Swati Youth Dance Members Netra Takwale, Vaidehi Raut, Annie Simon, Nikita Bhakta, Neha Jeyam, Tara Jeyam, Aishwarya Rana and SDC Artistic Director Dr Swati Raut with Arlene Philips OBE, Patron of Youth Dance England
After having the chance to perform at The Lowry for the U.Dance regional platform, finding out that we had been selected to represent the North West at U.Dance England truly was the cherry on top of an already glorious cake! Around a month after the initial performance we received an email congratulating us and inviting us to perform at the festival. Given the high standard of youth dance work happening in the North West we were all extremely excited to be given this opportunity.
In the final rehearsals we worked tremendously hard practising the piece. Reading Aleksandra Svalova, a National Youth Dance Ambassador’s, review of ‘Kinkini’ and seeing that one of the reasons our piece was chosen was because of the intricate movements signature of Bhartanatyam, made us all the more determined to make sure that our technique was spot on.
The festival weekend itself couldn’t have come fast enough; we had worked together on the piece for months, waiting excitedly for our moment to perform. For me the weekend will always be doubly memorable as my university graduation was on the opening day. Running from one place to the other in a pair of heels and pencil skirt, from my graduation ceremony to rehearsals on the other side of London, made the first day of the festival pretty chaotic, (the rain definitely did not help)!
However, arriving at the Southbank Centre the next day, seeing the early morning sun glistening over the river is an image I shall never forget. It just so perfectly fit the mood of the day. The chaos was over, the running around was over, today was our day and nothing else seemed to matter anymore.
Dancing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall was such a wonderful experience. From the lighting that had been written so wonderfully for our piece, enhancing each movement and formation that we created on stage, to the thought of all the magnificent dancers that had previously performed where we were now standing.
I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to address the audience on the opening night of the festival alongside Arlene Phillips. Waiting backstage in the green room, practising the few lines that I had written to say, butterflies started to creep into my stomach. A feeling that no amount of breathing exercises seemed to get rid of. However after walking on stage with the lights right on me, all that fear went away and more than anything I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. I had been given the chance to be an ambassador of Fire – Swati Youth Dance, of Bharatanatyam and of Indian Classical Dance.
Dancing on stage as a part of a youth group was a totally different experience to performing a solo. As much as I love dancing on my own, the feeling of togetherness and achievement that I felt when our group danced together is totally unparalleled. Watching the other girls perform their sections of the piece so beautifully as I waited for my parts I almost wanted to start applauding right there. I could see clearly how much everyone had grown through the experience, from the first rehearsal to this wonderful climax. How each dancer had improved thoroughly and how as a group we had evolved.
During the rest of the festival we were able to experience a number of different dance styles through technique and choreography workshops. I took part in a Ghanian dance workshop on the Saturday morning. I absolutely loved taking part in this workshop as it was so different to anything I had done before. The artist leading the workshop, Kwashie Kuwor, gave us a fabulous insight into the movement vocabulary and the background and traditions from which the dance form was conceived. After training so hard to keep my hips square I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move in the way necessary for Ghanian dance and so will be sticking with Bharatanatyam!
In another one of the workshops, we explored choreography with a contemporary artist. One of the main goals of the workshop was to explore movements evoking feelings without using our faces at all, something that I found particularly difficult as an expressive face is so important when delivering abhinaya. The workshop was enlightening as it made everyone think about other ways in which expression can be created and how we can potentially enhance our abhinaya using movement.
Participating in the U Dance 2012 festival has been an amazing experience. It gave our group the opportunity to showcase our work and see what other youth dance work happens across the country. We all had a fantastic time and hope we get the chance to go back very soon!