Sheetal Ghandi tells tale of three women

COURTESY PHOTOLife’s a challenge: In her solo performance piece “Bahu-Beti-Biwi

COURTESY PHOTOLife’s a challenge: In her solo performance piece “Bahu-Beti-Biwi

Choreographer, writer and performance artist Sheetal Gandhi's gentle persona and youthful, lilting voice belie the emotional power behind her one-woman performance piece “Bahu-Beti-Biwi.”
Translated from Hindi, the title means, “Daughter-Daughter-in-Law-Wife.” The charged phrase illustrates proscribed roles that still define the life of Indian women today.
The Oakland-born Gandhi, who took a circuitous path to fully understand the roles, brings them to the stage in her show, which opens Friday at ODC Theater.  
At 15, on her first trip to India, she met several young women in her family, who gradually revealed their personal stories and collective plight.
“They were only five or six years older than I and already married,” Gandhi says. “We all shared the same hopes and dreams. But they married men they didn't know, moved in with (his) parents and took the lowest position in the hierarchy. For at least the first five years these women had to suck it up and take anything thrown at them. I felt feel deeply for them.”
In the piece, Ghandi portrays three characters, morphing from young newlywed to aged crone through clever costume manipulations, changes of level and varying speech quality. She weaves their stories together with an unexpected and often amusing combination of text, rhythmic vocalizations and modern dance styles.
Trained in Western dance forms, Ghandi discovered a deep affinity with both rhythmic and contemporary movement.
“I fell in love with modern dance during college because of its integrity and emotional expressiveness,” she says.
During her junior year abroad, she studied and performed with a West African touring dance company in Ghana. Later, in graduate school, she returned to India to explore her own cultural rhythms, studying kathakali dance and advancing to the fifth level of training in only 2 1/2 months.
 After injuries dashed her dreams of a dance career, she turned to theatrical performance art. “My time in Ghana showed me that I didn't have to give up. My talent was more than modern technique and there was a lot that I could draw upon.”
 For the American-born daughter of Indian parents, the concept of carving out a career in performance art was not an easy sell. “It was particularly difficult for them because nobody we knew was doing this,” she says. Still, the heartfelt words of an aunt in India buoyed her courage to pursue a bold creative path.
“I'm like you,” she told Gandhi in her broken English _ “young blood.”

IF YOU GO  

Sheetal Gandhi

Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 19-20, 7 p.m. April 21
Tickets: $20 to $30
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org 

artsentertainmentmusicPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City has struggled to conduct outreach in some neighborhoods as it works to expand Slow Streets — such as this section of Page Street in the Lower Haight — to underserved neighborhoods. <ins>(Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SFMTA delays vote on Bayview Slow Streets, approves five others in ‘underserved’ areas

SFMTA struggles to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with lower internet access

Stern Grove Festival organizers are planning to bring back the popular summer concert series — The Isley Brothers show in 2019 is pictured — with limited audience capacity. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Indoor shows won’t be flooding SF stages soon but Stern Grove might be back in June

While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that live performances may resume… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto  (47) started on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 9, 2021. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants welcome fans back with strong performance by Cueto

By Ethan Kassel Special to S.F. Examiner ORACLE PARK — The first… Continue reading

James Harbor appears in court after he was arrested on charges in the July 4th shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Murder case heads to trial over killing of 6-year-old Jace Young

Hearing reveals new details in ‘horrific’ Fourth of July shooting

BART passengers may see more frequent service by this fall. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART service increases possible as soon as September

Proposal would double weekday, daytime trains and extend system operating hours

Most Read