Aruna Gandhi is creating Australia

– the art of dance and CACD practice

Aruna Gandhi Auburn Deepavali lights

Auburn Deepavali Festival – 2014, project by ACDN

Aruna Gandhi is an independent performing artist, choreographer and educator, who specialises in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam. Since 1984, Aruna has trained under one of India’s most senior and renowned artists, Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy. Aruna has performed at various festivals, travelled widely and assisted her Guru Prof. Sudharani on many dance projects in India. In our latest artist blog Aruna talks about her CACD practice – thanks for sharing your story Aruna!

On moving to Australia in 2009, I established Silambam-Sydney, a dance school in South-West Sydney to train young students in Bharatanatyam. Determined to contribute to the arts sector in Australia and to share many meaningful messages through the art of Bharatanatyam to the world at large, I applied for the ‘Distinguished Talent Visa’ in 2012 and was awarded the same in 2013. I am now an Australian citizen and arts practitioner representing the multi-cultural face of our nation.

In the last six years of an interesting artistic life in Sydney, I have worked on several community arts projects. I particularly started focussing on CACD projects when I was a ‘Creative Hub’ resident at Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) in western Sydney. Through many networking opportunities and mentoring sessions at ICE I developed a keen interest in the CACD sector and enrolled in the Certificate IV – Arts Administration course with a focus on CACD offered by TAFE NSW. 2014 was such an exciting year of learning and exploring this unique field. As part of my internship at Auburn Community Development Network (ACDN), I co-ordinated The Art of Hospitality: Bring a Plate project’ – ceramic workshops (Aug-Sep 2014) and ‘Auburn Deepavali’ festival (Oct. 2014). Through this internship as a community arts worker, along with a wonderful team at ACDN, we brought together over 750 people from diverse communities to enjoy an evening of cultural celebration, which many from the audience described as ‘authentic’ and ‘deeply meaningful’.


image courtesy Marian Abood

image courtesy Marian Abood

In September this year, I am eagerly looking forward to launch the community arts project, ‘I Heart my Body’, which has recently received the ‘Social Change through Creativity’ grant from the Fairfield City Council.  As an artist facilitator, I will be working with women of different abilities and backgrounds to create a performative dialogue around body image. Participants will explore their relationship to their bodies and perform at a creative forum on International Women’s Day in March 2016. The project aims to empower women to creatively express themselves through dance. It is underpinned by the philosophy that the body is merely an external cover and that the soul is who we really are. The supporting organisations for this project at this stage are SEVA (Social Entrepreneurial Ventures of Australian South Asians) International Inc. a non-profit community organisation, and Cabramatta Community Centre. The dance workshops to be launched shortly are open to residents of the wider Fairfield region in South-West Sydney.

As a CACD practitioner, I’ve realised that if a community project has a strong and meaningful concept and if its core values are well determined, then the success of the project is well assured. This depends on the strength, cultural knowledge, experience and the creative ideas of the community workers involved in the project, and the way they deliver it to the people. Here, I wish to mention a few people who have inspired me as community arts workers – Paula Abood, Barry Gamba, Donita Hulme, Eddie Abd Brian Laul, Dr Meenakshi Srinivasan and Sumathi Krishnan.

JPLT Photography 2014

image courtesy JPLT Photography

Dance is a powerful medium to communicate thoughts and ideas, to narrate and share stories from the community. With its vocabulary of hand-gestures, facial expressions, postures and movements, Bharatanatyam offers a beautiful language of creative expression. Through this ancient artform, I hope to tell many different stories and be a part of a generation that is creating Australia today!

Aruna Gandhi