Asian Music and Dance

Moving On Symposium

The Centre for Indian Classical Dance (CICD) celebrated its 30th anniversary with Moving On: National Symposium for South Asian Dance at The Curve, Leicester. 

Councillor Manjula Sood, who represented the Mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, acknowledged the work of CICD and, indeed, the South Asian dance sector for its commitment to developing the field. “We all need a vision, a passion in life…” “Indian classical and contemporary are two beautiful things where mind, body and soul align…” Councillor Sood’s words were brought to life through a short performance from kathak dance artist and teacher Amina Khayyam, who presented an aesthetically sublime, heartfelt nritya piece to the room of onlooking delegates. 

Professor Werner Menski from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, kicked off the discussion with a thought-provoking presentation. He spoke of the ‘plurality’ of dance, how it has many functions and many dimensions as an art form which we, as a sector, need to make use of by working together with other fields. Professor Menski acknowledged the development of practice, research and training but then he raised the question of the next step and to that end, he related dance to a kite by asking how we can help it continue to develop, to Move On. 

After a short break of tea, coffee and networking, the first discussion panel began. The session, which was chaired by Dr Ann David from the University of Roehampton, saw four artists share their artistic journey and experiences thus far. These included Anusha Subramanyam, Aakash Odedra, Mayuri Boonham and, in virtual form, Sonia Sabri. Anusha spoke of art and, more specifically, dance as a transforming subject, which shifts according to influences and inspirations. She described street theatre and working in dance therapy as big inspirations to her and her work. Meanwhile Aakash observed a shift in himself and his way of working which led him to think deeper: “Why am I dancing? What does it mean to me?” He spoke of the need to throw yourself into something, to shock the mind and body. 

Later, a presentation from two representatives of Arts Council England (ACE), Sri Sarker and Hassan Mahamdallie, gave an insight into the investment in the field. Sri spoke of the need to support new artists through positivity and risk so that we can encourage growth, while Hassan suggested that diversity in creativity will drive art forward. The floor was then opened to delegates who brought their observations and questions forward. It was agreed that there is a joint responsibility between the artists and Arts Council to implement diversity in the field and support those who need help in articulating their thoughts and ideas. Mira Kaushik, Artistic Director at Akademi South Asian Dance UK, gave updates on the organisation’s work for the Cultural Olympiad while maintaining that: “the politics of London is not reflecting the London Olympics.” This led Sanjeevini Dutta, Director at Kadam, to ask how South Asian dance will be represented at London 2012. 

‘Developing a Future Vision and Opportunities’ was the name of the second panel of the day, where organisations – Akademi, Dance4 and Zero Culture – spoke about producing dance. Each member of the panel shared their achievements and plans of action for the future where it was agreed that organisations needed to increase opportunities for young artists through training and avoid narrow insight when collaborating and devising projects. As Akademi’s Artistic Director rightly put it: “South Asian dance is part of the DNA of the UK and its arts scene.” 

Three break-out sessions followed different strands in the field, one led by Sanjeevini Dutta on the role of (social) media, technology and audience development; one led by Avanti Medhuri on South Asian dance in higher education; and the final strand led by Paul Russ on artistic development. Brief conclusions were made as the groups came together. 

Farooq Chaudhry (Producer of Akram Khan Company) appeared in conversation with Jamie Watton of South East Dance to address the role of producers in further detail. Farooq described his job as “one eye on the money and one eye on the art”. This was an upbeat and rather fascinating talk on the ins and outs of producing which allowed Farooq to chart his professional relationship with man of the moment, Akram Khan, while giving helpful advice to young and emerging artists. 

The third and final panel of the day was chaired by Dr Stacey Prickett from the University of Roehampton on the topic of creativity, new work and collaborations. Shane Shambhu, Amina Khayyam, Subathra Subramaniam and Kali Chandrasegaram spoke about their current projects and lines of enquiry, which ranged from visual theatre to science and environmental issues, Bollywood and burlesque. 

Padma Rao, Co-Director for Arts Connect UK, ended the symposium with her observations from the day in a short and sweet plenary session. Key points to remember are the need for breaking down barriers, to increase the pool of artists, allowing for moments of reflection such as conferences and symposiums like this and, most importantly, to support each other. After all, we’re all here doing what we do because we share a common interest; if we share that interest then we share the issues that arise. 

The symposium was followed by a performance named Indian Classical vs. Contemporary featuring solos from four talented male dancers – Sooraj Subramaniam, Aakash Odedra, Ash Mukherjee and Revanta Sarabhai, who between them represent bharatanatyam, kathak, odissi and contemporary styles. 



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