World Premiere 28 June 2021
Nupur Arts Youth Association
Images: Matthew Cawrey
The Emerge project, curated by Smita Vadnerkar & Kamala Devam, presented a challenge from Nupur Arts Youth Association to six young dance artists from South Asian and Contemporary dance backgrounds to create work during the pandemic. Mentored remotely by Kamala Devam, they worked by their radiators or bedside tables, and in studios when available, towards the presentation of their pieces on the large stage of the Curve Theatre in Leicester. For some it was their first self-choreographed solo, and one where they had to think not just about how they worked with the music or soundscapes they had chosen, but also lighting and production for the filmed stage performance.
Their work was presented on YouTube as a digital showcase, filmed at The Curve, with one piece also filmed outdoors.
It was an interesting commission, to ask for South Asian and/or Contemporary dance artists to apply, because what the dancers expressed wasn’t confined to particular categories – so although we recognised, for example, bharatanatyam, or contemporary, or hip-hop, that wasn’t really the point – the point was the work itself, and the dancer, whatever the styles from which it was created. This was possibly as much a challenge for audiences used to watching a defined category as an opportunity for the artists; and Emerge offered the viewer a rather satisfying and stimulating range of style, focus and dynamic, within the 50 minutes or so of the presentation, while the artists had the freedom to explore without the constraints of categorisation.
Shree Savani’s ‘Mind of Dreams’ expressed ‘the strange dichotomy between the unconscious and conscious minds’. The dancing - or mime, in the case of the mundane waking life (associated with red) - suggested that the dream life (blue) was much more exciting. She finished, however, with the two in equilibrium. The problem of incorporating everyday movements in dance is that if not embedded within technical sequences the sections look very prosaic. The dance piece suffered from the mime not morphing into abstraction, where we could enjoy nritta.
Shreya Vadnerkar’s ‘Breakin’ Boundaries’, ‘A British Indian experience showcased through Bharatanatyam and Breaking’ showed the dancer at home in and enjoying both styles. This piece had a political dimension, danced to Riz Ahmed’s ‘Where are you From?’. The dance movements were cheeky and joyful and spoke as eloquently as the words.
Yanaëlle Thiran’s ‘Surfaces’ was a purely contemporary work, the movements in the space and on the floor a pleasure to watch, with a soundscape that evoked the seashore and also, at one point, temple bells. The precision, clarity and expression of movement are to be applauded.
Anekha Pillai’s ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ looked ‘through the lens of a girl with ADHD’. The dancer travelled from disengagement to engagement with the audience, moving from angst to gentleness. The long abhinaya section could have been tighter and the piece worked best where the angika (bodily) expression and mime were used together.
In Anjana Bala’s ‘Loose Threads’, the dancer’s body responded to flamenco chill in Talvin Singh’s Remix of ‘Lo Mejor Pati - Chambo’. ‘Uncertainty… is… an invitation… an awakening’. This was an entrancing piece where the geometry of bharatanatyam contrasts with a spiral torso and fluid arms. In fact the musical interpretation is pure poetry especially where the lighting picks up the undulating arms. We would like to see more work from this dancer in the future.
Bethany Mitchell ‘Oh What a Night’ was a joyful and funny representation of how different kinds of people might react on a dance floor. Timing in with the lifting of the lockdown, the theme was well selected. With judicious editing and further character development it could be an even more engaging piece. The inebriated dancer is brilliantly done!
The final piece was ‘Surfaces’, a dance film by Yanaelle Thiran. The dance in a different medium, filmed in the landscape which was evoked in the earlier piece, provided an alternative feel at the close of the presentation.
The premiere was followed by a live Q & A with Smita Vadnerkar, Kamala Devam and the six dance artists in conversation with Producer, Director and Writer Ian Abbott.
Emerge was a ‘good watch’ for the viewers, and it also revealed the potential of these young artists, both for future audiences and the dancers themselves.
Supported by Arts Council England and Curve Theatre, Leicester.
The Emerge world premiere was presented in partnership with Manch UK
An opportunity to watch the live performance on 13 Nov 2021, part of the Nartan Festival, Curve, Leicester