Brown Research Fellow Pursues Cultural Calling

Sayani Banerjee finds time in her busy schedule to teach and perform traditional Indian dance with Dream Catchers

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By day Sayani Banerjee is a postdoctoral research fellow at Women & Infants Hospital/Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, steadfastly investigating the potential impact of COVID on maternal and fetal health. She’s also the mom of a toddler. When not donning a lab coat or even playing blocks on the floor, Banerjee can be found swathed in a vibrant sari with bangles and bells teaching Indian dance and performing for cultural events with her troupe, Dream Catchers.

“Being a scientist, one can’t compile work within a nine-to-five schedule. You have to study a lot just to keep updated. Like dance, you listen and create,” Banerjee begins. “Music gives wings to my soul. Whenever I listen, I realize some vibes are coming deep from the heart, ultimately transforming into dance.” 

Banerjee is trained in Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form which traces its name to an ancient treatise in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India; movements are characterized by bent legs and hand movements gesturing stories. However, Banerjee is mostly known for a modern dance style pioneered by Uday Shankar, which incorporates elements of not only traditional folk but European ballet and more; Shankar’s daughter Mamata popularized the form in Bengali cinema. Of the lively steps, Banerjee says, “I realize dance has no boundaries when I see my friends dancing with me without knowing the language, that encourages me and always gives me positive vibes to do something better.”

Banerjee is a regular performer and choreographer at the Indian Association of Rhode Island cultural events, a nonprofit that promotes the cultural appreciation of Indian-Asian community. Most recently, she and the Dream Catchers performed at IARI’s Holi festival, a festive and colorful experience celebrated virtually via Facebook and YouTube. Currently, Banerjee teaches dance virtually as well, noting that learning from home has its pluses: “It is an encouraging, safe place, welcome to anyone whether or not you have dance experience.”

Citing her relentless schedule, Banerjee explains, “Being a researcher as well as a mom of a toddler, I’m always facing a crunch of time but I believe if you love something from the core of your heart, you will find time for it. To me, dance is something that connects me to my soul; it’s my way of relaxation. I feel the sunshine on my face whenever I dance; it makes me a blissful soul. I always make sure to keep separate space for dancing; that’s my ‘me’ time. It can be any time during the day, maybe early morning or even the middle of the night.”

To view recent performances visit IARI's Facebook page

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