March 26 2016
Kathak dancer to feature in new production with Flamenco influences and she tells us why making a living from her art form is important to her continuing development…
THOSE who predicted a bright future for 2015 BBC Young Dance Finalist Vidya Patel were correct in their assessment – the 20-year-old Kathak specialist makes a return to Sadler’s Wells as part of a new production.
The winner of the South Asian Dance category in the BBC Young Dancer of the Year Final 2015 takes to the prestigious stage again as part of the well-known and highly regarded Richard Alston Dance Company’s world premiere of “An Italian in Madrid”.
It plays for two nights at the iconic London venue from Tuesday (March 29) with Patel playing one of leading parts and the production is part of a quadruple bill from the company. (See details too of the post show talk too below).
She performed at Sadler’s Wells for the BBC Young Dancer competition in May 2015 and “Sampled”, a Sadler’s Wells initiative.
Now, she gets to share the stage with professionals, many of whom have far more experience and it represents the passage of Patel from young protégé to professional.
“It would never have happened, but for the BBC competition,” Patel told www.asianculturevulture.com. “Richard had approached my teacher (Sujata Banerjee) and had contacted me.”
Alston, a prominent figure in the world of British contemporary dance and described as “one of its founding fathers”, had first come across Patel through the competition and had then seen her perform again at the U. Dance Festival in Plymouth last summer.
Influenced by different global styles, a piece had clearly been brewing in Alston’s expansive imagination.
Patel is the only Kathak dancer among a contemporary troupe of 10 who will perform “An Italian in Madrid”, a new piece created by Alston himself.
For the live music and the central storyline, Alston has leant heavily on the 18th century sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.
Scarlatti was born in Italy, but spent much of his time in both Spain and Portugal as a teacher of Princess Maria Barbara, who later became Queen of Spain. Though written for the piano, the influence of the guitar in Scarlatti’s work is undeniable and opens a unique space.
Alston explores how art forms and cultures absorb new influences in “An Italian in Madrid” – “there are many striking similarities between the classical dance form of Kathak and Spanish Flamenco,” states a press release from the dance company.
Regular Alston collaborator Jason Ridgway will play live music on the piano.
“Working with contemporary dancers has really pushed me,” reported Patel. “I am playing Maria Barbara and there are a lot of Spanish influences on Scarlatti. It’s very balletic, even though it’s contemporary and with the live music it’s very beautiful and we are dancing to the music and it’s very similar to Indian classical music because of the accompaniment and rather than it being a tabla, in this case it’s the piano”.
The performance will be something a milestone for Patel herself, as well as putting her very firmly on the professional dance map.
Since appearing in the BBC final, she has decided to make a go of being a professional freelance dancer and not pursue a further education in dance.
“After the BBC final, I thought let me see what happens and dance as a freelancer in dance projects and it’s worked out,” said a clearly enthused Patel.
She recently performed at a dance festival in India alongside both UK and Indian dancers put together by her teacher Banerjee.
The project known as Full Circle, and made up of four UK dancers, and three Indian ones, performed “Together We Can”, a 20-minute piece highlighting the issue of climate change and how cooperation is necessary to deal with the menace.
Rising music star Shammi Pithia travelled with the group, composing and playing the accompanying music.
“It was really beautiful,” reflected Patel, “and about how we can work together to combat climate change.
“The Indian audiences were very warm, they are very vocal. They start clapping and screaming. It was really good,” said Patel, who had also been to India two years previously.
She credits that trip with really opening her eyes to Kathak and dance being a vocation – her vocation.
“They take it a lot more seriously there and they know they are going to carry on with it for a long time. It is not just a hobby but a subject. I was about 18 and I thought this is possible and there is so much scope. I thought I should try that here and may be have a chance (of establishing herself in dance).”
One of the issues she has faced is that to establish herself as professional in Britain, there is no clear or obvious route.
“It would be good to get other people to do Indian classical dance much more professionally because if there was more (of this) the whole standard of it would be much better,” she explained.
More collaborations, partnerships and fusions would allow more Kathak dancers to come into British dance and ply their art, she argued.
“I think collaboration with other dance companies would make Kathak a lot more prominent, and put a lot more Indian classical dance on the main scene.
“There are so many brilliant performers but they don’t think it’s a viable career because there are not the pathways or opportunities.”
She said if there were more openings, more Kathak and Indian classical dancers in Britain would be able to sustain a living.
“If there were opportunities maybe people would get a chance to do it and they would get support from their families to do it. At the moment, it is risky.”
She has the support of her family in her career decision.
“They have been really good, they say ‘so long as you are trying your hardest, we will support you’.”
It might help that her father is a high-flying life coach and human excellence consultant, who has worked with elite British athletes, including 400m runner Jamie Baulch, who won silver and gold medals as part of the GB relay teams at the 1996 Olympic Games and The World championships, respectively.
“Dad helped me a lot during the BBC Dance competition, he was like my own personal coach, encouraging and motivating me – a lot of this is in the mind and being in the right frame of mind,” Patel revealed.
Patel started dancing young and is a graduate of the Centre for Advanced Training at the DanceXchange in Birmingham, where she specialised in the South Asian strand and Kathak.
Picture: ©Jane Hobson
‘An Italian in Madrid’ – Richard Alston Dance Company, Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29 & 30, 7.30pm, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN.
March 29 – Free post show talk with Richard Alston and Sadler’s Wells chief executive/artistic director Alistair Spalding.
Also on the evening (1 hour 55 mins with 2 intervals): ‘Mazur’ (Chopin); ‘Stronghold’ (score by Pulitzer prize winner Julia Wolfe, eight double basses) and ‘Brisk Singing’ (Richard Alston adapted from Jean Phillipe Rameau’s opera, ‘Les Boréades’).
Tickets £12-38 (concessions available)
Box office:020 7863 8000
More info/tickets: http://secure.sadlerswells.com/production/42806