An opportunity to network with the Indian Dance Fraternity from the Northern Hemisphere 

By Aravinth Kumarasamy 

For the past two decades and more, I have been attending the Natya Kala Conference in Chennai, and a few other such international dance conferences in India and Singapore, in addition to the many ASEAN conferences in Thailand, Indonesia, Canbodia and Vietnam. It was a different experience to attend an Indian dance conference organised by a diaspora community in a western city – Birmingham, UK.

The UK hosted a high-profile summit dedicated to Asian dance in May 2016, as one of the largest gatherings of artists, organisations, pundits, policymakers, funders and fans of dance from around the world gathered under one roof for Navadisha 2016. Produced by New Dimensions Arts Management in partnership with Sampad, Navadisha 2016 (meaning ‘new directions’ in Sanskrit) posed crucial questions designed to stimulate, steer and secure the future of British Asian dance as part of the UK’s ever growing dance landscape. It also celebrated many of the breakthrough achievements and exciting developments in and around the sector during the fifteen years since Sampad’s seminal conference Navadisha 2000, which helped to blaze a trail for a new generation of dancers and practitioners, sparking pivotal insights and actions across a variety of fronts, from artistic to organisational and political to structural.

Navadisha 2016 attracted a line-up of 65 speakers, presenters and panellists from 25 cities in 12 countries and more than 150 registered delegates. It was a rare and valuable opportunity for dance practitioners, teachers, students, academics, agencies, programmers, venues, promoters, investors and policymakers across the arts sector. The three day programme covered a range of topics – from artist development to international collaboration, and contemporary factors that were shaping South Asian dance creation and distribution. It also highlighted models of excellence and innovation, and explored new ways of working. 

I was invited as guest presenter at the conference and had the opportunity to share about the work we have done inspired by South East Asian narratives. Apsaras Arts had an exhibition booth which attracted many delegates to come over and learn more about the Bharatanatyam based ensemble productions of Apsaras Arts Dance Company, Singapore. It was a great opportunity to network and meet up with many dance personalities from UK, Europe and USA in Birmingham.  

Though many of the presentations were UK centric and being practitioner of Indian classical dance based in Asia (Singapore), it was interesting to learn the term “South Asian Dance” being widely used at the conference by most speakers. It was also an eye-opener to see some of the contemporary works being experimented by UK based Indian dancers. The key-note speakers Shobhana Jayasingh, Akram Khan and Mavin Khoo raised a few thought provoking questions. Please see following links to read these keynote speeches presented at the conference 

Shobhana Jayasingh and Akram Khan

I would say it was one of the most memorable dance conferences I have attended and many follow up conversations and collaborations were created at this event for Apsaras Arts.

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BLK D Goodman Arts Centre

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