Akademi, Britain’s’s leading South Asian dance organisation, celebrates 40 years of innovation and diversity with a year of celebratory events in major London venues. The anniversary celebrations mark the final year of the directorship of Mira Kaushik OBE
2019 sees game-changing South Asian dance organisation Akademi marking its 40th anniversary with a series of celebratory events running from May 2019 to April 2020. Akademi embraces South Asian dance in all its forms – classical, contemporary, commercial and social – commissioning, creating and supporting it. Its work over the past 40 years is an expression of the UK’s increasingly diverse society. Now a truly British artform, South Asian dance is woven into the tapestry of our culture. Many artists who were presented by Akademi in the early days of their careers are now part of the cultural mainstream.
Founded by Tara Rajkumar, Akademi’s patrons and trustees have included Pandit Ravi Shankar, Dame Alicia Markova, Anish Kapoor and Anoushka Shankar. Over the years, it has presented hundreds of performances including large-scale productions at locations including the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, the Southbank Centre and more. Its recent dance theatre piece on World War I, The Troth, received international acclaim. For over three decades, Akademi has pioneered education and community projects, providing workshops for young people including those with special educational needs along with a health and wellbeing programme for older adults living with dementia and heart and lung diseases.
Akademi’s year of celebratory events includes performances, talks, workshops and competitions in some of the capital’s landmark venues. These have been envisioned by Akademi’s dynamic director Mira Kaushik OBE, working closely with producer Nina Head. November 2019 sees Kaushik’s departure after being at the helm for more than 30 transformative years, seeing it through the many changes in the cultural and political landscape in that time.
“I have had three decades of illuminating adventures in the world of dance in the UK,” said Mira. “My journey from being a cultural ambassador of South Asia to being at a place where South Asian dance is seen as an intrinsic and valued part of the British creative DNA is my greatest achievement. I am thrilled to have been a conduit for the UK’s thriving community of South Asian dancers, the majority of whom are based in London. There is still exciting work to do which will further professionalise the sector and I look forward to the next generation of leadership picking up the baton during this year’s celebratory anniversary programme.”
AUNUSTHAN by Pagrav Dance Company at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 13 June
Akademi celebrates 21 years of collaboration with its oldest partner, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, with a performance by vibrant Kathak ensemble, Pagrav Dance Company. Choreographed by artistic director Urja Desai Thakore, Aunusthan, meaning ‘celebration’, will be performed in the hospital’s atrium space for patients, staff and members of the public.
DANCE DIALOGUES: Glittering Tales – Dancing for Rajahs, Nawabs, and the men of the Raj at Asia House on 25 June
In a special curation by Chitra Sundaram, Akademi launches its Dance Dialogues series of talks with noted Bharatanatyam artist and Indian actor Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh making her London debut. Ganesh and Sundaram will explore the narratives, the women and the repertoire of Sadir Āttam, the command performance that was presented in darbars and salons for royalty, aristocracy and officers of The Raj from the 17th to the early 20th century. Sadir is considered by many as the historic precursor to the classical Indian dance style of Bharatanatyam.
Performances of SADIR: A SALON SOIREE in partnership with SAMA Arts on 28 & 30 June
Whilst in the UK, Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh will be performing Sadir: A Salon Soiree accompanied by live musicians, at two venues: Rhythm in the Landscape Festival at the Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge on 28 June, introduced by Dr Avanthi Meduri, and at the Woman in the Arts Festival at LSO St Luke’s, London on 30 June, introduced by Chitra Sundaram. The series is curated by Guest Director Chitra Sundaram.
DANCE DIALOGUES: Classical Indian dance and its relevance in a global contemporary context at Asia House on 12 July
Bharatanatyam artist and Indian actor Rukmini Vijayakumar will be in conversation with Vena Ramphal, Bharatanatyam dancer, scholar and media talking head. Vijayakumar will share her experience in creating and touring work that adheres to traditional vocabulary while experimenting with context and presentation. This pairing of two eminent women will be a fresh insight into a modern cultural India.
Rukmini Vijayakumar will be running repertoire and choreographic workshops at Dance Works, London on 13 and 14 July.
NAVADAL South Asian dance competition and NAVADAL Rising Stars curated by Vidya Patel at Southbank Centre on 20 July
Akademi is partnering with One Dance UK, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and Yuva Gati, the South Asian strand of the Centre for Advanced Training programme, run by DanceXchange and Sampad, to present NAVADAL at the National Youth Dance Festival, U.Dance 2019. NAVADAL, meaning ‘new shoots’, gives young British exponents of South Asian dance an opportunity to be recognised at an early stage in their career and find pathways into the dance sector.
In a special evening of dance curated by Vidya Patel, BBC Young Dancer 2015 finalist, Yuva Gati 2016 winner and star of Akademi’s The Troth, the winners of NAVADAL competition will get a chance to perform in the Purcell Room.
Akademi is also sponsoring a ‘Lifetime achievement in South Asian Dance’ award at the One Dance UK 2019 Awards.
UDAL Bharatanatyam performance by dancers from Chennai’s Kalakshetra Foundation at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on 9 September
UDAL is presented by Akademi together with Uyir, a group led by Bharathanatyam dancer Stella Uppal Subbiah. Formed in 2014, Uyir provides performance platforms for adults re-discovering Bharatanatyam. This performance will be followed by a workshop.
DESCENDANTS British South Asian female choreographers at Southbank Centre on 29 September
This is an evening of bold, topical and thought-provoking work from a range of celebrated female dance artists connected with Akademi over the past 40 years.
RUMINATION Akademi at 40 (1979-2019) at the V&A on 18 October
Akademi’s founder Tara Rajkumar and former director Pushkala Gopal host an event celebrating the four decades of Akademi’s work when they will hand over archive material from 2000 to 2019 to add to the V&A’s collection.
BROWN TANGLE a two-day festival at Rich Mix on 25 & 26 October
Guest director Shane Shambhu and guest curator Parbati Chaudhury have put together this first-of-a-kind festival which sees young British Asian arts practitioners take over Rich Mix with their fresh perspective on South Asia’s artistic legacy. Daytime sees intense ‘closed-door’ dialogues and workshops for artists looking at process, collaboration and integrating artistic disciplines. The evenings, open for audiences, include dance performances, eclectic cabarets (curated by Raheem Mir),, creative club nights, and an open stage for extempore spoken word.
SPARKPLUGS at Watermans Arts Centre on 1 November
An evening celebrating the work of the best and the brightest up-and-coming South Asian dance talent. British-based with international roots, these artists provide a fresh take on traditional Indian dance styles, showing a mix of bold and adventurous choreographies.
APOTHEOSIS at the British Museum on 15 November
Akademi and the British Museum host a special event where classical Indian dance is performed in response to the South Asian Collection on permanent display in the museum’s stunning Hotung Gallery.