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Ishami launches new dance company

Ishami Dance Company kicked off its new company launch with a private fundraiser and dance preview on February 25 in Fremont, California. Co-founders Amit Patel and Ishika Seth had a quiet launch in January but used the February event to explain the company’s mission to friends, family, and fans.

Amit Patel and Ishika Seth answer questions from the audience. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

The duo aims to break the culture of silence around social issues in the South Asian community and to create a forum where community members feel safe to voice ideas and opinions. They use the medium of South Asian contemporary dance to amplify marginalized voices.

“There’s often a lot of silence surrounding various issues in the South Asian space,” says Seth. “And we hope to break those barriers and really have the kinds of conversations we should be having. And building towards a space that where everybody feels accepted and included.”

Guests mingle in the backyard of a private residence for Ishami Dance Company’s launch and fundraiser. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Ishami presents Pehchaan (identity)

Patel and Seth feel that South Asian contemporary dance lends itself to various interpretations. The form develops based on dancers and their training which can range from classical Bharatnatyam and Kathak to Hip Hop and Waltz, amongst others.

The company presented excerpts from their upcoming original show titled Pehchaan (Identity). Dancers performed six pieces including one to the popular song “Enjoy Enjaami.” In the third week of July, Ishami Dance Company will present its new production as part of the Oakland Theater project.

“Identity including gender, cultural and sexual will be highlighted as a part of the production,” says Patel. The production will focus on stories that showcase the members of this eclectic and talented dance troupe.

A troupe of independent artists

The company includes Seth, Patel, and other independent artists who are dance educators with their own companies or projects. “They bring not only their own unique voices, but also a huge range of experience,” said Seth.

Ishami Dance Company’s roster of artists is displayed for their launch and fundraiser at a private residence. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“We share a passion for storytelling. After our show last year titled Unearthed that explored the untold stories of Ramayana, we were inspired to create a platform for South Asian contemporary work with other artists and collaborators,” she added.

Ekta Doshi, Drasti Mody and Divya Empranthiri perform the piece Shanti for Ishami Dance Company’s launch and fundraiser at a private residence on Feb. 25 in Fremont, Calif. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Ishami grew from a 15-year collaboration

Ishika Seth and Amit Patel have known each other and have been dancing together for 15 years. “Ishika was actually my first contemporary instructor way back in the day,” says Patel. The company’s name Ishami is a combination of both their first names and was suggested by Seth’s husband. Initially they thought “that sounds so bad” said Patel, but eventually “after like crossing out everything else on our list, we’re like, hey, it actually feels right.”

Ekta Doshi, Divya Empranthiri and Sanjana Karketta perform the piece Tu Jhoom. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Ishami offers a safe space for dancers

Ishami is committed to creating a safe space for dancers, dismantling social constructs, and amplifying marginalized voices and stories through the medium of South Asian contemporary dance.

“The standards for dance tend to be very Eurocentric,” says Seth. “In our cultures, art is not something which is necessarily in museums,” she continues. “It’s something which is part of daily life, whether you look at like the folk dances, like garba is something you do to celebrate, the harvest dances and things like that … and sometimes that’s not valued in the same way.”

Amita Batra performs the piece Arziyaan. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“Some people are not allowed to take certain dance forms based on gender, based on community, based on different reasons,” says Patel. “Our goal is to be able to hopefully, create safe spaces for allowing that but also kind of getting in touch with all those folk styles as well within the work that we do.”

Envisioning future collaborations

Amita Batra and Ishika Seth perform the piece Resistance. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Seth hopes to engage further with other artists and collaborators to create more work with South Asian music, stories, history, and mythology, and collaborate with nonprofits to help advocate their causes via art.

“We want to showcase both diasporic and immigrant experiences in our upcoming productions and want to connect more deeply with who we are and bring forth that individually and as a community our voices matter to promote acceptance and inclusivity,” she explained.

Amit Patel performs the piece Teri Mitti. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“Aside from doing original productions, and all of that we really want our work to be very closely aligned with like arts and advocacy, added Patel. “Whether that is in the form of working with different nonprofit spaces to find a way to increase their impact and have deeper meaning within arts and nonprofit spaces and their causes and finding a way to bring arts into like into that fold as well in a deeper, more impactful and intentional way.”

Sweatshirts were available for sale as part of the fundraising effort, along with QR codes making donations easy for guests.

Sweatshirts with the Ishami Dance Company logo are for sale. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Ishami Dance Company’s will present its next show on June 8th at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as a part of the museum’s Beyond Bollywood exhibition.

To learn more visit

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy joined India Currents as a photojournalist and CatchLight Local Fellow as part of CatchLight's California Local Visual Desk program in June 2022. Reach out with story ideas or comments at...

Shalini Kathuria Narang

Shalini Kathuria Narang is a Silicon Valley based software professional and freelance journalist. She has written and published extensively for several national and international newspapers, magazines...