First introduced to Indian Classical dance at the young age of three by Chitralekha Bolar, at the Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham, 19-year-old Vidya Patel learnt Bharatnatyam, a Southern Indian dance. At the same time, she began learning Kathak, North Indian Classical dance from Anurekha Ghosh and then attended regular classes with Sonia Sabri in Birmingham. Little did she know however, her dancing would take her to new heights, recently performing at the final of the inaugural BBC Young Dancer competition.
“I was fascinated by the dance form and was curious to find out more about it, so continued going to class. Being a big fan of Bollywood I’ve always loved performing to my favourite Bollywood songs from a young age, and I think that’s really helped me get used to performing whether it was at a local event/mela or a just to my family at celebrations and occasions. I performed a lot with Diverse Dance Company, a Midlands based semi-classical creative dance group.”
There’s a huge range of artists who inspire Vidya, the list is endless, but includes her dance teacher Sujata Banerjee, who she describes as “a great inspiration, by being a strong, determined and a focused individual, always striving to improve herself and all those around her.” Vidya is also a huge fan of Akram Khan and has gone to watch nearly all of his performances.
“I love all dance in general. As a child I was encouraged to do Indian Classical dance by my parents as a way to keep me in touch with my roots and culture. So at the beginning I went along to classes, of course enjoying it a lot but with no idea that one day I would want to do it professionally. I began learning Bharatnatyam first which I very much enjoy watching today and appreciate the intricacy of the art form.“
“I really admire and appreciate the explosive nature of contemporary dance and I think that’s something I want to learn more about as well as keeping up my Kathak training in the future.”
“This year I’m currently on a gap year to train further in Kathak and explore the dance and different possibilities“ Vidya explains. “It was a lucky coincidence that the BBC Young Dancer had started this same year. My teacher Sujata Banerjee, and many others had encouraged me to apply, and so I thought I may as well give it a try knowing that it would be a brilliant experience whatever stage I got to.” This was one of her first solo performances, and she knew that she needed to make the most of this opportunity.
“BBC Young Dancer has been an incredible experience. Performing at such a prestigious stage of Sadler Wells will definitely act as a motivation for me to train harder and be more dedicated in order to perform there again. I remember the audience all applauding at the end of the Grand Finals when all the finalists, judges and myself we’re all stood together on stage – it was an overwhelming moment that I won’t ever forget. Being able to perform in front of the industry’s top professionals all at once still feels so unbelievable.”
Vidya aims to continue training in order to really understand her art form further. It’s undoubtedly a continuous, never ending journey that needs a lot of patience and perseverance. “I really want more people to be more excited by South Asian dance and encourage a lot more people to train in it and support it. In the future, I would love to be able to collaborate or be mentored by some of the working professionals who I look up to.” It’s very uncertain to what can happen and what the possibilities are for Vidya, but undoubtedly, exciting and successful times are ahead.
Photography Credits © BBC / Guy Levy