2020 Graduate Award Recipient: Meera Kanageswaran, recipient of the N. Sivalingam Award in Tamil Studies

YCAR offers or adjudicates nine awards to graduate students at York University on an annual basis. In 2020, 21 students received over $40,000 in support of their research, fieldwork and language studies. In each Update over the summer, we will introduce the 2020 winners.  

In this issue, we congratulate Meera Kanageswaran (Dance), this year’s recipient of the N. Sivalingam Award in Tamil Studies. In her master’s research, she is exploring the possibilities of telling secular, inclusive and diverse stories using Bharathanatyam technique. Until now, these performances have been heavily repertoire-based, suite of dance-dramas and abstract dances, passed on from teachers to students. Existing Bharathanatyam vocabulary is predominantly tied to Hindu mythology and stories from Indian literature. The civil war in Sri Lanka was a turning point in the way Bharathanatyam has developed. Eelam Tamils have used Bharathanatyam as a language to communicate and act as a cathartic outlet to emphasize their challenging political situation, feelings, suffering, sorrow, patriarchy, courage, loss and more importantly, their sense of helplessness. As the civil war concluded, so did these expressive creations. In addition to exploring the dance works produced during the Sri Lankan civil war, she is investigating the use of Bharathanatyam vocabulary (old and new) to narrate present-day stories as well as interviewing dancers, choreographers and artists within the global Eelam Tamil diaspora who have contributed to these works. 

As a dancer, teacher and choreographer, Meera continues to learn and experiment with Bharathanatyam. Her unique vision is to use this dance form to tell contemporary, secular stories. Meera established her dance school—Confidence Bharatham—in 2006, and in her performance career, Meera has danced in Germany, Switzerland, India, South Africa, the US and Canada. Her recent choreographic works include ‘Destructive Desires’ and ‘Balancing on the Hyphen’.   

The N. Sivalingam Award in Tamil Studies is offered annually to a York University graduate student who is engaged in research with a substantive focus on Tamil language, history, culture, society or the Tamil diaspora. Comparative research is also eligible. More about YCAR’s awards can be found here. The next deadline for YCAR-administered award applications is 9 February 2021.