Measure for Measure is in Preview on the Howard Family Stage this week, and we can’t wait to see how the Douglas Campbell Theatre tent transforms into a Vienna that knows how to keep the party going all night long.

With such a strong focus on dancing in this adaptation by director Jivesh Parasram, we spoke with Measure for Measure choreographer Krystal Kiran to learn more about her relationship to dance, her approach to the choreography in this production, and how she’s making her decades-long dream of founding India’s first musical theatre program a reality.

You have extensive experience as a performing artist, choreographer, and teaching artist, with credits both across Canada and internationally. Can you tell us about your journey as a performing artist and what first drew you to dance?
My Punjabi mother (who moved to Canada when she was nine years old) put me in ballet classes when I was three. It was something she wanted to experience growing up but never got to, so I think it was her way of assimilating me into “Canadian” culture at a young age. Dance (ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, and musical theatre) was what I did after school all throughout elementary and high school. It kept me out of trouble. On family visits to India, I studied the classical Indian dance form “kathak.”

I started teaching dance when I was fifteen. Being someone who stuttered, dance became my form of expression when words failed; it became a necessity. Dance has been a constant throughout life, and the most effective form of communication. It has helped me navigate existence. Life, after all, is a dance.

How has your first Bard experience been so far?
It’s a dream come true to be doing my first season at Bard. As an actor/performer, I never imagined that my introduction into Bard would be serving on a creative team. It has been an honour and privilege to collaborate with Jiv[esh Parasram] and the rest of the crew on and off stage. I look forward to hopefully continuing to develop my artistry here in various ways over the coming years. Scott Bellis’ body of work at Bard is very inspiring. I’ll be forever grateful to Brent Carver for introducing me to Shakespearean text in the first place and for instilling a passion for it. May his soul rest in poetry, prose, and peace.

What excited you about working on this adaptation of Measure for Measure?
The vision for the show and the context in which it is adapted is what initially drew me in. A ban on dancing with an ode to the ’90s? Thinking about where and how dance enters the plot, and being curious about how various forms of dance get used in different moments (in intention/motivation, protest, and aggression) was exciting to explore with the actors. Also, I just knew that Jiv would lead a fun room. I was right.

How did you approach the choreography for this production?
Choreographing a show in which dancing is banned was a fun conundrum to contend with. I came in with ideas and shapes, but also wanted to build things organically with Jiv and each actor. The piece is unique in that each character has their own vocabulary of movement (and some actors are playing two or three characters). Sometimes those movements are done in unison with other actors, but the majority of movements are individual to each character. The text has a rhythmic quality to it as well, so mining the text for where it becomes dance has been a cool journey.

What were some of your inspirations during this creative process?
Monkawakeez. If you don’t know, now ya knowww… (or you will once you see the show.)

Do you have a favourite moment or memory from the rehearsal process?
So many, it’s hard to pick just one. Overall: vibing with the monks.

Before you joined the rehearsal process for Measure for Measure, you were in India, where you were working on establishing the country’s first musical theatre program at A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory. Can you tell us more this initiative and how you got involved with this program?
A.R. has been a mentor and guiding light for me as an artist since 2004, when we were the first set of South Asian performers and creatives to be on Broadway in the musical Bombay Dreams. Building a musical theatre program at his music conservatory in Chennai is very much a full circle moment.

Musical theatre overlaps beautifully with Bollywood, yet with major differences. The main difference being that Bollywood is film (not live, therefore the singing voices you hear dubbed are not those of the performers on screen). To help empower performers embrace the athleticism, passion, artistry, and precision that is required to sing, dance, and act/storytell live on stage (not to mention 8 times/week in a professional musical theatre contract) is something I live for. Having been inside this work for so long, my personal experience is that live performance becomes a meditation in which all aspects of self, including one’s artistic instrument, become acutely present. This is presence. It always made sense to me that the western musical theatre canon would eventually come to exist in India; there’s so much talent there. I’m glad that time is now and that I get to be part of it in any which way.

When you aren’t working in the performing arts, how do you like to spend your time?
I’m a BC girl. I love being in nature, reading, paddleboarding, and spending quality time with family and friends. Alone time is also very important to me. Sitting on any beach is my forever jam. The ocean is my medicine, especially in Vancouver. Where else can you see snow-capped mountains while laying on a warm beach by the Pacific Ocean? Like, get outta here.

Do you have any other projects or initiatives coming up?
I’ll be pursuing my Master’s in Music Education at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance while teaching at KM [Music Conservatory] beginning this fall. I’m slightly nervous to be a student again, but more so excited to do this learning while (hand-in-hand) teaching and building this musical theatre program in Chennai. And still being a working professional in our industry. It feels like a lot, but it all feels aligned and intertwined. I’m curious to experience how the sum of all parts will integrate and express themselves, and how applying an academic lens to my practical professional experience will develop my teaching practice.

Thanks so much to Krystal for chatting with us and for bringing your extraordinary talent and vision to this production! 

Measure for Measure runs July 4 to September 20 on the Howard Family Stage. Get your tickets now by visiting our Season Schedule!