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California Institute of the Arts - Alumni Profile on Sahar Javedani

Sahar Javedani is originally from San Diego, California by way of Tehran, Iran. Javedani is Artistic Director of compani javedani, a contemporary dance theater ensemble devoted to cultivating an empowered, intelligent and socially responsible community uniting all generations, cultures, races, and religions. Javedani has a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography and Integrated Media from California Institute of the Arts, a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Theater from Hollins University, and was nominated for the 2008-2009 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. compani javedani’s recent performances and collaborations have included the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival “”Dreams of a Caspian Rain,” Abrons Art Center “Maahinen Neito,” Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, Tribeca Performing Arts Center “from Persia, with Measured Love,”Brooklyn Museum “Bazm-o-Razm” with Susan Oetgen and Likeness to Lily, Performance Mix Festival at Joyce Soho“Reparations” with James Scruggs, Triskelion Arts Center, Movement Research at DTW, The Chocolate Factory, Voice and Vision Envision Retreat and Lab at Bard College, Dance Conversations at the Flea Theater, Whitewave Dumbo Dance Festival and Whitewave Wave Rising Series, “In the Valley of Damavand,” Dance New Amsterdam, Empire Fulton Ferry Park, New York Theater Workshop, Fort Greene Park Dance for Peace Festival “Once upon a Time in India,” American Dance Guild’s festival at the Hudson Guild Theater, Dixon Place, The FAR Space, newsteps and Ear to the Ground Series at Mulberry Street Theater, Solar One Dance Festival, and the Chashama Oasis Festival “Story of Devdas and Paro.” Sahar Javedani is currently participating in her second year as an Artist-in-Residence at Tribeca Performing Arts Center and in the 2008-2009 DTW Fresh Tracks Performance and Residency Program and most recently in the 2009-2010 Dance Theater Workshop Studio Series creative residency.

What brought you to CalArts?

I have to thank my dear friend and collaborator of sixteen years Kate Conklin for bringing me to CalArts. She completed both her bachelors and masters degree in music at CalArts and is currently on faculty as director of the Bulgarian Vocal Ensemble.

How has your CalArts education been relevant to your professional path?

As a prospective student for the MFA program, I knew that I wanted to pursue a double concentration in Choreography and Integrated Media. CalArts was a perfect fit, I felt completely embraced by all of the departments including music composition, puppetry, film, and animation. It is through these collaborations that I have developed strong and enduring relationships with fellow artists, a priceless resource of talent indeed! 

What advice would you give to our current or perspective students?

I have a consistent comment that I share with all prospective students that you can have two distinct experiences at CalArts. 1) Stay focused and rooted in your school of choice, perfect your craft, build a powerful repertory/portfolio, etc. and 2) Open your creative heart and embrace the opportunity to diversify your talents in collaborative work with students in other departments.

CalArts is unique in that it houses the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater as well as the Division of Library and Informational Resources under one roof. As a student, how did you engage with other members of the CalArts community and how did it influence your art making?

 I had the great fortune of collaborating with artists in the various departments at CalArts but most notably in commissioning original music for my MFA 1 Thesis Concert from Kate Conklin and Bryan Landers which included their live performance with guest artist John Bergamo. I studied North Indian Sargam as well as Balinese and Javanese dance. Both years, I worked with fellow artists in the Integrated Media program to develop installations for the annual showcase and collaborated with students in the puppetry program for a thesis performance. I continue to work with composer Bryan Landers, who designed the compani javedani website and commissioned music for a few large-scale performances.

How did the School of Dance fulfill your need to forge a career in dance?

When I came to CalArts, I wasn’t entirely convinced of a future in dance per se, but with a goal to deepen in the areas of performance studies and composition. The MFA program allowed me the freedom to explore various digital modalities and fortify my knowledge of technical theater, design and execution. The unlimited access to desirable resources as rehearsal space, dedicated students/performers, a media lab, etc. all played integral roles in strengthening my voice as a dancetheatermaker.

How did the technique classes prepare you for the physical demands of a career in dance?

In all honesty, I struggled with technique while pursuing my degree. I don’t believe I was a very good listener in class, and I always wanted to change the dance phrases to make them more meaningful for me, more theatrical, more narrative, I desperately wanted to fall in love with the dance. In retrospect, I believe I tried as hard as I could with the strengths I had at the time. Where I believe I excelled was in composition and in weekly showings where I was able to clearly speak about work in a fiercely honest and critical manner.

How did the other curricular courses (composition, dance history, anatomy, etc) inform you about the world of dance and how did it prepare you to move forward with your ideas and personal voice?

I believe that I came to CalArts with a very strong background in dance history, anatomy, etc thanks to a wonderful bachelor of arts program at Hollins University. What I quickly realized in pursuing my MFA at CalArts was the imperative requirement for self-discipline and sustained vigor. I spent many evenings locking myself up in the media lab until 4am, editing film, working diligently to hone my vision, how I want the audience to experience that which I have created. This practice has followed me to this day, and yes, cultivating balance in my daily life is a constant challenge and I wouldn’t want it any other way (insert devious and satisfied smile here.)

How has the technical production requirements of the program informed the way you communicate about your work?

As the daughter of an architect and set designer, raised in musical theater and opera, I came to CalArts with very strong technical skills, which played a great role in communicating with fellow lighting designers and designing costumes for every dance concert presented. The technical education I received at CalArts helped me to clarify in a concise and impactful manner the vision I desired to make manifest with my own work. 

CalArts has a strong mentoring system for each student. How did you find the guidance and support of your mentor as a student? Have you had the opportunity to mentor young artist in your career?

I believe the strongest mentors I had were in my fellow collaborators and the dancers I worked with, which I believe included nearly the entire first year dance student base. I required unabashed honesty from them and they delivered. I was always very conscious of making their involvement in a project worthwhile.

Do you continue to work or correspond with any CalArtians?

I love this question! You could say I’m one of the strongest advocates of CalArts. Immediately after graduation, I served two years on the CalArts Alumni Board of Directors and continue to sing the praises of CalArts to anyone who will listen. I continue work to with dancers who’ve graduated from the BFA dance program and support the work of my fellow alumnae from the dance, music, theater and film schools.

Current positions in occupation:

Artistic Director : compani javedani

World Music/Dance + Yoga Teaching Artist: Learning thru an Expanded Arts Program, Inc.

Group Exercise Instructor in Bellydance and Athletic Stretch: Reebok Sports Club/NY

Any other degrees or certifications that you have earned?

Master of Fine Arts California Institute of the Arts in Choreography and Integrated Media 2002

Bachelor of Arts Hollins University in Dance and Theater

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