Bhakti Bliss Adventures presents its fourth annual production, “Samba Sada Shiva: Evoking Transformation.” The celebratory evening commemorates loved ones who have passed and interlaces Brazilian samba and Orixa dances into the context of classical Indian odissi dance to celebrate the present and the oneness of humanity. The evening will conclude with kirtan.
A Mexican-style Day of the Dead altar is the “focal point for our prayers and intentions” to celebrate death as a transition to another life, says Bhakti Bliss founder and dancer Nubia Teixeira. An altar will be fashioned with traditional sugar skulls, seasonal décor, and Shiva symbolism. The audience is encouraged to bring and place mementos of loved ones who have passed, Teixeira says.
Celtic and Latino traditions mark November as an important time in which “the veil between the living world and the spirit world is the thinnest allowing for a deeper communication—this underlying theme is shared by many cultures,” says event organizer and dancer Barbara Framm.
For Framm, the infusion and invocation of Shiva in the ceremony is important as “he is the lord of death, dance, healing, dreams, and ghosts and spirits. Shiva is the exhale that brings up transformation.”
The program will open with a traditional odissi dance by Vishnu Tattva Das called “pitru shradya,” inspired by Vedic verses honoring ancestors. Das has been performing and teaching for over 15 years in the Bay Area, and is the director and founder of the dance company Odissi Vilas: Sacred Dance of India. He has performed, toured, and collaborated with eminent artists from around the world.
Framm and Teixeira will follow Das’ piece with a joint odissi performance called “battu.” Framm has taught Indian classical dance and yoga for over 35 years, and has an M.A. in women’s spirituality from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, a program that focused on women’s rituals throughout the world. The Day of the Dead commemoration is a collaborative effort with Teixeira. Framm adds that “in the U.S. our relationship to death has been hidden from daily life. This is so different from India and other parts of the world, where one is constantly aware of death as a natural part of life.”
Teixeira is an exponent of odissi dance and a well-known yoga teacher in the Bay Area. She began her studies of odissi dance in 1997, studying in India for six months. It was through the philosophies of yoga at the age 16 that “I encountered my soul’s path as I learned to chant and dance to the Hindu deities,” she says. “In an Orixa dance class, four years later, I finally connected the dots. The feeling in my body the presence of these archetype deities of the African Yoruba tradition, their symbols and their energies were the same as the energies I experienced from deities of the Hindu pantheon.”
The bridge between Indian and Brazilian dance styles will be created as samba dancer Tika Morgan performs sacred and celebratory dances of Brazil with a dedication to Afro-Brazilian Yoruban goddess Oya and performs Samba later in the program. Framm and Teixeira will join Morgan with their collaborative and artistic presentation on the Yoruban goddess Oshum. The evening will close with Moksha celebrating release and liberation and kirtan, or devotional chanting, with live music by Jai Uttal and friends and Brazilian drums and percussion. Uttal is a singer, musician, an international recording artist, and a widely acclaimed “kirtan-wala” leads kirtan sessions around the world. He is also married to Teixeira.
Teixeira also cites the many commonalities between Afro-Brazilian and Hindu deities such as the Indian river goddesses Ganga and Yoruban river goddess Oshum who are tied to the warlike Indian gods Shiva and Yoruban god Shango.
Teixeira says, “It felt the same to dance to Oshum and to Ganga; the mudras are similar as are the oceanic symbols between Yemanja and Lakshmi. Shango and Shiva have shared fire elements and both Brahma and Oxala are associated with creation.”
U.S. born Tika Morgan moved to India at 7 with her parents and lived in an ashram while devoting life to Indian spirituality. The community she lived in exposed her to folk dances from Africa, Europe, and the Latino diasporas. She says, “Death in India is celebrated with music and dance and the use of rhythm. My first exposure to samba was in a death celebration in India through the Brazilian community in the ashram.
“The word samba means to pray. The highly celebrated samba practiced in Bahia Brazil still retains it sacred aspect. My work is about bringing the essence of these dances forward.” The Yoruban goddess Oya that Morgan will invoke directly corresponds with samba.