|Swati Gupte Bhisé has been performing Bharatanatyam extensively in the United States and India to the acclaim of critics as an intelligent performer with a keen sense of aesthetics. She had her debut in New Delhi under the auspices of the Center of Indian Classical Dances (CICD) of which her guru Padmabhushan Smt. Sonal Mansingh is the founder. Since 1981 she has also studied under Kalaimamani Guru Shri T.S. Kadhirvellu Pillai.
Her recitals in India include performances for prestigious institutions like the National Center for the Performing Arts, Bombay, Sahitya Kala Parishad Delhi Administration Cultural Department; SPICMACAY, Bharatiya Kala Kendra House of Soviet Culture and others. Overseas, she has had several concert recitals in the Far East, Europe, and North America. A notable performance was at the United Nations where she was given the honor to perform for the General Assembly for the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. Swati performed for the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the USSR and India on the 16th of April, 1990 at the House of the Soviet Culture in Mumbai.
Apart from being a concert performer, Swati has taught extensively and conducted workshops at several leading institutions including Columbia University, New York University, University of Austin Texas, St. Marks Academy (Dallas), the Dalton School, Brearley School, Chapin School, the School of Practical Philosophy, Brooklyn College, the Bronx Museum and Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Since 1988, she has performed and lectured for the Education Department for the American Museum of Natural History on topics such as “Rasa in Theory and Practice”, “The effects of European Colonization on Ancient Art”, “Role of Women in Hindu Mythology”. Since July 1997, a series of schools from the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan have been exposed to dance and lectures by Swati with her orchestra under the auspices of Symphony Space’s Curriculum in Arts Program.
Audiences at educational performances and concerts for the Metropolitan Museum, Wesleyan University, and Lincoln Center Institute have been regularly exposed to her natural interpretive dance form and narration. In Spring 1998, the Freer and Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian saw Swati perform in a traditional evening long solo recital in conjunction with their exhibition of the “Role of Sakhi” in the Gita Govinda” a 12th century work which she choreographed. Keeping in mind the need to simplify the art form she briefly explains using stylized gestures to enable lay audiences to have the full import of the art.
A conscientious purist of Indian classical dance, she has often worked to interpret western theatre using the art of Abhinaya and has choreographed the ethnic dance choreography for the Thomas Mann musical “The Transposed Heads” at Lincoln Center for the American Music Theatre Festival, the Electronic Opera “Mass for the Dead” by American Chamber Opera Company where she played the lead role and “Daddy meets Durga” for Mabou Mines.
Whether performing on the banks of the Yamuna River to celebrate the birth of Krishna or for Tiffany's or Sony Corporation in New York, Swati makes the space her temple to bring forth the art in its full glory. References of the Dance magazine and New York Times have found her dance style uniquely eloquent in its presentation.
She has traveled extensively along the U.S. Eastern seaboard performing in Universities, and schools both public and private. Her goal has been to create awareness and a truly appreciative audience of this unique and rich classical tradition. She has also worked with disabled and remedial students in uniquely challenging projects, stimulating their minds and getting them interested in culture and non-verbal communication.
Swati has her own institute in New York which is a branch of CICD, her alma mater in New Delhi, and presents all her concerts through the Center. In 1998, she presented her first student in a full-length concert at the Stuyvesant high school in New York to an audience of artists and well-wishers where she conducted the program wielding the symbols equivalent to a Western conductor. Swati’s student was in 9 years of grueling training in order to present this dance style.
Working in an area where she is educating a K-12 audience in the five boroughs of New York has been a challenging task, as the institutions have no reference to the culture, religion or ethos of the art form, but are simply filling a niche in their curriculum of “multi-culturalism”. The traditional format of what Bharatanatyam or Indian dance is perceived has been modified in order to be perceived in a contemporary context yet keeping the basic essence of the art and traditions.
In the past 5 years, Swati has performed for Symphony Space (under the CAP project) in Arts Promotion visiting over 50 groups of students in the tri-state area schools, as well as those in Westchester County, at Rochester, Delaware and Binghamton Universities. Schools, in which security measures and metal detectors are commonplace, have witnessed this art form and students participated actively once they have been involved in the workshops. The ensemble has also performed in a variety of public schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan – many times where classrooms have had to serve multiple purposes - such as the cafeteria being used for classrooms. This is the third year, Swati and 2 accompanists are performing this service as the program was so successful. In schools, where topics such as “teen pregnancies”, “unwed mothers”, and “drug abuse in schools” are the norm, these Bharatanatyam performances are being received enthusiastically. In other schools such as Brearley, Chapin, Dalton, and Browning that only have an average of 3-4 students of Indian origin in the student body to participate in this dance form is a unique experience for the children. As they travel to a distant land through this art form, they are exposed and enriched by the Indian classical dance incorporated in the school curriculum.
Apart from students as the audience, Swati also continues the relationship with the Lincoln Center Institute and performs for audiences of teachers and artists from other universities, and the Bank Street School, which trains teachers. This audience attends in order to study and analyze the art form, and to participate in a 20-minute question and answer session that follows the performance. Having previously studied the dance style through videos and notes sent by the performer, the participants receive an in-depth exposure to the art form. Swati performed in conjunction with Asia Society’s Binney Collection of the San Diego Museum’s Power and Desire. The performance was supported by an Annenberg grant. In 1994-95 Swati performed in conjunction with the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit Realms of Heroism. She has consistently worked with curators and educators to combine different expressions of art with her dance.
Swati has served on panels at Lincoln Center Library and the American Museum of Natural History for promotion of Asian arts. In 1992, she taught at the Brearly School as the first artist-in-residence and since then works on a semester basis with different grades where the students perform and chant shlokas at assembly as a culmination of their studies.
Swati performed extensively for the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education and is also working with the School for the Deaf along with Children with special needs in Wilmington Delaware.
She is always accompanied by a vocalist and a drummer. A flute and/or a violin and other percussion instruments are also added in certain concerts. The performing group continues to work in the hopes of creating a deeper understanding of this rich complex culture within a society that is generally alien to such ancient traditions of a bygone era.
Swati has also performed on March 28th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the opening of the South Asian Sculpture Wing. Swati presented original choreographic works based on the concept of SHIVA and SHAKTI, the male and feminine force of energy as well as exploring the dynamic images of the goddess from the HINDU PANTHEON through Sringara-love.
Swati has served on several panels both as advisor and as a moderator.