Asian Music and Dance

Young Pulse – BBC Young Dancer 2015: The Category Finals

The Second Round of BBC Young Dancer 2015 has whittled the successful entrants down to just five. With the Category Finals around the corner, the competition is about to step up a notch so Parbati Chaudhury caught up with a couple of the bright hopefuls, Anaya Vasudha Bolar and Jaina Modasia.

Anaya Vasudha Bolar and Jaina Modasia are two of five hopefuls (the other three are Vidya Patel, kathak; Lakshmi Kaliyappan, bharatanatyam; and Sivani Balachandran, bharatanatyam) in the South Asian category of BBC Young Dancer 2015 (BBCYD). In trying to get hold of Anaya and Jaina, I gather that they both have a lot to juggle. Anaya, a 17-year-old bharatanatyam dancer from Birmingham, has just sent off her UCAS application but could not dream of sacrificing her evening riyaaz after school. Meanwhile Jaina, surrounded by ‘very enthusiastic and supportive course mates’, is contending with degree assignments left, right and centre. 

As we settle into the interview, I sense that Anaya is still quietly buzzing from the BBC’s visit to shoot her VT, which involved some Holi revelry. Having ‘never felt overtly competitive’, Anaya’s interest in BBCYD was not immediate, but the encouragement to participate came from her mother and teacher, Chitraleka Bolar, and Sampad’s Director and BBCYD Second Round Adjudicator, Piali Ray. 

Aside from the filming perks, the real benefit so far has been to have had her dance analysed by a fresh pair of eyes, specifically Seeta Patel’s, BBCYD’s bharatanatyam mentor. “She told me to add more subtlety to my abhinaya, which is actually something that my Mum has been telling me for a long time, and specified the need for a range of distinct dynamics in my dance.”

On asking how the creative process has been developing through each stage, it is lovely to hear that her teacher-student relationship with Chitra-akka is one in which she feels comfortable to offer suggestions, but concepts and choreography are not factors that she tackles independently yet. “I love storytelling,” Anaya almost exclaims, contrasting her relatively composed disposition, so it is unsurprising to discover that her dance hero is Priyadarshini Govind. As we both revere Priya-akka’s incomparable displays of emotion and imagination, I find out that each performance piece (two solos and one duet) can be a maximum of only five minutes in length. Anaya mentions how this restriction is a big challenge and my concern flares over whether the depth of classical dance forms can be showcased under such conditions. After all, a varnam is no flash in the pan.

Competitions in general are not Anaya’s ‘usual thing’, so even applying was ‘breaking out of the mould’ but she has zero regrets. She has taken this opportunity as one to foremost ‘improve and develop’ and her optimistic nature certainly lends to this approach. 

What particularly attracted Jaina, a 20-year-old kathak dancer from Watford, to BBCYD was knowing that the adjudicators and final judges would be specifically knowledgeable about her dance form, which is not the case with other dance competitions on television.

Despite being impressed by the organisation of the initial stages, Jaina felt disappointed by the low number of South Asian dancers, particularly kathak, in comparison to ballet, contemporary and hip-hop. I also shared in this frustration when I had learned of the exact number of entrants last year and how some teachers had even discouraged their students from applying. Thankfully, this was not the case with Jaina’s teacher and inspiration, Sujata Banerjee, and Anita Srivastava on behalf of CAT. 

As well as keeping on top of her studies, she has had to manage something else ‒ a serious case of the butterflies. This seems unexpected from this driven, bubbly personality but her one-to-one mentoring sessions with Second Round Adjudicator Aakash Odedra have been invaluable. “He said that I can tell you’re nervous but I don’t know why. He told me to not put an expectation on myself and to dance as freely on stage as I would in my bedroom.” 

Another significant influence on Jaina is her first teacher, Pali Chandra, whom she met recently after many years and whose classes she would have to be dragged home from as a child. That desire to engage remains and Jaina “appreciates any encounter to gain or pass on knowledge through classes and workshops or through teaching the little ones.”

As our conversations wrap up, I ask them both about the ‘c’ word, career, in relation to dance. Jaina is currently studying Sports and Exercise Science at university while Anaya wants to pursue Physiotherapy, so they both have a holistic interest in how the body functions. For Anaya ‘dance has always been a constant’ and knows that it will be an inseparable part of her life. Jaina seems undecided but has definitely ‘caught the creative bug’ in trying to make Sujata-di’s choreography her own while training remotely. She is now intent on “freeing her kathak body by immersing herself in other styles”.

Whoever wins the South Asian Category Finals on Saturday 21 March 2015 in Newport, judged by Seeta Patel, David Nixon, DJ Renegade and Sharon Watson will have a place in the Grand Final and receive a £1,000 cash prize to help support further dance studies. It would not be fair to give away too many details of Anaya and Jaina’s pieces, but I can tell you that we have some bold nritya, unconventional live music and even scientific concepts to look forward to. The evening of performances will be filmed for broadcast on BBC 4.

The four finalists from each category plus two wild cards for the best dancers who did not win overall will perform their own pieces and specially-commissioned choreography at the Grand Final on 9 May 2015 at Sadler’s Wells in front of judges Matthew Bourne, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor, Tamara Rojo, Kenrick Sandy and Alistair Spalding for the prestigious title of BBC Young Dancer 2015 and a £3,000 cash prize. This will be filmed for broadcast on BBC 2.

During the Second Round South Asian performances, the wonderful cheering from the green room could be heard in the audience. This level of camaraderie forged over such a process can only strengthen the ties within our sector and demonstrate how it is really ‘not the winning, but the taking part that counts’. I wish Anaya, Jaina, Vidya, Lakshmi and Sivani my absolute best for the final stages but much more so for beyond.  

The performances at the Category Finals (19–22 March) will be recorded for broadcast on BBC 4 to be shown in April and May. The BBC Young Dancer 2015 Final will be held on 9 May at Sadler’s Wells, London. Tickets will be available via the Box Office at Sadler’s Wells.



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