“A Day in the Life” with dancer and choreographer Brandy Leary

When we walk the streets of India, Brandy’s beauty is foregrounded such that people stop us at regular intervals to have their pictures taken with her. Very often, it’s a young girl who wants the photo, and Brandy bends obligingly to pose at eye level with her admirer. Poised is the word that comes to mind, in both its senses: graceful, self-possessed, and on the verge of something, a diver on the edge of a very high board about to leap.

In Indian terms, we’re sisters, despite the differences in age and skin colour, because we share the same guru. Since what we’ve trained in together is kalaripayat, a martial art with serious weapons, we’re literally sisters-in-arms.

In Calicut, where we train, Brandy gets up at dawn to do the practice in the prescribed manner in the mud-floor kalari, through heat, humidity and clouds of mosquitos. But after the hard work, she’s the one who made sure there’s an espresso maker, and occasionally a cocktail hour, in which our guru now participates. She knows the importance of a cookie at the right moment.

Wherever we are, on beaches, on trains and planes, on long drives from one class or performance to another, we’re having a conversation that starts with anecdote and ends in philosophy. So many times, my response to something she’s said is, ‘Oh! I’d never thought of it like that before’.

In my role as choreographer, I often ask of Brandy actions that scare me when I think of possible consequences: dancing blindfolded, dancing with heavy wooden maces. She’s more than a heart-stopping dancer, she reveals the possibilities in the work I’m trying to create.

I’ve watched her attack and defend with dagger and sword, twist and spin and spiral down the sides of buildings, and I’ve seen her plunged into the depths of life’s most painful tribulations. She succeeds so well in meeting challenges, I think, because the energy of her artistic practice permeates her life. She’s always in that artist’s stance – aware, fully engaged, ready for the difficult task at hand. And as much of her art as she puts into life, she puts of life into her art.

-By Choreographer and Author Gitanjali Kolanad (India/CA/Europe)

This is my day job……. At a photo shoot with Eamon Mac Mahon for curator Jenn Goodwin’s exhibit Thunderstruck: Physical Landscapes
This is my day job……. At a photo shoot with Eamon Mac Mahon for curator Jenn Goodwin’s exhibit Thunderstruck: Physical Landscapes
Brandy Leary
Performing Gitanjali Kolanad’s work Gandhari (Photo Greg Wong)
Brandy Leary
In rehearsal, my current choreographic obsession with the spine through the lens of the acrobatic body…
Brandy Leary
A regular day at the office…. Performing for the Arthritis Society Gala for Burstyn Inc
Kalarippayattu practice with Hans Wolfgram
Kalarippayattu practice with Hans Wolfgram
Continuum: Pushing Towards the Light, a work I created for Nuit Blanche 2018 (photo Greg Wong)
Continuum: Pushing Towards the Light, a work I created for Nuit Blanche 2018 (photo Greg Wong)
Anchored to a northern ice pack in the arctic, rigged off a tall ship for the Arctic Circle Residency working on Melting, Mourning and A Series of Impossible Tasks (photo Justin Levesque)
Anchored to a northern ice pack in the arctic, rigged off a tall ship for the Arctic Circle Residency working on Melting, Mourning and A Series of Impossible Tasks (photo Justin Levesque)
Working in residency at the Drake Devonshire
Working in residency at the Drake Devonshire

What ‘hood are you in?

I live on Queen West in the Artscape Triangle Lofts. My shared work studio is on Sterling Road. In India, I am in the northern part of Kerala in a city called Kozhikode (Calicut). I tour and work internationally a lot, so when I am home in Toronto, I feel grounded, delighted and inspired.

What do you do?

I am a dancer, a choreographer, an aerialist and the Artistic Director of Anandam Dancetheatre.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am preparing for some touring and projects in the summer that will take me to Jordan and France as well as preparing for new works for 2020/21. Anandam is in the midst of preparing for the third edition of our series Contemporaneity 3.0, in partnership with Toronto Dance Theatre and featuring the incredible artistry of Padmini Chettur (India), Mix Mix Collective (TO) and Nova Dance (TO). It is a series that seeks expanded considerations for the dancing body in this contemporary moment; pursuing new meanings, gathering around diverse and divergent aesthetics; reimagining values of beauty, virtuosity, innovation, tradition, ritual, and community.

Where can we find your work?

Contemporaneity 3.0 runs April 3-6th at the Winchester Theatre, 80 Winchester St, Toronto, ON M4X 1B2

Info and Tickets available through anandam.ca.

 

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1667 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography