My research focuses on embodied culture in South Asian contexts and includes work on gender in Mohini Attam dance, Odissi dance in America, women’s modern dance in Kerala India, the Bayaderes (the first group of Indian dancers to tour Europe in the 19th century) and American yoga cultures. I hold a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from UC Riverside. I also hold a Master’s degree in Dance Ethnography from Mills College, a Master’s degree in Anthropology from UC Riverside and a B.A. in World Dance from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. From 2003-2004 I had a Fulbright Grant in India where I researched the politics of gender as manifest in the sub-culture of classical Indian Mohini Attam (also transliterated as Mohiniyattam or Mohiniattam) dance. During that time I studied at the prestigious Kerala Kalamandalam in India. I returned to India to continue my studies in Malayalam language and Mohini Attam dance in 2005 and then again as a recipient of the American Institute for Indian Studies dissertation award fellowship from 2007-2008. during this tenure I studied the Kalyannikutty Amma style of Mohini Attam dance at Nrythashetra and also collaborated with Padma Menon and women from the Mudra Dance Collective. I was an American Association for University Women dissertation writing fellow for the 2008-2009 year. Since completing my PhD I have worked as an independent scholar, presenting papers, lectures and performances at conferences and a variety of colleges and universities. I also teach World Dance at Mira Costa College in addition to owning and directing at One yOga and Nataraj West Performing Arts.
In addition to being a cultural anthropologist I am also a professional dancer. I have received training from Guru Ranjanaa Devi in classical Indian Odissi dance since 1996 and have performed as a principle dancer with Nataraj Dance Company at many venues with in the United States, India, Japan and elsewhere. I have also studied Balinese Legong dance in Bali, Indonesia and Chauu dance in New Delhi, India and Mohini Attam in Kerala at Kalamandalam and at Nrythrashetra. I am a long-time yoga practitioner and am certified as a yoga teacher at the 500-hour level from Yoga Alliance.
My current book project is an experientially based study of a women’s (sub)-culture in Kerala, India, as it is manifest in the processes of choreography, learning, and performing Mohini Attam dance. A prime interest for the project is to understand how and why Mohini Attam forms a (self)-enforced femininity for dancers in Kerala. To this end the dissertation studies the lasya (Sanskrit: feminine) quality of Mohini Attam dance from several ethnographic perspectives: historical, phenomenological, and semeiotic. Because of its emphasis on long-term fieldwork, “deep-embodiment,” participant-observation, and extensive interviews the study is, more than anything else, an attempt to provide ethnographic description and analysis of human life as it manifests in the particular (sub)-culture of Mohini Attam dance in Kerala.