Asian Music and Dance


Hertfordshire-based independent dance artist, Divya Kasturi, shares her experience in creating a piece for the children in her local community. 


andana translates as ‘salutation’ and true to the word, my young, enthusiastic and eager group of students did receive a stupendous warm ‘salutation’ for their efforts in performing Vandana. The occasion was ‘Celebrate’, an event organised by the Stevenage World Forum in association with the local borough at the Gordon Craig Theatre on 27 October 2012.

The piece evolved from my experience of training a group of young ‘boy band’ singers, as I call them. Aged between four and a half to six years, they have a newly-found interest in learning carnatic vocals and have been taking lessons with me since March this year. As an artist treading both fields of dance and music, I have always been fascinated about combining both strands – I have experimented with singing while dancing on the very same stage of Gordon Craig Theatre last year in my piece This or that?, as well as in a section of my recent production, NowHere.

In the case of Indian music and dance, there is an intertwined relationship which I stress the importance of to my own students. Thereby almost all of them learn both dance and music, with the exception of the ‘boy band’. Dancers need to understand music while singing for dance enables better emotion in the music. My guru Udupi Laxminarayana (Chennai) comes from the illustrious Balasaraswati tradition of dance and is renowned for her musical talents as well. Thus, seizing the opportunity that the kids were bestowed in their own home town almost on their doorsteps, Vandana was conceptualised. The idea was also to instil the seeds of supporting each other and to give the little ones the experience of dancing to live vocals as opposed to their usual way of dancing to recordings. Thus ten dancers danced to nine vocalists. My initial idea was also to have radio mikes for the dancers, but finances played a major role as always!

Personally, this was also my first experience creating a piece for nineteen kids all performing at the same time. The creation was done in groups initially before I brought them together. Again, thanks to local community leaders like Janis Daniel, who kindly helped me with rehearsal space. My heartfelt gratitude also goes to the excellent support from the parents of my students, what with them accommodating my own erratic schedules, considering my professional and personal commitments. The whole experience was a mixed bag of emotions – it was exhausting but exhilarating – every drop of sweat, energy and anxiety was worth it! What a wondrous pleasure it was to witness the next generation boldly encounter the 500-odd audience with full vigour, energy and humility.

 Three cheers to the singers and dancers, some of whom had their stage debut in Vandana.

Singers: Nilesh, Akshath, Amitav, Siddharth, Gautham, Vidhyuth, Dhruv, Kanishk and Swetha.

Dancers: Diya, Krithika, Hridya, Bruhashmy, Ananya, Sagrika, Mahi, Sandhya, Srimoyi and Aadya.

Here is what some of them have to say about the experience—

Sandhya: “I love dancing, especially the song ‘Rama Namo’. We all had a lot of fun learning to dance and also dressing-up. I learnt about the Gods and also made a lot of friends. Thank you, Divya Akka.”

Aadya: “I am very happy that I can perform. I can perform because it’s a very nice place and I get to dress up too!”

Diya: “I am very thankful that I have been given this opportunity to perform in such a grand event and it has been a pleasure working with all my friends and creating this piece as a group.”



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