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‘When Life Gives You Melons’ – Vidya Patel, dancer-choreographer, first stage show as Sadler’s Wells Young Associate…

‘When Life Gives You Melons’ – Vidya Patel, dancer-choreographer, first stage show as Sadler’s Wells Young Associate…

Indian trained classical dancer has created piece for four hand-picked women dancers with mixed style experience…

IT SEEMS likely that Vidya Patel’s first stage premiere as a Sadler’s Wells Young Associate will herald a new phase of development in Indian dance in Britain and cause a ripple or two.

She told “It is about the issue of female infanticide and discrimination and abuse. It is a universal issue.

“I come from a family of girls. My family have always been very supportive of our education and career as girls and young women.

Vidya Patel by ©Camilla Greenwell Photography-
Courtesy of Sadler’s Wells

“When growing up you get those remarks: ‘Oh, you don’t have a brother’; Or ‘you’re just girls’…I want to tell stories that are quite personal to me.”

More British Asian women and more UK born and Indian influenced classical female artists look set to feature in mainstream UK dance.

The just under 20-minute production, entitled ‘When Life Gives You Melons’ is one of three others being presented as a Mixed Bill tomorrow (Tuesday, November 23) and the day after (Wednesday November 24) at the smaller space of the Lilian Bayliss Theatre at Sadler’s Wells in London.

Britain’s acknowledged home of dance will, then, officially host four British Asian women dancers in a piece created by a young British Asian woman – Vidya Patel.

In early 2020, Patel was selected as a Young Associate (under 24) by Sadler’s Wells – invited along with three other young dancers of promise and talent to develop work as choreographers. The others also premiering work on the same evening are other Young Associates: Olive Hardy, John-Williams Watson and Magnus Westwell. They will all prepare a piece for the main stage to premiere there in winter 2022 as part of the Young Associates programme.

There was also work which screened in the Autumn from the Young Associates – you can see Patel herself dance in ‘Introducing the next generation of choreographers’ (See link below)– which she termed, her “love letter to Kathak”, the classical Indian dance tradition from which she emerged.

“It is a play on the phrase, ‘When Life gives you lemons’,” Patel explained about the present piece. The follow-up to that phrase is, ‘make lemonade’ – in this we get melons – and we all appreciate just how fortunate we are.

Promotional Image ‘When Life Gives you Melons‘ (Instagram)

Patel continued to acv: “In my family, we have quite open topics at the dinner table.

“I want to do stories other people can relate to. I have two older sisters – one is a doctor and the other is a make-up artist.

“We are all quite focused on our careers – and our Mum and Dad brought us up to value ourselves, regardless of our gender, we have not been seen as any less.”

Patel knows she is taking on a difficult subject culturally – while at a public level, there are always good and encouraging noises, the reality can be different and patriarchy takes different forms in different cultures.

The point about seeing four women dance and represent Indian classical forms at the home of British dance has a power all of its own and Patel is well aware of this.

The four dancers in Patel’s ‘When Life Gives you Melons’ are Tulani Kayani-Skeef, Chandenie Gobardhan, Nandita Devika Shankardass, and Aishani Ghosh. They all come from different and differing dance backgrounds with a mixture of contemporary dance, Indian classical – both kathak and bharatanatyam, and ballet experience.

“I really wanted to use that,” Patel explained of the mix. “The work that I largely do now is always varied and maybe seen as a move away from the traditional form (of Kathak) but for me it is very connected.”

She knew the dancers to varying degrees and has shaped ‘When Life Gives You Melons’ around their strengths and style.

Vidya Patel with Aishani Ghosh, Tulani Kayani-Skeef, Nandita Shankardass and Chandenie Gobardhan (Instagram)

There is also original music being composed by Sarathy Korwar, who has a name in the Jazz scene and comes from an Indo-Jazz background, which mixes both Indian classical styles with modern Jazz.

“It is not a very literal piece – there’s a journey through it,” Patel said of her Sadler’s work. “Viewers can make of it what they want, what they experience – there may be text and film as well at the end.”

She was finalising these details when acv spoke to her – and the film-text at the end looks set to end with statistics and facts.

Patel has a varied background herself – she started going to Indian dance classes as a young girl in Birmingham and what propelled her to a career was her place at the Centre for Advanced Training at Birmingham DanceXChange. Awarded a bursary, part of her learning there was residential and studying and practising dance in the school holidays. She was introduced to professional dancers and had access to other teachers and practitioners in disciplines such as yoga and body conditioning. It was there that she first came under the tutelage of Kathak teacher Sujata Banerjee.

Vidya Patel
by ©Camilla Greenwell Photography
Courtesy of Sadler’s Wells

Patel went onto establish herself as a solo performer and came to national prominence in 2015 when she appeared in the final of the BBC Young Dancer Competition, aged just 20 and winning the South Asian dance section.

She said the whole experience opened her up to the wider dance world, including more Contemporary, modern forms.

Now developing as something of a mentor herself (despite her tender age), she said she wants to continue performing – and choreographing.

“I love dancing and performing in other people’s work and alongside that I feel like I want to have a voice as well – and using that experience of being in other people’s work to help channel my own,” she told acv.

On being able to establish a career in dance, she said: “Doing another job doesn’t make you any less of a dancer. There are different routes. The pathway is different according to each person’s circumstances. There are jobs such as teaching and workshops. In terms of establishing a career – find people to help and guide you – it is a team thing,” she advised.

She joined the Richard Alston Dance Company for a couple of years and first appeared in his original, ‘An Italian in Madrid’ at Sadler’s Wells in 2016. (See link below). Sir Richard Alston is regarded as one of the pivotal figures in British Contemporary Dance.

She has also worked with Gary Clarke – who is another influential figure in Contemporary Dance. From a traditional working-class northern background, he brings very different stories to dance – more personal, autobiographical and marginal narratives to the fore.

Her work with performance artist and filmmaker Hetain Patel (see link below) also brought her to the attention of Sadler’s Wells.

The Young Associates programme has been running since 2018 and was created to nurture the next generation of talent. “The Artists receive a tailored programme of professional development and support, including the opportunity to present their work as part of Sadler’s Wells artistic programme” explains Sadler’s Wells.

Tomorrow – Tuesday, November 23 8pm
Wednesday, November 24 8pm is currently SOLD OUT
Box office: 020 7863 8000
‘Young Associates Mixed Bill’, Sadler’s Wells, Lilian Baylis Studio, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN

Vidya Patel – ‘Introducing the next generation of choreographers’


Hetain Patel

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture