“The interplay of the sculptural and rhythmic aspects of Indian dance was compelling…riveting”
– The New York Times

“[Jiva Dance] make the movement of the cosmos visible on a human scale.”
– California Literary Review

“…technical precision and geometric skill…”
– The New York Times

Jiva Dance is a critically acclaimed dance company based in NYC. Jiva Dance, under the artistic direction of Sonali Skandan,  holds the belief that tradition is a continuum of evolution and invigorates classical works with a freshness and unique voice. Jiva  investigates, explores and creates works which highlight the evolving nature of our art form. They have presented at Universities, Colleges, and Festivals across the US and internationally.

Artistic Director’s Statement : Jiva Dance strives to present work that is inclusive,  universal and challenging and which is at the intersections of classicism, modernity and experimentalism. We are not tied to Bharatanatyam’s cultural specificity, but create work that reflects our lives in a diverse urban environment. And though the art form in which we predominantly work has historical and cultural ties, we feel the vocabulary of movement and expression has the ability to transcend both time and culture. The Company creates original works with modern themes, re-energizes classical pieces with innovative design and staging and continually seeks to push the boundaries of expression . We believe that Indian classical dance is a holistic art form, and is not fixed but is continually evolving.

“…sharp control and stunning speed culminate in ecstasy…Skandan’s choreography here has a followthrough of motion that is somehow natural yet tense with the pull of mystery.”
– NYtheatre.com

Jiva Dance, the professional dance Company of Jiva Performing Arts, has received considerable recognition in the press and has been recognized as a leader in the arts. Jiva was invited to bring classical Indian dance to the Joffrey Ballet School roster for the first time in its 63-year history.  Jiva Dance presented work in major venues in the US, becoming the first Indian Classical dance company to be presented at the prestigious Victory Dance Series at the New Victory Theater, the first Indian Classical company to be part of the CUNY Dance Initiative (2017 and 2018) at Queens College, as well as performing for Juilliard’s new online educational program. Jiva Dance was also featured on NBC Learn, in a short documentary titled “Why We Dance.” Jiva Dance’s first dance film short, ‘Urban Nritta,’ has received much attention, and was an official selection in the 17th NY Indian Film Festival. Jiva has been supported by the NEA, NYSCA, The NYC Dept. Of Cultural Affairs, Dance/NYC, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and receives ongoing private donations to continue its work from its supportive patrons and community base.


Sonali Skandan is a passionate and accomplished disciple of Bharatanatyam and one of the emerging artists of the younger generation based outside of India.

Sonali Skandan’s work has been described as a “compelling” and a “riveting” visual of the “sculptural and rhythmic aspects of Indian dance ” (NY Times). As the Artistic Director of Jiva Dance,  Sonali has not only produced a substantial body of work but presented these to high praise from the press and media. She has toured nationally and internationally both as a soloist and with her ensemble. Jiva Dance is an award-winning dance company that  creates and presents work that shifts between a classical and modern space.  Among its many achievements, Jiva Dance has been featured on NBC Learn, in a short documentary titled “Why We Dance.” Jiva Dance’s first dance film short, ‘Urban Nritta,’ was selected for the 17th NY Indian Film Festival. Jiva has received support from the NEA, NYSCA, NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Dance/NYC. 


“The interplay of the sculptural and rhythmic aspects of Indian dance was compelling…riveting”
– Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, August 2015

“The act was done with a lot of energy and pace. Sonali came across as a dancer with a lot of technique, and her expressive eyes easily portrayed the emotional transition of Meenakshi amma on seeing Shiva….The nritta interludes were very appropriate, but her expressions were the high point of her abhinaya. She has beautiful eyes which can express a lot.”
-Sweta Arora, Delhi Culture Comment, 2019

“I found this work to be an exciting development that demonstrates the strong voices and talented proponents of Indian classical arts who are creating and performing stimulating work right here in the United States.”
-Karen Greenspan, The Ballet Review, Fall-Winter 2019

“ The juxtaposition of her slim, almost wraith-like frame against the cyclorama showed vulnerability and hope. Using Bharatanatyam as her foundation, Sonali superimposed visuals of another film where her frame was silhouetted against the sun, a warm orb in the horizon across the waters. This was a smart way of using film to amplify the visual impact of her choreographic motifs.”-Anita Ratnam, Narthaki.com June 2021

“[Skandan’s] charisma on stage permeated every piece and drew the eyes of the audience as she shifted her gaze in conjunction with the movement. The five dancers that performed as part of Jiva Dance were all convincing in their commitment to the dance’s precise structure…”
– Annie Woller, Eye on the Arts, Sept. 2014

“…technical precision and geometric skill…” – Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, August 2012 “It is this devotional aspect of Indian dance that latter-day choreographers tend to emphasize, as did American Bharata Natyam practitioner Sonali Skandan with a section of Swarupa: Infinite Form, a meditative ensemble piece less to do with the gods than with our worship of them.”
– Apollinaire Scherr, Financial Times, August 2012

“The choreography – full of statuesque balances and sharp lines formed by the arms – was attractively modest and had simple but powerful geometries…”
– Ryan Wenzel, DanceTabs, August 2012

“The ensemble performed three works, of which the most vivid was perhaps Shadjam, a vignette that depicted a group of girls preparing for a visit by Shiva, in his lover-man guise. As they combed each other’s hair and praised each other’s beauty (in mime), I could see the next group preparing in a tent off-stage, busy with similar tasks. For a moment, art intermingled with life.”
– Marina Harss, TheFasterTimes.com, August 2012

“Sonali Skandan and Jiva Dance are very much a part of New York, bringing their own sensibilities to the ancient dances of Bharat Natyam.”
– Lavina Melwani, Lassiwithlavina.com, August 2012

“Skandan’s sharp control and stunning speed culminate in ecstasy…Skandan’s choreography here has a followthrough of motion that is somehow natural yet tense with the pull of mystery.”
– NYtheatre.com, August 2011

“Two of this year’s most impressive pieces came from companies specializing in narrative dance, and their energy, discipline and passion bodes well for the future. Choreographer Sonali Skandan pays close attention to the details (wherein God resides, according to the old adage). Small, subtle movements are as much a part of the story as the large angular and sinuous shapes created by colorfully clad limbs in motion. Eye gestures, smiles of irony, and wistful tilts of the head make the movements of the cosmos visible on a human scale.”
– Ethan Kanfer, “Life After Fringe: Two Dance Companies to Watch,” California Literary Review, August 2011

“The entire event was a well choreographed production and showcased the artists in a unique manner…kudos to the artists for creating something new and beautiful without compromising the quality of the art.”
– Ranjani Saigal, Lokvani.com, September 2007


Elements (2022) – preview and world premiere at Making Mives Dance Festival and Take Root at Greenspace 

B’Rhythm (2019-2021)  work in progress showing at Drive East Festival, La MaMa, full premiere at NYC Open Streets – Garfield Place, Brooklyn supported by NEA

The Four Horsemen (2019)
World premiere in March 2019 at Dixon Place, NYC. An evening-length dance production that explores the human metaphors of the four horsemen of conquest, war, famine and death, through the very real stories of female protagonists. Challenging the notions of Indian classical dance content and technique, these intimately relatable stories bring the never-ending cycle of despair and hope vividly to life.

Mayura:Blue Peacock (2014)
The evening-length work uses classical poetry and literature to weave vivid images of the peacock from Indian myths and legends – from the powerful ancient Mayil Virutham which praises the peacock as Lord Muruga’s vehicle, to the lilting epics of Kalidasa describing the peacock in the rains, as a reminder of Ram’s longing for Sita, to the love songs of Andal and Mirabhai. Original music score by Rajkumar Bharathi.

From Heaven and Earth (2011-2012)
A selection of solo items where the earthly become the divine, where ritual and daily life merge, and the Gods and Goddesses walk the earth. Sonali presents classical pieces and original pieces with the theme of devotion and desire as their crux.

Swarupa: Infinite Form (2011)
Through the poetic movement and storytelling of the Indian Classical Dance form of Bharatanatyam, we encounter the dynamic forms of Shiva – from his dance of bliss to his dance of anger and destruction, to the love, longing, desire, and devotion felt by all those who seek him. Swarupa is an evening-length work that presents a suite of solos, duets and dynamic group pieces that speak of the all-mighty dance of Shiva – and the fear, joy and love that he manifests through his dance. The result is a richly evocative and soulful experience of classical music and dance.

Rasa/Laya (2009)
Rasa, or flavor, mood and Laya, or rhythm combine in a joyful expression of group dance where classical items are presented in dynamic group formations and interactions.


Produced and Presented three Dance on Camera festivals:

Still Point Expanding (2020)

Dualities (2021)

(un) silent voices (2022)

Dance on Camera Work

“In Her Element” (2022)  a short dance film commissioned for Jiva’s (un) silent voices Festival 

“Adventures of the Naughty Bee” (2021) Commissioned by Erasing Borders Festival of Dance

“The Sun Unto A Day” (2021) Commissioned by The World Music Institute for Dancing the Gods Festival

“The Backyard” (2020) commissioned for Narthaki’s virtual Series Boxed

“Into Nature” (2020) – a film short using hand gestures within nature

“Melting” (2020) a short dance film commissioned by Jiva’s Still Point Expanding Festival (2020)

‘Urban Nritta’ (2016) – A Dance Film short concept and choreography by Sonali Skandan, directed by Jesse Newman, 2017 official selection for the NY Indian Film Festival. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P64yDi9EfYw


‘Bharatanatyam in a Modern World’ (2017) by NBC Learn – Jiva Dance was featured in a vibrant video featured on NBC Learn’s educational portal, featuring music by Bala Skandan and Akshara. http://nbclearn.com/portal/site/learn/cuecard/110980

‘Why We Dance’ (2016) – Sonali presents solo work for the online magazine Mental Floss https://www.facebook.com/mentalflossmagazine/videos/10154477101217365/?pnref=story


New Victory Theatre, NYC
Madras Music Academy, Chennai
2011 International Fringe Festival
Fashion Institute of Technology
Natyanjali Music and Dance Festivals
American Dance Guild Festival
IAAC Erasing Borders Festival
Centre Mandapa, Paris, France
Joyce/Soho, NYC
Toronto International Dance Festival, Canada
Nehru Centre London, UK
Narthaki Festival of Dance, Houston, TX
Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington, DC
Downtown Dance Festival, NYC
Dance/Now Festival, NYC
Rubin Museum of Art, NYC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Queens Museum of Art, NY
University of Queens, Charlotte, NC
Dumbo Dance Festival, NYC
Oxford College, Atlanta, GA
St. Lawrence University Canton, NY
El Cachorro, Sevilla, Spain
Eka Palace, Lisbon, Portugal
Jamaica Dance Festival
Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
Greenspace, LIC
New Brunswick Performing Arts Center
Lincoln Center, NYC
Asia Society, NYC
IDEA Living Dance Festival, Washington, DC
Sruti Organization, Philadephia, PA
Sun to Stars Festival, NYC
92Y Harkness Dance Center
Columbia University, NYC
New York University, NYC
Yale University, CT
Fordham University, NYC
Elmira College, Elmira, NY
Hunter College, NYC
Manhattanville College, NY
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
Queens College, NY
SUNY, Cortland
Flushing Town Hall
Stephen Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas
India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India
Tagore Center, Berlin Germany
Espcacio Rhonda, Madrid, Spain
Spazio Sirin, Milan, Italy
Ramapo College, NJ
Yale University
Dixon Place
The Juilliard School


Jiva Dance has received the following awards to support its work:

Mertz Gilmore Late Stage Award administered by Greenspace (2022)

NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs Grant for project support for Dance on Camera Festival, solo repertoire, master classes (2020, 2021, 2022)

New York State Council on the Arts Project Support for Solo Repertoire (2021/2022)

New York State Council on the Arts Project Support for Organizations (2022-2024)

National Endowment for the Arts Cares grant – 2020/2021

National Endowment for the Arts grant for B’Rhythm – 2020-21

“Natya Ratna” title from the Trinity Arts Festival, Chennai, India (2018)

Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund (2017/2018/2019/2020/2021/2022)

CUNY Dance Initiative Dance Residency (2017/2018)

NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs Grant for the creation of the Four Horsemen (2018, 2019)

New York State Council on the Arts Apprenticeship Grant (2015, 2016)

New York State Council on the Arts Project Support for the creation of Mayura:Blue Peacock(2014)

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Manhattan Arts Grant for restaging Urban Kutcheri (2008)


Jiva Performing Arts
Artistic Director: Sonali Skandan

For information about the Jiva Dance Company visit jivadance.org

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