Asian Music and Dance

DanceIntense Diaries

Nineteen dancers from three continents were selected to receive two-week training at DanceIntense: a programme aimed at dancers on the threshold of professional careers. They gathered in Toronto, Canada hosted by Lata Pada’s Sampradaya Dance Creations in partnership with Sampad South Asian Arts, and York Fine Arts at York University. 

Ulka Mohanty

July 26th: I arrived in Toronto with a packed suitcase in tow – how on earth was two weeks of dance garb so incredibly heavy? I was ready to start a fortnight of a dance residency programme known as DanceIntense (DI). Having been to the first one in Birmingham, UK three years ago, I was looking forward to a mind-blowing time of creativity, friendship, hard work and global artistic networking. 

We were nineteen in all, of ages ranging from twenty to thirty-four, hailing from all corners of the world: various parts of Canada, USA, UK, Singapore and India; and each of us had been trained in Indian classical dance forms.

The first evening’s performance showcased each participant’s unique talent, many of whom performed their own creations …There was such incredible variety, ranging from edgy contemporary works to classical kathak, bharatanatyam and odissi performances. There was jaw-dropping hip-hop, dance with spoken text, a martial/contemporary duet and a cheeky Tamil classical-folk number, the end of which had the audience laughing and clapping loudly. 

As in each of the DI programs before, it was an amazing way to get to know each other, through sharing at our artistic best. I think meeting someone through dance gives a depth of insight into a person one might otherwise not see. As a result, starting off with a show served as a perfect catalyst for the deep bonding that would necessarily take place in the days to come, a sort of ‘crash course’ of getting to know each other. It must have been so interesting for the master teachers to be introduced to us in this fashion and to gain ideas on how to work with us.

August 7th: When I take a step back to examine the kind of items we performed at the sharing show at the end of DI, I realise that the nineteen of us have achieved something truly incredible. In a mere day or two, most of us have not only learnt an entirely new style of dance, but we have performed an entire item in that style at a performance level, all of which might normally take a year or two to master. I think it is reasonably safe to take a moment to be proud of ourselves and just how far we have come in such short time.

DanceIntense had come to its inevitable close. It was the end of an amazing time, but the beginning of new and solidly-forged friendships that had merely begun, and those I think will stay with us all for a long, long time to come. Ye baath!

From Ulka Mohanty’s Blog


“‘Transgress. Dislocate. Power. Cool. Gang.’ DI participants begin the first session with Shobana Jeyasingh by reading an excerpt of Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and choosing text to create a narrative and generate movement. We explore a process similar to one used by Shobana’s company to create its 2008 production, Faultline. 

“‘Asking the bodies in the room begins the relationship,’ Jeyasingh says, after we choose our text. In this room, many of us are working and creating dance in the South Asian diaspora. These bodies speak many languages. Over the three sessions with Jeyasingh, I witness the pieces develop. I experience so many beautiful versions of one narrative, expressed either through the language of classical dance, contemporary, street dance, martial arts or the hybrid dialects we create from living in more than one world.  

In such a short time, Jeyasingh shares a wealth of knowledge with us. I am filled with joy, knowing that I will carry this experience and these lessons forever.” 

– Annelize Machado – Texas, USA


“Brian Webb’s session was a significant one for me, since it emphasized one very important aspect of choreography: spacing.  He started with a Chi Gun warm-up, which in itself is an interesting approach to kick-start a dance session. The session continued with a few very effective exercises, which mainly focused on spatial aesthetics and leadership qualities.

“The most fascinating part of Brian’s workshop was when he started contorting everyone’s individual presentations, just by changing the spatial dimensions of the dance. The contour of the pieces became more visually compelling and volatile, and his changes often had a significant effect on the meaning of the piece. Towards the end of the session I felt the ability to articulate in a different manner. The discussions he conducted post-session went a long way in helping me question myself on certain choreographic aspects: how, when and why we use space in a particular way, how theatrical elements could be a powerful tool in dance, in leadership…”

– Vishwakiran – Bangalore, India


“In a highly efficient double session with Toronto dancer/choreographer Nova Bhattacharya, the first seminar dealt with communicating about oneself as an artist.  This is a skill that, in my opinion, is continually under-addressed. She told us the importance of writing out one’s Artistic Statement, which is a snapshot of where one is in one’s artistic journey. In the choreography class Nova gave us excellent tools with which to create work, types of creative constraints. I choreographed a piece based on a book she handed to me for inspiration. Another student was given a dress, and another proposal was that each dancer took a five-minute walk to gather movement ideas which, put together, made a brilliant and cohesive piece.”

– Ulka Mohanty – Montreal, Canada



Join the weekly Pulse newsletter and we will send you the latest news and articles straight to your inbox