Asian Music and Dance


Daredevas, an initiative by London-based Akademi, has earned its place on the capital’s dance calendar as a valuable platform for artists in South Asian dance and a means of spotting talent. The third edition saw seven short pieces, making a variable yet bright, well-balanced evening with a few especially vibrant highlights. 

The roster could be split into young performers whose dancing upholds the classical traditions, and those who chose more modern and Westernised paths of motion. To my mind, one dancer-choreographer transcended the categories by sheer force of talent. According to his programme note, Akash Odedra’s ‘True Identity’ bore the influences of a poem by Leila Khan and Sonia Sabri’s dance ‘Red’. How unusual for one dance-maker to be so specific about the debt owed to another’s work. But so immediate was the charge of Odedra’s Sufi-influenced movement that there was neither time nor need to consider his creative inspirations. Driven by the beats of contemporary drum and bass, Odedra was a whirlwind of passion in varying gradations of speed. Apparently some have already referred to him as ‘the next Akram Khan’. Such comparisons, however understandable, can backfire. Suffice to say that his quick blaze of a dance was evidence of a sensationally promising new artist. 

Leena Patel could be considered Odedra’s female counterpart. In ‘Unleashed’ she pushed the concept of fusion several notches further via a combination of bharatanatyam and street dance with Bollywood inflections. Her look and style – shaggy-haired in dark, tight clothing with a tantalising ring of bare flesh at waist level – was like an updated throwback to aerobic workouts and pop videos. Patel knew she was hot and, what’s more, knew how to use it. Cued to a soundtrack by Naz Choudhury, her dance didn’t knock me out. Still, I admired her verve and daring in bringing a defiant, almost trash-rock aesthetic to what was otherwise a fairly conventional bill. 

Archana Ballal’s lyrical, earnest ‘The Fork in the Road’ was a stark contrast to Patel’s switched-on modernity. This was contemporary dance underscored by a yearning feeling as Ballal, tall on the verge of gawky in a simple, one-piece Western dress, tumbled and twirled in low-key lighting. ‘Your Turn…’, a collaborative blend of kathak and contemporary dance between Vipul Bhatti and Katharine Ryan, was in a similar vein. Competently made and performed, these were nice graduation-style pieces unlikely to grab the guts, pierce the heart or linger in the memory. 

The classical representation was overall stronger and more consistently engaging. In the bharatanatyam solo ‘Tanjore Rap’ (choreographer: Anusha Subramanyam) the stocky Shrikant Subramaniam was a boundingly expressive embodiment of the young Krishna. In ‘Zauq-O-Shauq’ (choreographer: Gauri Sharma Tripathi) Payal Patel was an exceptionally pleasant exponent of a secure and nuanced technique that could rightly (and punningly) be deemed ‘Sufisticated’. Her charm and fluency compared favourably with that of Archita Kumar in ‘Parameshwari’ (choreographer: Urja Desai Thakore), an invocation of the goddess Durga that showcased this swift, sweet dancer’s purity of form.



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