The Four Horsemen (2019)


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.

Running Time: 60 Minutes | 4 Dancers | Studio Recorded Music


The Four Horsemen is an innovative Indian Classical dance production exploring symbolism from the story of the Apocalypse through Indian classical dance, music, and Sanskrit poetry.

The work centers around four vignettes of life and death through four female protagonists who stand for universal human experience. The stories – a woman shackled to the life of a courtesan (conquest), a woman reminiscing the night she spent with her lover who is at war (war), a mother searching for nourishment for her child in the midst a sandstorm (famine), and finally a woman at the end of her life recalling memories that span youthful joy to hardship and loss (death) – are touchingly timely. The new work challenges the notion of Indian classical dance content and technique and moves beyond the traditional to incorporate a cross-cultural analysis of female experience.

The work highlights original choreography by Sonali Skandan and Maya Kulkarni with music commissioned to the celebrated composer Rajkumar Bharathi (Chennai, India) and Bala Skandan (NYC) with sound design by Sai Sharavanam of Resound, India. The show features a cast of four dancers. The project is supported by funds from the inaugural Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund, and the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs. The initial choreographic ideas and dramaturgy were developed in residency at Queens College through the CUNY Dance Initiative from 2017– 2018. The script was written by Shiv Subramanian and narrative guidance from our Dramaturge Kate Farrington from Pearl Theatre and Queens College.


Premiered March 2019 at Dixon Place, NYC

Concept & Choreography:
Sonali Skandan and Maya Kulkarni

Rajkumar Bharathi with rhythmic inputs by Bala Skandan

Sound Design:
Sai Shravanam, Resound India

Aishwarya Madhav, Amrita Doshi, Sonali Skandan, Bharathi Penneswaran

Light Design:
Betsy Chester

Shiv Subramanian

Rehearsal Director and Stage Manager:
Abinaya Vignesh

Music edits:
Anurag Deeconda

Costume Design:
Sonali Skandan

Project Support:
Dance/NYC, CUNY Dance Initiative, NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs


“These dancers turns their bodies into a language; as if every hand-motion or foot stomp is a hieroglyphic. By the end of their act, you swear they could be painted on the sacred walls of pyramids because they are so visually potent. “

“Each of these women, as horsemen/ humans, chose a role, and their sufferings measured whether they were worthy of it. From being a lover to being a mother, it is a tricky question to ask if suffering is deserved or necessary because, in the end, it simply is apart of life. Yet, Four Horsemen asked its audience to see pain like a roadblock; it only hinders path until you, finally, finish building over it.”

Diandra Reviews, Delhi Culture Comment

“Also, Bharatanatyam has well and truly entered the 21st century as it engages with an increasingly wide range of themes and ideas, pushing into thought-provoking political and socio-cultural realms, the abstract and the concrete, and embracing the myths, stories and issues of the world at large.”

“The dancing, by all four dancers, was absolutely top-notch. The choreography was outstanding, and the whole production was tightly woven together and perfectly executed.”

Kamini Dandapani,

“Tightly choreographed and interestingly varied choral interludes for the four horsemen sweep the action along, bind the apocalyptic solos into a unified composition, and showcase the technical proficiency of these capable dancers… 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, Ballet Review
Fall-Winter 2019

“The sound of drums and classical Indian strings spread over the room as the lights dimmed to blue. On stage, a group of dancers swept in, waist and ankle bells keeping time with their bare feet as they tap-tapped across the stage. They cycled in an out, binding their bodies with an age-old story of the Apocalypse before casting it in a totally new light….At the end, all four of the women came together to dance on the stage, showing how their energy could come together. Individually, they seemed to say, their suffering was inevitable. But told together, maybe their stories suggested there was another way.”

Jamiah Green, New Haven Arts

“The new work challenges the notion of Indian classical dance content and technique and moves beyond the traditional to incorporate a cross-cultural analysis of female experience.”