Asian Music and Dance

Training to Excel

The Centre for Advanced Training in Birmingham is the first of its kind to offer pre-vocational training in South Asian dance. The CAT scheme, as it is known, is run in partnership between DanceXchange and sampad and is part of a nationwide scheme funded by the Department for Education offering training to dancers aged 11 to 16.

Vidya Patel – 14 – kathak student
Saijal Patel – 15 – bharatanatyam student

What led you to start dancing and how did you find out about the CAT scheme?

VP: Since I was little I have been surrounded by a dancing environment. My dad and mum had friends in the dance field, so when my sisters and I were old enough they put us into dance classes. From a young age I have watched my sisters dance and their friends become amazing dancers, so dance has been a growing hobby. I found out about CAT from my teacher and took the opportunity as it came.

SP: My teacher told me about the CAT programme; I couldn’t wait to audition from the word go! I was told it would help to improve my bharatanatyam technique, but it’s so much more than that. I now get to meet many different choreographers and get a chance to try to learn different dance forms such as contemporary too. As for starting dancing itself, I’d seen girls performing bharatanatyam before and this inspired me to give it a go.

Are the classes very different from what you had experienced before?

VP: Yes, the tutor is different and the style. The CAT classes have given me the opportunity to adapt and learn in different ways.

SP: Yes, at CAT it’s so much more intense and I learn so much about my body as well as the dance itself.

How has being involved in the CAT scheme changed your outlook on dance?

VP: I now have a broader understanding of dance. Before going to CAT I wasn’t sure how to progress as a dancer. After joining I have recognised what I need to do to become a good dancer, and can focus on my strengths and weaknesses.

SP: Before it was all bharatanatyam; now I know so much about other dance styles too and I love going to see different performances.

How do you fit all your dance training around schoolwork and other commitments?

VP: At times it is hard. I try not to let my school work build up. Other commitments like going out with friends happen around dance; my friends often plan it such, which is considerate of them!

SP: It’s not easy, especially now I have GCSEs going on. It’s the passion for dance that drives me to class; after that it’s about maintaining the balance.

Would you consider pursuing a career in dance?

VP: Yes, I definitely hope to pursue dance while having another job as well because I love dancing.

SP: Definitely, as I soon as I started dancing I knew that it would be my dream to teach dance or even be a performer.

What was the latest performance you saw that impressed you?

VP: A recent show which I went to watch was Kathakbox; the whole performance was a collaboration and fusion of different dance forms: contemporary, breakdance and kathak. The music was live, made by beat-boxing, singing and syllables of the tabla which was clever and extraordinary. It was a really diverse show.

SP: The latest dance show that I saw was a kathak duet by Abhimanyu and Vidha Lal. They were so connected, I was absolutely mesmerised; I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.

Who are the dancers you most admire and why?

VP: Just seeing Nahid Siddiqui on the stage was mind-blowing due to the precision in her movements and the emotion she was emitting. I also admire my teacher Sonia Sabri. I love her style of kathak and views on dance. She has made kathak so young and fresh and every time I watch her dance she inspires me to become an amazing dancer. Aakash Odedra is another dancer and choreographer who amazes. Since I was little, I have seen him flourish into a great dancer who dances with such perfection. I want to try to do the same. I am interested in the way Akram Khan creates and thinks of movement and transforms it into a breathtaking performance. I saw his production Gnosis and the production with the Royal Ballet of China which was impressive. Every creation of his grabs my attention immediately and throughout the performance.

SP: The dancer I admire the most would be my teacher Chitraleka Bolar. She learnt all her bharatanatyam in India, came to England and started to perform and teach from not much at all. From there she grew bigger and inspired people just by dancing.

When you’re not dancing, how do you enjoy spending your time?

VP: I practise the bansuri which I also learn, go shopping, go out with my friends, listen to music and other stuff.

SP: With the family, going out with friends or even reading a good book.

Have you got any tips for young dancers hoping to audition for the CAT scheme?

VP: My advice is to be yourself, there’s no need to get nervous because at the end of the day you’re just showing people something which you love to do.

SP: You should go for it, you will never realise how much it benefits you until you just go for it.

The CAT scheme is holding first-stage regional auditions in the East Midlands in April and in the South-East in June. To find out more, visit www.dancexchange.org.uk.



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