By Samarth Bhaskar | 

In a crowded, dark theater in Downtown Chicago, after a long day of work is not where you expect to find yourself immersed in thought about human connection but that is exactly where I happened to find myself on Wednesday evening. Performing as part of the Chicago World Music Festival, Anjal Chande presented an hour-long performance, comprised of four pieces that blended her mastery of the South-Asian classical dance form Bharatnatyam and her contemporary artistic sensibilities.

Although a dancer by training, Anjal showcased her art through a variety of media. Her spoken word, set to music composed by famed Sitarist Gaurav Mazumdar, Hindustani classical singer Gaurav Venkteswar and collegiate a cappella group Chai-Town (composed and directed by Arjun Venkataswamy) all provided backdrops to Anjal’s dance that pulled the audience into the performance. Anjal brought the audience in closer with her use of her face, hands and feet. The emotive expressions on her face, the meaningful use of her hands and the rhythmic cadence of her feet all worked together to accent the frame of a dancer who commanded not only the stage she performed on but the attention and emotions of her audience.

Anjal explored ideas of thought, creativity, darkness, happiness and human connection with her original pieces. Tapping into the urban lifestyle and its ephemeral nature, Anjal developed one of her pieces around distractions in the mind and the inevitable frustrations that grow out of constant yet shallow contact. In “Darkness,” Anjal proposed that happiness actually lives in darkness and that our imagination is not something to be feared, but something to be coveted. In her final piece, Anjal released her larger-than-life-self onto the stage, darting to and fro while having a delightful conversation with the music she danced to.

Throughout her performance, I found myself fixated on Anjal’s artistic thoughts. She created an entire habitat for me, and the audience, to explore ideas that she brought forth. Without any realization that I was doing it, I found myself meandering through my own conceptualizations of happiness, imagination, darkness, distraction and expression. In this, Anjal accomplished something that artists hope to accomplish with every expression. She presented her art with confidence and her real self shined on stage. Anjal embodied, almost literally, her convictions and painted them in an aesthetic that was irresistible for the audience. The entire performance was memorable not because it was foreign or her specific interpretation on human connection, but because it was personal and familiar and reminded me of my own convictions.