He tells us about his pride and reflects on King’s Charles’ invitation to attend a service that also reflected other faiths…
CHOREOGRAPHER and dancer Aakash Odedra has told www.asianculturevulture.com he felt like he was in a “sacred time capsule” and part of a new evolving history, as a person of colour, as one of just two thousand people to witness the King’s Coronation inside Westminster Abbey.
He told acv: “Watching the coronation was everything I expected and more! I felt like I wasn’t just watching but I was being part of history – the new making of history with people from my demographic present to represent the new Britons of today. I felt like I was in a sacred time capsule. The orchestra was epic, the acoustics and vibrations travelled through my soul.”
He was seated for seven hours and was lucky to retrieve his invitation from a spam email folder.
“I managed to RSVP one day before the deadline,” he chuckled. “I was in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) at the time and was able to reply. I felt honoured.”
He also feels his presence, along with others from different faiths, who participated in the ceremony – and other attendees from Britain’s ethnically diverse communities, marked a new, important and perhaps more optimistic chapter in Britain’s history.
He explained: “Having Charles as King, I like to be optimistic.
“I believe that actions speak louder than words and I felt his invite list reflected his thoughts on the change he wants to make and be part of – I remember him being met with resistance when he wanted to change his title from ‘Defender of the Faith’ to ‘Defender of Faiths’”.
As it was on Saturday (May 6), the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican Church, who presided over the ceremony consecrating Charles as King, kept the wording for the Coronation Liturgy unchanged.
But in a departure to Charles’ personal wish that other faiths be recognised, representatives from other faiths participated in the ceremony. Lord Narendra Patel (Hindu) presented the Coronation’s Ring to the monarch; the 90 year old Lord Indrajit Singh (Sikh) presented the Coronation Glove, while Lord Syed Kamall (Muslim) handed him the Armills (bracelets) and Baroness Gillian Merron (Jewish) took the Robe Royal to King Charles. And there were also members of the Zorastrian (Parsi) and Buddhist orders in attendance in the church.
Odedra said that this move showed that Charles was considerate and respectful of those from other faiths (and King Charles has also acknowledged too, that many Britons do not profess any faith at all).
Odedra pointed out that faith and duty were part of the Royal Family’s history.
“I met Queen Elizabeth II three times, and she had always put her duty first and stayed loyal to the pledge she made at a young age.
“It’s a hard ask for any human to put aside your life and put a nation and its subjects first.
“I have respect for people who complete their duty and understand what is asked of them. I think she was a strong soul. I have many feelings about the past but what is important is the now and the future, we can’t all undo what has been done – but we can try to learn from it and if we hold on to the past there will never be peace on either side.”
Odedra, in response to acv, said critics of Monarchy and the Empire, that is sometimes very strongly associated with it – should consider the progress British society has made and that both King Charles and his late mother Elizabeth II had played their own part in bringing people together and reducing difference and possible division in the UK.
“We have a British Asian Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) and a Scottish Asian First Minister (Humza Yousaf) we have now come a long way. It has taken time and effort, resistance, pain – now is the time to celebrate where we have arrived and where we want to go united, as humanity.”
After the Coronation, Odedra met up with Anand Bhatt, his long-time collaborator, friend and former producer and they enjoyed a Coronation Cake.
Odedra who founded his own dance organisation (Aakash Odedra Company) in 2011 with Bhatt, has been at the vanguard of bringing Indian dance to a wider audience and Odedra was himself awarded a British Empire Medal in 2020.
Receiving only a single invitation for the Coronation, he said his attire had to reflect his roots.
“Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla’s team got in touch and dressed me. I was very excited. It was an unforgettable day.”
Odedra is currently creating a new work with acclaimed India-based Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas – on a piece which will show romance between an older woman and a younger man. The Delhi-based choreographer-dancer, now in her 60s, brings her solo piece about female sexual desire to Sadler’s Wells in October, it was announced this week.
Odedra’s piece for children ‘Little Murmur’ has just been performed at Brighton Festival (until May 28).
All pictures: ©AakashOdedra – please do not reproduce without prior permission
More on Aakash Odedra – Instagram
Aditi Mangaldas ‘Forbidden’