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Paintings and classical Indian dancing lit up SawTown Tavern for First Friday.

Local talent: SawTown Tavern, at 4717 Princeton Ave. in Tacony, celebrated First Friday by showcasing the work of local artists. Madhusmita Bora and Shreshdh Khilani performed Sattriya, a classical Indian dance. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Last Friday, SawTown Tavern somehow became more colorful than usual.

The tavern celebrated First Friday by showcasing the work of three artists. Cyril VanLandingham, the tavern’s resident artist for the month, decorated the venue’s purple-lit walls with his paintings. His work served as a backdrop for Madhusmita Bora and Shreshth Khilani, as they performed Sattriya, a classical Indian dance.

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Cyril VanLandingham displayed his paintings at SawTown Tavern, 4717 Princeton Ave. in Tacony, during a First Friday celebration. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

VanLandingham is a resident artist at SawTown in more ways than one — owner Troy Everwine lets him use the space as a studio to create his paintings.

“Being able to tell your story or describe things you’ve seen without having to write in a particular language,” he said of his inspiration to paint. “It’s nice to let people know of my relationship with this language.”

He had about 20 paintings on display, each one of a vastly different subject than the last. He said he never knows how the paintings are going to come out — and that’s the best part.

“It’s fun to do, and it’s excellent self-care,” he said.

Sattriya is a 500-year-old dance that, until the year 2000, women had very little access to. The Indian government recognized it as a classical art form during Bora’s lifetime, which she called a blessing and a curse.

“Since it is a living artform and survived for 500 years, I feel like it is so dynamic and will continue to survive,” she said.

She started Sattriya Dance Company, based in Germantown, which travels all around the country as the only professional Sattriya dance company in the country.

She and Khilani performed a dance about how movement and music had no language barriers. They danced to a piece of Sanskrit music, which is not the language of Sattriya, but they wanted to express the universality of the dance form.

“We’re trying to explore how Krishna takes on forms in both the masculine and feminine gender, and has this gender queerness associated with it,” Khilani said. Khilani was attracted to the dance because it does not conform to gender roles. ••


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