In March of this year I had been to a friend’s birthday party. There I met with a host of his friends. Little did I know that a meeting, a friendly chat and a consequential facebook befriending would actually lead to a rewarding opportunity. After we confirmed each other as facebook friends, Irfaan and I chatted a little through status updates and the next thing I come to know is Irfaan had mentioned me and Limitless Productions to his friend Asish Purushan of the Sherbourne Health Centre. By late-March-early-April time Asish and I were discussing the possibility of Limitless Productions performing at the Sherbourne Health Centre as part of their South Asian Heritage Month festivities on May 26. It seemed quite a way off at that but little did I realize that almost two months would pass by what would seem like in the blink of an eye.

It was almost as if Serendipity had intervened and gifted us with this opportunity. My friend and choreographer of Limitless Productions – Ashima Suri, had performed at Sherbourne Health Centre before as part of another company. This time it was to be with Limitless Productions. For a few weeks prior to the birthday party, we had in been planning and talking about the possibility of a specific piece called “Forbidden Love”. While Limitless had explored this topic at the launch event in December 2010, this was to be a further developed and more intriguing look into the subject. The journey from my first contact with Asish to the South Asian Heritage Month celebration performance was eventful and laden with a frenzy of emotions, facing of fears and dealing with our own limitations as artists. This was the first time I had taken the leadership and coordination role upon having secured a performance opportunity with an outside agency. I had full support from Ashima and the rest of the Limitless family in being the point of contact. I kept in touch with Asish and coordinated logistics related to the event and I tried to ensure that every little detail was taken into account during the planning process. And then the rehearsals began…

Dealing with a topic like love within the realm of dance theatre is daunting enough without it having to be “forbidden”. We had known that the final performance would heavily rely upon our trust in and comfort level with each other. In order for that to take place we had start getting used to each other in ways other dance companies would seldom attempt. Through a series of many uncomfortably embarrassing and seemingly ridiculous and unnecessary improv exercises we were attempting to understand our characters. Sure we had a script in place, but Ashima demanded natural, raw and uninhibited performances from all of us. While we’re primarily dancers, and dance-based performers we were slowly being introduced the ability of being able to “serve the script” as an actor, an improv artist and as a complete performer. Our boundaries as performers and even as human beings were being pushed, our limits were being tested and our understanding of each other was expanding at a feverish pace. We were interacting with each other in ways most of us would never even dream of otherwise. It was all for the sake of art. After more than a month of shuttling back and forth from this piece about Forbidden Love, community workshops, auditions, dance shows and other events just a couple of days before the Sherbourne Health Centre performance we were finally putting the finishing touches on our piece; or so we thought. The finishing touches were actually applied a couple of hours before our performance just minutes before our funder – ArtReach Toronto – had come to interview us about Limitless Productions’ performance, progress, future aspirations and contribution to the art community. We hadn’t counted upon going through two performances that day. Believe it or not, sitting down for a taped interview in front of our funders, one of whom happens to on the Board of Directors for another dance initiative for the community, is a full performance in itself, albeit on a social and mental level. We performed our Forbidden Love piece only a few minutes after that for the staff and sponsors of the South Asian Heritage Month at the Sherbourne Health Centre.

The first thing I remembered after the performance was that the Master of Ceremonies faultered quite a bit in her acknowledgement as she was admittedly feeling “jolted and shaken by the intense and touching performance”. While my only thought was to pick up our props and weave our way through the rows of seated audience members we – Ashima, Shafik, Emily, Justine and I – were constantly stopped by eager audience members who fervently shook hands with us and congratulated us on a “brilliant”, “wonderful”, “fantastic” and “touching” performance. We relished every single one of those compliments. In those words we felt not only the precious appreciation from our audience, the ones who were strangers to us up until the performance had begun, but also the great honour of knowing that they felt our happiness, our sorrow, our hard work, our love for our craft and our respect for the story and that the audience had felt touched by the authenticity that we as artists brought to the performance. In their compliments and words of appreciation we felt that they had accepted us as artists. The crowning glory came, especially for our choreographer, when we heard the unanimous voice of the audience members who declared that they were touched and moved by the piece as it not only spoke to them in a very personal manner but also spoke of their own personal story and their own struggles and inner conflicts as it related to their own “forbidden” experiences in life. Each of us were appreciated for both our performance and our ability to live our performance. I felt immense gratitude for Irfaan and Asish for having taken a shot at Limitless Productions and trusting us to be a part of this celebration. However, the credit for this piece is entirely due to Ashima Suri who did not just live the story of this dance piece but also took on the brave task of recalling it, conceptualizing it and then going through the gargantuan uphill task of choreographing it for her dancers, coordinating schedules, securing funding for us to be able to make this a reality in a professional manner and nurturing the unique artist within each one of us.

As we left Sherbourne Health Centre that day, we carried within our hearts the appreciation from the South Asian community, our funders and our fellow artists and within our camcorder the video testimonials of every willing audience member who came forward to meet and encourage us. These are the moments and people that keep us at Limitless working, creating, daring and performing.

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