Dance Ihayami will be presenting an exciting repertoire of classical Indian dance performed to contemporary Indian music and Celtic music. Online, you can see the Full programme of the concert. In the meantime, here's an article I did a few years ago...
Artistic director Priya Shrikumar created the company "to enrich the Scottish national repetoire of dance". With a professional company touring the country and making waves at the Edinburgh Fringe, Shrikumar's mission has taken classical Indian dance beyond the confines of "world dance", entertaining and inspiring, experimenting and refining, and offering a disciplined and elegant alternative to the dominance of western forms.
Marrying The Contemporary and The Classical
Their recent programme, Defined, demonstrated how the traditions of classical dance can explore multi-culturalism. Alongside pieces that looked back to the religious, Hindu origins of Kucchupudi and Bharatanatyam dance by celebrating the diversity of gods and myths, two works explicitly took inspiration from celtic music while a third used a contemporary Indian soundtrack. This eclecticism banishes the idea that Ihayami are merely classicists, although the skill and technique of every dancer declared the importance of the form's rigorous training. Whether in solos or in group tableaux, the company exhibited a strength in depth and a precision that could awe a balletomane.
Since 2005, Ihayami's choreography has been inspired by the presence of Jayachandra Kumar, an accomplished dancer and composer, who has often had work commissioned by Indian television. Working in both dance, music and martial arts, his rendition of Dashavathara Tharangam, performed on the edge of a brass plate in tribute to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, reveals a dexterity beyond the usual tricks and flourishes of much dance. As many choreographers are intent on "studying masculinity", Kumar's nuance and precision offers another take on male dance, one often excluded from the grand-slams of contemporary experimentation.
Most of Defined took traditional dances – from the ritualistic opening dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant headed god of beginnings to the final bow. Ihayami is nourished by the past, but it is in the more restless, experimental works that their importance is revealed. A recent appearance at Off Kilter, a national celebration of Scottish dance, saw them in tartan saris, while the piece Celtic Feet looks at the similarities between Scottish dance and Indian. If the synthesis is not yet perfect – the music is overwhelming Scottish, and the dance Indian, it suggests ways in which multi-culturalism can be examined through dance. Scotish performers dancing Bharatanatyam style to Scottish music evoke the conflicting and harmonising aspects of two cultures that are learning to respect each other.
The Bharatanyam movement vocabulary includes the stamp of flamenco and the subtle sign language that parallels classical ballet, even as it is more thoroughly integrated with the choreography – where ballet pauses to mime the story, Bharatanyam dancers use this language as they dance. With a rich heritage of myths to draw upon, and a relentless pace, each piece is a short, powerful blast. Despite the sophitication of the movement, it is not difficult to follow: the story is clearly told and the hand gestures are almost universal.
Coming in from The Fringe
Performing at Dance Base, Edinburgh's centre for dance, during the 2008 Fringe, has seen Ihayami reach the dance community, and set their work alongside other forms. Less of a curiosity than a vital component of Scottish dance's vibrant scene, they have sought out other venues, toured the country and offer classes throughout the year for all levels. While Ihayami have the glamour and force of Bollywood's now popular style – much of the Bollywood movement comes from this classical tradition – they are moving towards the complex and exciting area of contemporary dance, celebrating the past while imagining the future.
Date: Saturday, 24 March 2012
Time: 6:30pm – 10:15pm (Doors open 5:45pm)
Venue: St John’s Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ
Tickets: £14 (£12 concessions)Booking: Tickets Scotland Ltd,