Dance Ihayami – The Studio

‘Inspire’ is the product of a series of workshops, offered by WHALE Arts in collaboration with Dance Ihayami, in celebration of different types of Indian dance. The project brought together children of a variety of ages and skill levels from the Wester Hailes area, uniting them in their desire to express themselves through dance. The programme featured eleven dances, most of which were choreographed by the young dancers themselves and included aspects of their own day to day lives, as well as more traditional aspects of Hindi culture.

Having never witnessed any style of Indian dancing before, I was transfixed by the complex interconnections between the music, costumes and choreography. Each performance was a real display of synergy between all elements of the dances. For example, the bells attached to dancers’ ankles were visually part of the costume but also created their own music, not to mention the rhythm kept by the stamping. It is impossible to distinguish whether the costumes, music, or dancing were the most beautiful, as they were combined in such a visual-audio harmony.

There was a mixture of solos, duets, and group performances, including one extremely brave young girl, who expertly commanded the audience’s attention in a striking solo. To see children from such a young age learning how to control and source power from their bodies through the medium of dance was certainly inspiring. In particular, the discipline from the older dancers was noteworthy, as they often achieved perfect synchronicity in what appeared to be rather challenging sequences.

Amidst the range of classical to Bollywood style dances, there was a delightful hybrid of Indian and Celtic culture, which incorporated bagpipes into traditional Indian music. The dance predominantly retained the four-facing-four format of a Scottish reel, but the steps themselves had distinct Indian influence seen in their rhythmic patterns. It was wonderful to see this fusion of cultures, which was evidently very meaningful to the dancers and the audience.

For me, the most heartwarming part of the evening was the genuine smiles shared between the dancers as they wove and rewove connections formed through the music. In those moments, they seemed totally absorbed in the rhythm and the flow of their movements. Considering the project was delivered through summer school and after-school sessions, the show was a great testament to the dedication, talent and sheer creativity of all those involved. In a room predominantly comprised of proud, doting parents, it was charming to enjoy the work of a group of young dancers to whom I previously had no connection.

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Georgia Turnbull

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