• Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Arts and Culture

Vidya Patel: Dance with deep meaning and a message about migration

By: Eastern Eye

Leading British Asian dance organisation Akademi continues a long tradition of boundary-breaking work with their latest production Pravaas.

The outdoor performance premieres at Norfolk and Norwich Festival next Saturday (13) and Sunday (14), before going on a UK tour. It looks at climate migration across India and Bangladesh, through Kathak,  Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, and an eye-catching bamboo structure set designed by Martin Lines.

The production conceived by Akademi artistic director Subathra Subramaniam is performed by dance artists Mithun Gill, Aishani Ghosh, and Shree Savani, with music and sound design by Matt Olden and Kathy Hinde. Acclaimed dancer Vidya Patel has choreographed the piece looking at multiple themes like loss, hope, community, landscapes, refugees, and livelihoods.

Dance maestro Patel discussed Pravaas in detail with Eastern Eye ahead of the tour.

Vidya, what do you love the most about live dance?

That it is only happening in that moment, which is really special. Choreographically it would be the same but there’s always a difference, which is affected by how the collaborators are feeling in that moment, the energy of the audience and different interactions which take place between the audience and performers too.

Tell us about Pravaas?

Pravaas is a new outdoor promenade performance from Akademi that focuses on the effects climate change has on the migration of people from Sundarbans across India and Bangladesh. Themes of loss and hope, community and people, landscapes and shelter, refugees and livelihoods are expressed by the Bharatanatyam and Kathak trained dancers. We will have accompanying live Carnatic vocals. Dancers will travel with, and through audiences with large bamboo structures.

What has it been like choreographing the show?
It’s been really exciting to have been presented with the brief of creating a piece for the outdoors, while focusing on the forms of Indian classical dance. There’s been so much to explore, especially with learning how the bamboo structures move within the space as though they are additional dancers. There’s a lot to take into consideration with outdoor works as there are many moving parts and factors which are additional to a theatre set performance. I’ve really enjoyed working with the dance artists and responding to this narrative which Akademi feels is important to respond to.

Is there a key message the creative team wants to convey with this show?
A key message of this show is humanising the experiences that can seem so far away from us. There are themes of loss, community and human resilience we hope to convey through this work.

What inspired the show’s title?
Suba Subramaniam, the artistic director of Akademi called the piece Pravaas, which translates to ‘migration’. The research for conceiving this piece was undertaken by her on an island called Sagar, in West Bengal, India. Sagar is at the forefront of extreme weather like tropical cyclones and flooding because of its location, made worse by climate change. This experience informed Suba to title this show Pravaas.

A scene from ‘Pravaas’ (Photo: Justin Jones)

What is your own favourite moment in the show?
There are many moments – the structures are shape shifters in the space, as well as the dance artists who are taking us on this journey. The process has been really exciting and I’m looking forward to how audiences respond to this work, especially anyone who may just come across it by surprise.

What is it like working with a legendary dance organisation like Akademi?

It’s really exciting to be back this time working as a choreographer in this work. My first time working for Akademi was in the work Troth: Usne Kaha Tha, choreographed by Gary Clarke and conceived by Mira Kaushik, which toured across UK, India, and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was such an incredible experience, so I’m so happy to be back creating the work this time around specifically for the outdoors.

What inspires you as a dancer/choreographer today?

I love creating work which tells stories of nature, human interactions, and the world. This all informs my work, including music, design, and the visual arts.

What is the secret of a great live dance performance?

I always think enjoying the process as a creative team is important and leads to the success of live
performances.

Why should we watch Pravaas?

Pravaas is outdoors, free and there’s nothing else you would’ve seen like this before. The dance, music and design of the set are special. There are a lot of creatives involved, so do come and join us.

Pravaas is supported by Without Walls and premieres at Norfolk and Norwich Festival on May 13-14 and then Brighton Festival on May 26-27. Visit www.akademi. co.uk/pravaas for more information and further tour dates.

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