Where to find Indian classical dance in London – Darbar Voices

In the second installment of Darbar Voices, a four part blog series delving into the world of Indian dance in celebration of Darbar Festival, BBC’s Young Dancer and Birmingham-born kathak dancer Vidya Patel shares her top tips on where to experience Indian classical dance in London.

I’m a proud Brummie and have been lucky to be able to see a lot of Indian classical dance whilst growing up in the Midlands. My parents had a real interest in the artform and were keen for me and my sister to be exposed to it from a young age, so they frequently took us to see a range of performances.

There are a total of eight different styles of Indian classical dance: bharatanatyam, kathak, odissi, kuchipudi, kathakali, manipuri, mohiniyattam and sattriya. They have distinct aspects and elements to them which are beautiful to watch. You can expect to see a lot of bharatanatyam and kathak across the UK, however I’m happy to say that other styles are now more popularly performed and taught than they used to be.

I love seeing a variety of works of different genres and choreographers and London has been the best place for this as there is always a dance show you can go and watch, whatever the time of day. Indian classical dance isn’t always regularly presented, in comparison to other dance styles such as ballet, so when it is, you have to grasp the opportunity to see it and live it!

Sujata Banerjee Dance Company
During my late teens I started travelling to London a lot for classes with my Guruji – Sujata Banerjee, and conveniently saw whatever Indian classical dance shows the city offered if it coincided with my travels. I now regularly train with Sujata Banerjee Dance Company under the guidance of kathak guru Sujata Banerjee. They regularly hold classes and workshops for anyone interested in learning kathak as well as an annual Kathak Festival which invites national and international kathak artists to perform. You can find out more about classes and workshops here. #

Watch Vidya Patel performing a duet choreographed by Sujata Banerjee on the Sadler’s Wells stage at the BBC Young Dancer Final in 2015:

Akademi
Akademi is a London based organisation which promotes South Asian dance and introduces it to a wider audience. They regularly produce and create platforms for a variety of dance works throughout the year so I’d definitely recommend checking out their social media platforms to see what they have on.

Vidya Patel performing in Akademi’s production of The Troth, choreographed by Gary Clarke, which is touring the UK in autumn 2018

Alchemy Festival
Some of the most memorable Indian classical dance performances I’ve seen in the UK have been at Alchemy Festival which usually takes place during summertime at the Southbank Centre. I remember seeing the beautiful and awe-inspiring odissi ensemble company from India called Nrityagram and the internationally renowned kathak company, also from India, Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company. I never thought I’d be able to see them live so I’m so glad that they were programmed for audiences in the UK. I’m excited to see Aditi’s latest choreographic work for kathak dancer Gauri Diwakar in Adventures in Odissi and Kathak as part of this year’s Darbar Festival.

I have also seen some great Indian classical dance pieces by both international and UK based artists at the following venues, and would really recommend following them on social media:

• Sadler’s Wells
• Southbank Centre
• Bharati Vidya Bhavan
• The Nehru Centre
• Richmix
• Akademi

As well as keeping an eye on different venues, following various freelance artists, organisations and companies which are training in or promoting Indian classical dance is also a great way to keep track of performances.

Hear more from Vidya Patel by following @VidyaPatel96 on Twitter and _vidyapatel on Instagram.

Darbar Festival celebrates Indian classical dance at Sadler’s Wells from 23 – 25 Nov. Tickets are priced from £12. To book, call the ticket office on 020 7863 8000 or book online. See the full Darbar Festival programme here.

Lead image: Credit Helen Murray