This has been a year of rewarding growth. So much has happened, so many dreams have come true, while others continue to follow me, waiting to unfold, at the right moment.
Perhaps a milestone this year has been the solo performance I gave for Dakshina, an evening of classical dance, produced by Akademi and presented at Richmix on April 20th. For Dakshina, I applied for and received, for the very first time, a grant from Arts Council of England. The funding allowed me to present my work accompanied by an excellent group of musicians without whom the performance would not have been the same.
Another key highlight of the year has been my involvement with the Odissi Ensemble. After having toured ‘Gods and Mortals’ (2016-17), we embarked in the creation of new work, which was choreographed by Katie Ryan and produced by Kadam. ‘Sacred Shapes’ rehearsals kept me quite busy throughout the year. We began in March with our first creative sessions; we continued in May with the development of the whole work and presented it at Imagine Luton Festival (June), Gateshead Masala Festival (July), Anand Arts Odissi Festival (August) in Bedford. The work was further developed into ‘Sacred Fires’ and presented for a very special show co-produced by Kadam and Walk The Plank for Manchester Diwali Mela (October). This performance was accompanied by exuberant fireworks.
Throughout the year, I was also involved in several community projects. From January to June I was Akademi Artist in Residence at West Middlesex Hospital. Here I delivered weekly sessions for patients and relatives, bringing some lightness to the everyday experience of illness.
Early in the year, I lead the project Taking Race Live, for which I facilitated weekly interdisciplinary labs with students at Kingston University. In these labs, I used methods of Applied Drama to explore everyday experiences of race and culture. I am now employing a similar methodology in one of the modules I teach at Kingston University, where students use principles of Indian and African dance to create a solo, that explores their stories of migration.
In September, I worked, again for Akademi, with a group of HIV positive people for a performance inspired by the exhibition ‘Splendours of the Subcontinent’ and presented at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, on September 17th.
This year I have also seen Bhumi Odissi Dance Academy, which I founded in 2017, grow with more courses and more students attending them. I have also continued to be involved, in the development of the Odissi syllabus, which will be eventually ratified by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance. The ISTD syllabus project has greatly and positively impacted on my personal development as a teacher, expanding and improving my practice. As part of this process, I have created special exercises, approaches, tasks, and a unique Bhumi methodology, that I plan to share in these coming years. I recently heard, in the movie Karate Kid that: ‘there are no bad students, only bad teachers’. This made me think how important is to be a good teacher, a model for my students, not only as a dancer, but, most importantly, as a human being.
As usual, 2018 has been a year rich of training opportunities. In April I travelled to Odisha, thanks to Milap Travelling Fellowship, and spent some time with my Guru Sujata Mohapatra. I also studied with her again in July in Crete. In August I had the privilege of learning from ever-so-inspiring Guru Madhavi Mudghal. In September, I attended the choreolabs by Rama Vaidyanath, organised by Akademi. These have arguably left a huge impact on me. I also attended a Festival of Dance and Poetry in Manchester, during which I had the opportunity to explore the relationship between movements, words, sounds and gestures. In November, I attended an abhinaya seminar by Mavin Khoo. November was actually a blessed month: I had my guru staying at my place and then I assisted her during her preparation for the Darbar Festival performance, presented on the 25th at Sadler’s Wells. This time, among many other things, I learned from her the importance of endurance: ‘do not stop until the work is done’, she told me. Easier to say than to do!
2018 has also been a year of creative collaborations. I had the privilege of working with poet Albert Pellicer, with whom I presented my first solo on poetry on 24th November at Richmix for KU Camarade. In October and November I was also busy with rehearsals and the performance alongside other members of the Odissi collective for Devonshire Square Diwali, presented by Akademi. Finally, I have joined a small group of Indian classical dancers and created a Collective with them. We want to start working together to develop a new methodology for creating new work, through collaboration and peer-mentoring. We have just submitted an ACE Grant for the Arts application and we are waiting to hear results in late January. If we are successful, we will present the results of our peer-based creative process on April 5th at The Bhavan. Save the date!
I am grateful to have been able to do what I like, and share it with like-minded people. I am lucky to be consistently supported by key organisations and individuals who, by believing in me, motivate me to continue to follow my dreams.