They are young, aged eleven to sixteen, they have been selected for their potential and they are part of a national programme that is training the dancers of tomorrow.
At DanceXchange studios in Birmingham, the first recruits of CAT (Centre for Advanced Training) are undergoing a training regime that is designed to fire the body, mind and the imagination. The students are exposed to a balanced programme of technique, body conditioning, choreography and performance studies. The residential courses take place during the school half-terms and summer holidays while in term time the CAT students for South Asian dance strand learn with their own dance teachers and receive £25 per week to support their training.
There are ten such CAT centres in the UK and only DanceXchange in partnership with sampad, has a South Asian dance facility offering bharatanatyam and kathak. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), via the Music and Dance Scheme supports the initiative.
The lucky first batch enthuses over what the program has done for them. “The past year has been intense and invigorating”, says Krishnali Dholakia. In a sentiment echoed by many others, Natalie George applauds “an opportunity to experience different styles of teaching”. Equally important has been the analytical approach to understanding the basis of movement. Subject heads Sujata Banerjee and Anusha Subramanian are specialists in sports science, yoga and pilates.
In addition, UK-based and international performing artists such as Stella Uppal Subbaiah, Abhay Shankar Mishra, Urja Thakore, Kajal Sharma and Shobana Balachandra have given an input to the training. Ms Balachandra notes that “All the students came out with original and varied interpretations.” The past ten months have provided a rich experience of learning, viewing and performing dance.
The annual fee for the CAT Programme is £3,510. The Department for Children, Schools and Families offers Means Tested Grants up to the full amount to those children who are exceptionally talented but cannot afford the fees.
The gates are wide open for more young people to become part of this national scheme through open auditions. So alongside ballet, contemporary and urban dance, South Asian forms take their place in the national dance map. It is critical that as many teachers and parents join hands to push forward the talented young dancers in the direction of CAT.