Light is fundamental to life itself

Had Lynne Fernandez lived in the 15th Century, she would have been deemed a Renaissance woman – her insatiable curiosity of the world and its deepest mysteries led her to explore sciences and the arts, and the blurry lines that criss-crossed them.

Long before mental health became a topic for drawing room conversation, she trained to be a psychologist, and worked with severely disturbed young adults for several years. Her work in psychology and counselling led her to split open the artificial binary of body and mind, and brought her to art and theatre.

She worked as an actor and technician with several notable theatre directors including her Guru Barry John, Joy Michael, Ranjit Kapoor and Lillete Dubey. Her work in theatre has been presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the West End and off-Broadway, in addition to Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and across India. That is when she became captivated by light.

“I spent many hours playing with a flashlight, trying to figure out how beams work and what can be done with shadows. And once I lit my first performance, I knew this was it. I had found my true calling,” she said, recollecting how wielding light became her lifelong pursuit. The mysteries of light dappled across both science and magic. “Light is fundamental to life itself – can we see without light? It’s a mystery - is it a wave or a particle? It’s magic!”

After collaborating with Nrityagram, with its then newly founded Ensemble, she was appointed Managing Trustee of the Odissi Dance Centre Trust and Executive Director of the Nrityagram School and Ensemble in 1997, and her responsibilities included administration, fund-raising and project development.

As the administrator of Nrityagram, Lynne brought her fearless curiosity to every facet of arts administration and her work continues to set new benchmarks. She helmed the emergence of the Nrityagram Ensemble onto the international arena, something which no other Indian classical dance company had achieved. Her projects include Kula, a residence where arts practitioners can live and create new work, a Performing Arts Centre comprising a theatre, exhibition space and rehearsal studios, and more recently, Food Foresting.

She continues to pursue her love for light, and as Lighting Director of Nrityagram, Lynne has lit the Ensemble on stages across India (from NCPA, Mumbai to Konarak, Orissa, Music Academy, Chennai to the Purana Qila, Delhi) and the globe, including The Joyce Theatre, New York, Sydney Opera House, Royal Festival Hall, London, The Esplanade, Singapore, and others.

In other words, lighting is to a performance what art administration is to the art itself, and Lynne is to Nrityagram, integral at the same time unobtrusive.