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Spotlight on Naach Youth Dance Company

10th June 2010

Image of members of Naach - Photography by Sarra Whichloe

Back in autumn 2009, SB Dance was awarded funding through the South East Youth Dance Network (SEYDN) Hubs for a pilot project to set up a youth dance company specialising in Indian Dance in Cranleigh, Surrey.

This exciting development for dance provision in the area provides a South Asian dance class that is accessible to young people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Naach Youth Dance Company was set up to give young people the opportunity to learn Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form known for its dynamism, grace and purity.

The company is led by Sarra Whicheloe, a professional Bharatanatyam dancer. Sarra is also an Iyengar yoga instructor, which informs her understanding of movement and the dynamics of the body for dance. Sarra worked hard to recruit 11 – 14 year olds to join the company.

Sarra said “I wanted to give young people the opportunity to learn this dance form and experience its beauty, strength and expressive language. I was interested in how Bharatanatyam can evolve as a dance form when taught in a non-Asian context. It was interesting to see how the dancers developed without the Indian cultural, social or religious perspective of the style“.

The strength of the company lies in the commitment of the young dancers who are enthusiastic about learning Bharatanatyam and performing. The dancers attending the classes are all interested in learning and experiencing something new, like the Sanskrit names of the hand gestures. They are also involved in the promotion and development of the company, helping to make decisions on rehearsal venues and designing leaflets for performances.

Sarra said that the teaching method of her classes is more in line with contemporary dance practice, “I experimented with the use of space, and dynamics when teaching classical steps. I also encouraged the dancers to create their own steps as variations of the classical steps. One of the company members was autistic and it was encouraging to see her join in so well with the other dancers”.

Naach are preparing for a show in June where they hope to raise the profile of the company. Video clips of their creative work in rehearsals and the June performance will form a promotional DVD about the company. This will be made available on Youtube on Sarra Whicheloe’s Channel from July 2010.

Naach are performing at Celebrating Surrey, an outdoor festival in Loseley Park, near Guildford, on Saturday 26th June at midday in the dance tent. A Kathak group from Woking will also perform. This will be followed by a solo classical performance of Kathak and Bharatanatyam. To find out more about the event and book tickets, visit the Celebrating Surrey website.

To find out more about SB Dance, visit their website.

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