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The Two Fridas

Balbir Singh Dance Company (BSDC) and Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance (BIFF) have joined forces to create a beautiful performance to celebrate the life and work of two of the most significant artists of the 20th century: Frida Kahlo and Amrita Sher-Gil, known as the Indian Frida Kahlo.

The Two Fridas is named after Frida Kahlo’s signature painting of the same name. The show combines Kathak classical Indian dance, western contemporary dance, Mexican dance and live music to celebrate Frida and Amrita. The two painters had much in common. They shared a love of colour and self-portraits, experienced agonies of love and were revolutionary in their day but they never met – they were ‘united yet apart.’

Bringing their talents to this first livestream performance of the work will be three BSDC company dancers accompanied by live music. The 50-minute show is directed by Balbir Singh, produced by Olga Maloney (BIFF) with an original score by Joe Harris.

Credits

Based on an original idea by Olga Maloney

Directed by Balbir Singh

Produced by Olga Maloney

Script by Kimberley Hardy

Music composed by Joe Harris

Lighting design by Michael Mannion

Dancers: Abirami Eswar, Erica Mulkern and Kimberley Hardy

Musicians: Joe Harris (guitar) and Sam Bell (percussion)

The Two Fridas is a collaboration between Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance and Balbir Singh Dance Company.

The piece premiered at Bowes Museum in 2020 and has been reimagined by Balbir Singh Dance Company for livestreaming.

Special thanks to:

Helmsley Arts Centre - Natasha Jones and Steve Woolmer Rural Arts - Jo Gatenby Alex Croft, Kala Sangam Balbir Singh Dance Company:

Company Manager - Susan Burns General Manager - Dawn Fuller Marketing - Emily Brunner

Childhood parallels

Frida learned how to paint the human structure from her photographer father, while Amrita filled her sketchbooks with portraits of their servants. Frida’s father Guillermo Kahlo Kaufmann was also a photographer, just like Amrita’s father Umrao Singh. Both artists as young girls embraced self-portraiture as a distinct feature of their work.

Amrita Sher-Gil with her parents and baby sister Indira, in Hungary

“Sher-Gil explored the sadness felt by people, especially women, in 1930s India, giving voice and validity to their experiences. She used her paintbrush to depict the daily lives of Indian women in the 1930s, often revealing a sense of their loneliness and even hopelessness.”
New York Times

Frida’s pain; Amrita’s anguish

Frida Kahlo became a painter after a near fatal accident in 1925. Recuperation took over a year, during which time Kahlo gave up her science education and began painting from her hospital bed. Frida’s many self-portraits often feature wounds.

Amrita’s turmoil is between her two worlds: light and dark, East and West, Europe and India, attraction and resistance: “I am personally trying to be ... an interpreter of the life of the people, particularly the life of the poor and sad.”

Frida Kahlo painting from her hospital bed

Sher-Gil’s art has influenced generations of Indian artists from Sayed Haider Raza to Arpita Singh and her depiction of the plight of women has made her art a beacon for women both in India and abroad. Her paintings are today considered by the Indian government to be National Art Treasures.

Women in love

Kahlo had relationships with both men and women and has become an icon for the LGBT movement. Amrita was openly bisexual and had several affairs, including one with French painter Marie-Louise Chassany.

“Kahlo was the main character of her own mythology, as a woman, as a Mexican, and as a suffering person ... She knew how to convert each into a symbol or sign capable of expressing the enormous spiritual resistance of humanity and its splendid sexuality.”
Nancy Cooey
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought: there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me, who feels bizarre and flawed in the same way as I do. I would imagine her and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know, that, yes, it is true, I am here and I am just as strange as you.” Frida Kahlo

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