forms and originates in East Indian temples) and has recently added Kathak to her repertoire. Odissi has a long history of scriptural reference and divine origin, making it not only a dance, but literally a means of prayer and way of life. In addition to classical dance, Colleena has spent nearly 7 years living in Rajasthan with Khalbelia ‘Gypsies’ performing in various places from remote tribal Rajasthani villages to immaculate palaces for Maharajas and statesmen. In 2007 she and her Rajasthani musicians performed for Pratiba Patil (president of India) and was honored for her work with Rajasthani dance. Originally from the US, she brings elements of tribal and fusion belly dance to blend delicately with Indian dance, making a new fusion style. The culmination of her passion for dance led to her opening of a dance school (Shakti School of Dance) within the historical temple in the holy town of Pushkar (Rajasthan, India) where she lives most of the year when not teaching and performing internationally.
Queen Harish:
Queen Harish became a dancer purely instinctively, with a total connection to the rich cultural roots of his environment in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Gossip would reveal it is his serious addiction to watching Bollywood movies that has been his greatest teacher.Harish started touring the world in 1997, dancing, as early as 18 years old, and was featured on stage with legendary Rajasthani music groups such as Musafir, Maharaja and later embarked as a solo performer. Harish literally lived on tour without a pause for years. He also developed a dance career in India learning much from his travels in the world of performing arts. He assimilated elements of Flamenco and Middle Eastern dance and also met contemporary dancers who introduced him to concepts like acting, body expressionism and pantomime. This lifestyle of experiences makes him a remarkable and unique performer. Labeling Queen Harish, we could say he is the Indian contemporary performer who has the most deeply rooted cultural traditions, or, taking it the other way, as the most progressive, modern and versatile Rajasthani traditional performer!

How the duet was created:
These two performers met in a floating castle on Lake Pichola, Udaipur (Rajasthan, India)… Brought together by an exclusive performance in one of India’s most dreamy royal settings, the two dancers immediately made a strong artistic connection and continued occasional performances together over the years. Their bond was founded on mutual respect, similar vision and experience of the Indian dance life. What you will see in their artistic union, is a natural sensitivity to the sentiments of Indian dance as divine expression. In their own way, each dancer is the embodiment of an Indian Nayika (heroine defined by subtle traits) because the dance is not only a job for them, it is a way of life.

What is unique to both artists is that neither falls into a typical category for a dancer in Rajasthan. Generally, you find women born into dance by caste, for example the Khalbelia ‘Gypsies’ (which both Queen Harish and Colleena have worked with since their beginnings as dancers) or you will find classical dancers who keep firmly within the lines of classical tradition. Social taboo keeps many Rajasthani women from outwardly expressing certain aspects of the artistic experience. As a foreigner and a drag queen, they can walk the razors edge and at the same time, embody a deep respect for Rajasthani tradition. This position of independence, and the passion they each have for Rajasthani aesthetic has lead both dancers to explore new dimensions of dance within this context. Queen Harish has pushed the limits of Rajasthani movement to the higher levels of charm in Bollywood dance, while Colleena brings the fluidity and curvature of Belly Dance to blend with the energetic tribal movements in Rajasthani dance. Refinement is their trademark which remains unequalled in this genre.

Queen Harish and Colleena have spent years dancing with Khalbelia ‘Gypsies’ in Rajasthan and carry the seed of their energy and humor as an important secret to how they perceive their dance experience. A kind of natural mysticism learned from the ‘Gypsies’ guides their art from its origins in the desert to the intricate fusions which they share with the world.

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