Nimble feet moving to classical eastern rhythms and rhymes

Youngsters taught Indian dance by Shrikant Subramaniam in Hebden Bridge
Youngsters taught Indian dance by Shrikant Subramaniam in Hebden Bridge

A poetic expression of life’s variegated moods, dance, along with poetry and acting, is an art form that has been revered for centuries and passed on through generations.

It is an art of communicating with gestures, rather than speech. While each region has its own unique dance form, the south Indian classical dance of Bharatanatyam is renowned for its evocative facial expressions, eloquent gestures and fluid movements.

More than 20 years of performing Bharatanatyam (and several more years of learning it religiously) has not dulled the enthusiasm from Shrikant Subramaniam’s eyes as they brighten up considerably at its mere mention. And he loves the surrounding he is teaching it in.

“What a great place is the Calderdale Yoga centre in Hebden Bridge where I completely enjoy teaching this classical dance form to young children whose eyes equally sparkle when they hear the sounds of Indian dance rhythms!

“When one of the parents approached me to teach Classical Indian dance in Hebden Bridge I felt completely blessed and extremely positive.

“Hebden Bridge is always seen as a place and a space for ‘alternative culture.’ I sense my world through the lens of movement and I feel very fortunate to impart my knowledge in classical dance vocabulary to young children. The element of story telling in Classical Indian dance has a powerful impact on children’s imagination and the vocabulary of movements and gestures, the rhythms of the melody and the tongue twisting mneomics transport the children into a magical world,” he said.

Shrikant said his sessions strove to achieve that aesthetic harmony of that ‘other’ world in the dance classes.

“The girls not just learn the technique of classical Indian dance but different elements such as costumes, food and faiths from the Indian culture. A weekly dose of Indian words such as ‘Namaste’ and ‘Dhanyavad’ bring a lot of positivity in their thoughts and joy in their hearts.

“The class is also about having fun through movement games, movement quizzes which centre around yoga postures and dance movements. The fundamental priority in this class is integration through varigated cultural forces,” he said.

A background in south Asian dance studies and Anthropology from Roehampton and several years of training in the art-form, performances across the Indian sub-continent, USA, Hong Kong and Australia have now given way to include workshops, movement therapy, community education work, classical work, collaborations with theatre and interactive training.

This has led Shrikant to work very closely with the artistic director Dr Geetha Upadhyaya at Kala Sangam, a South Asian arts organisation in Bradford.

Working as the artistic associate for dance at KalaSangam has enriched Shrikant’s personal growth as a performer and as a teacher. And very recently the students performed at the Bradford Cathedral as a part of a much bigger dance theatre project called the ‘The Loom of Love’.

Sue Oxley, the lead parent who is in-charge of the administration of these classes says: “Indian dance classes at the Yoga centre is fun, creative and lively.”

And Andrew Beck feels that the class teaches his daugther Mahni a lot about her Indian roots.

Shrikant says: “Dance facilitates expressiveness and development for such childen. Bharatnatyam isn’t purely a form of movement; it teaches us what it means to be a dancer, a person of integrity, a person who connects beyond.

“I urge my students to find their happiness in their dance. At the end of every session it becomes their dance. I would earnestly hope that my students receive here this gift of dancing with great respect to enrich their lives as they step forward with their nimble feet to set out a bright future beyond their horizons.”

KalaSangam runs regular classes in Indian Classical dance on a Wednesday between 4pm and 6pm at the Calderdale Yoga Centre.