Deepali Lindblom has led an international life, moving from her native India to Sweden and Montreal, where she put her skills in both Bollywood/Bhangra and more traditional Indian dance styles to work in programs designed to bring people from different cultures together. But when she arrived in Denver, Lindblom found herself in new territory with a less cosmopolitan flair. Digging deep, she finally found her community in the immigrant populations of Aurora and started Roshni, an outreach dance program that taps underserved youth, seniors, and refugee women and children for initiatives bolstered by the energy of Bollywood dance.
Now Lindblom — with help from the Guest Artist Presenting Initiative (GAP) outreach wing of Control Group Productions — is putting that energy into a new play, Mountains Made for Us. The show opens on Thursday, August 8; in advance of that, we invited her to share her story for the Colorado Creatives series.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Deepali Lindblom: Our brilliant, fragile, chaotic, confusing, brilliant, awe-inspiring humanity. The stark cultural experiences of being raised in India and then moving to North America via Europe has had a big influence on what and why I create.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Abraham Lincoln: What he quotes about "law of equality" sits right with me. Growing up in India, I had to prove myself worthy of being a woman. Coming to the U.S. four years ago in an increasingly politically-socially-culturally divided nation, I had to prove myself worthy to be a resident. I think Mr. Lincoln would feel right at home sharing a table with people from at least seventeen ethnicities as well as marginalized communities.
My great-grandfather: He was a fierce Gurkha warrior who left Nepal for the Himalayas of India. I never met him, but we have two things in common: our love for the mountains and our courage to follow our hearts, discovering and creating new routes. He would have liked to hike in the Rockies.
Daniel Karlsson: a Swedish adolescent who wanted to be an actor and travel the world. His last email to me before he died in a car crash was about keeping up the good work to mentor youth like him. He would have enjoyed the company of the refugee youth from around the world who love to act and dance.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
My local creative community is made up of culturally diverse artists. The best thing is that their art comes from the heart. Whether it is singing, dancing or making music, their natural talent combined with their humility makes it splendid and sweet.
Worst: Lack of motivation and opportunity. Both go hand in hand. Colorado is a still a long way from holding professional ethnic art in the mainstream, and so an artist of color would rather work a nine-to-five job than pursue their art.
How about globally?
I love what I see happening around the world, specifically in Montreal, a city big on art and artists, and where I had the privilege of living for six years. Different cultures there positively inspire their artists and artwork that is both innovative and inclusive. Another place I am always amazed by is India, and how the lack of resources (and competition, due to 1.3 billion people) can really inspire creativity and new ways of making art.
What is Roshni all about?
Roshni is a performing arts organization in the Aurora Cultural Arts District with a mandate to work with those living on the margins — to tell them stories, but more important, to help them tell their own stories.
Roshni started with Chance on Dance, InTandem — A Flashmob of Empathy and Tell My Memory, inspired by a 104-year-old Holocaust escapee. With an outreach to an audience of more than 8,000, Roshni today offers New American Stories, an after-school program for underserved scholars in Aurora involving creation of short original plays. This resulted in the first edition of the New American Theatre Festival in May. Through lullabies, we built a community of mothers and made learning English fun.
Mountains Made for Us is the beginning of producing original plays that reflect contemporary Colorado and our place in the world as new Coloradans.
What’s your dream project?
The Greatest Show(wo)man. I am inspired by that film [The Greatest Showman], and I would love to create a show that brings out the best of the East and the West. A show that, for example, will have the exquisite agility of Kathak, an Indian classical dance, and the grace of ballet. To combine circus arts with the martial arts from the Far East. To use percussion from around the world to create a unique and brilliant sound. And yet, it would have a story, a poignant one that will remain long after the spectacle is over.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
When I moved here four and a half years ago, much as I loved the nature and all that, I couldn’t understand (and stand) the insular viewpoints and the common notion that it is fine to say things that you don’t really mean. To top it all, after reaching the height of my professional dance career in Montreal, I couldn’t find work here. So yes, I wanted to leave (really badly).
Then upon visiting Montreal, one of my friends said, “There is a reason why you are there. You didn’t choose the city, the city chose you.” So I came back and decided to switch from dance to acting and got lucky. Aurora Fox, Vintage and some other acting opportunities came along. Then Roshni happened, and now I am here, and I am not leaving until I’ve created the biggest show of my life — and I know it is going to happen. Soon.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Roshni Dance Ensemble. Truly mapping a Silk Route, we have dancers of twelve ethnicities. We inspire each other and have great fun at every show we do. What’s more, it feels really nice when we get the audience to dance with us, and we see them smiling as we depart.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Two new plays — locally written, reflecting a contemporary Colorado, and other continuing projects. The Empathy Project: a special Ted-talk-style performance/workshop with middle-schoolers. Bridging with Bollywood: culturally diverse women coming together to create a play. New American Stories: continuing the second year of our after-school create-a-play program. New American Theatre Festival: a fringe-style theater festival. Diversity is the focus.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Artists on the margins. Naturally!
See Deepali Lindblom and the Roshni Dance Ensemble in Mountains Made for Us: From the Himalayas to the Rockies, Thursdays through Sundays, August 8 through 18, at Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora. Find information, showtimes and tickets, $10 to $15, at the Roshni website.
Learn more about Deepali Lindblom online.