Asian Music and Dance

Centre for Advanced Training for South Asian and Contemporary Dance – Bharatanatyam Strand: Shane Shambhu Company Residency – October 2011 to 2012 

CAT Subject Leader Anusha Subramanyam invited dancer, actor and choreographer/director Shane Shambhu to work with our Bharatanatyam students over an extended period of time. This enabled him to explore with them his choreographic process and develop a performance piece for our students’ repertoire. Shane commissioned musician David Leahy to work with the students throughout the development process and to provide live accompaniment on stage with the dancers. The piece, Inescapable Voices was first performed at the students’ summer showcase at DanceXchange, Birmingham Hippodrome in July 2012 and again as a curtain-raiser for Shane’s performance, Leaving Only A Trace, at mac in October. 

Following the show we asked our students to record their experience of working with Shane and David and to reflect upon the impact the process of creating the work had had on them as young dancers.

The following are some of their comments-

I have never had such a connection with a dance piece and other dancers. It was a wonderful experience to mix dance forms and experiment with using your emotions within a piece. I am lucky to have worked with him.

I feel I have learnt a lot from Shane from the particular style and way he dances. His way of dancing inspires me to try dancing and trying new things, to be creative and imaginative when dancing myself. Over the workshops I have had with Shane I have learnt several things that I will take back with me. I have learnt that a lot of emotion, storytelling and creativity goes into choreography.

For me it was my first CAT intensive and I was incredibly privileged and happy to meet such a creative and innovative choreographer and performer such as Shane. I immediately loved his choreography but it was quite a challenge to pick up such a different piece and even though I was overcome with mixed emotions such as excitement and fear of not doing the piece proud, my fear soon disappeared and I was comfortable and couldn’t wait to perform. Not only was he a creative choreographer, but also a very creative teacher.

After we had given our best performance we could, we were very much excited to see Shane’s piece. His piece was exciting and he hooked the audience from his very first action to the very last. He told the story well and clearly not only through his expressions but also his movements. I also was able to see the clever link between our piece, Inescapable Voices and Shane’s.

My role in the piece meant that I had to establish a relationship with the musician as well as use my own past experiences to really connect with the movements. I had to communicate with the musician: this was something that I definitely was not used to, but the fact that he too was a dancer really helped me to understand the connection. 

I feel that I have learnt so much with Shane and that I have been able to uncover a whole new concept of dance throughout his lessons. The fact that I then got an opportunity to use this on stage through his showcase of Leaving Only A Trace was an enjoyable experience. 

The strange yet innovative exercises that Shane did with us challenged us but also stretched our imagination for dance and theatre. Our piece, Inescapable Voices, portrayed a story of a young girl’s consciousness directing her to different emotional places. I thought Shane’s idea of portraying the voices inside someone’s head that can’t escape really showed how people’s emotions change through movement.

Having an extended period of time to work with an experienced artist who can challenge and excite students is an important part of our Centre for Advanced Training work. The student comments are testimony to the strong positive impact this relationship has had on their engagement and development as young dancers. Stimulating investment and talent in the potential dance artists of tomorrow will pay dividends to the sector in the future. The Centre for Advanced Training is also engaged in developing a Graduate Development group starting this autumn. The project will allow selected graduate students to work with professional dance artists and companies to gain experience, understand choreographic process, develop performance skills, lighting design and musicality. Graduates can also explore placement as arts administrators or project managers if they wish to and create a progression route for themselves into the creative industries.

Louise O’Hanlon,

Programme Manager, Centre for Advanced Training and current Bharatanatyam students.

For more information on the Centre for Advanced Training for Contemporary and South Asian Dance visit: 




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