BBC Young Dancer Vidya Patel from dance award to dance company

BBC Young Dancer Finalist Vidya Patel (c) Simon Richardson

Vidya Patel’s journey reads a little like a modern day fairy tale – a young dancer enters a dance competition, becomes a finalist, finds herself dancing at Sadler’s Wells in London alongside world famous dancers and choreographers and then joins a renowned dance company.

Well this is the real life of 20 year old dancer Vidya Patel the BBC Young Dancer (South Asia) Finalist 2015, who after being a part of the competition was invited to join the Richard Alston Dance Company as a guest artist.

The Wonderful World of Dance spoke to Vidya ahead of her performance as part of Sadler’s Wells Sampled, an event that features a wide variety of dance, from classical ballet to hip hop, contemporary and tango, alongside workshops and events. She has an inspiring story to tell…

How did you get involved with the BBC Young Dancer Awards?

It was through family encouragement, social media, my dance teacher and dance contacts in Birmingham. My dance teacher Sujata Banerjee told me “it was an amazing opportunity. Just go in and do it.” It was the first time South Asian dance had been included in the Awards so I just decided to go for it and see what happens.

What does the BBC Young Dancer Finalist accolade mean to you?

It happened really fast – in December we had the auditions, then we had the category finals in March and then in May all of a sudden it was the finals.

The whole competition was just brilliant because it was a platform for people to see South Asian dance alongside contemporary dance, as it’s not typical to see all styles on one stage. I got a lot of support from Birmingham DanceXchange throughout the stages of the competition being a graduate from the Centre Advanced Training- Kathak Strand now called Yuva Gati.

Describe the Indian dance style Kathak?

The main aspects of Kathak is a lot of fast footwork rapid pirouettes and whirlwind movements. It’s a lot to do with mathematics and rhythms too which are sounded by the feet and accompanied by the ‘tabla’ drum. Kathak, the classical indian dance has a very rich and ancient history.

What does Kathak mean to you as a dancer?

I love the way that Kathak is the classical form but it still has that ability to be moulded into something else and to collaborate with other different dance styles. It’s also very flexible even though it’s a classical dance and I just love that you can play with it and do a lot of things with it and it has many, many aspects to it. I just love how emotive and expressive the whole form is.

Vidya Patel (c) Simon Richardson
Vidya Patel (c) Simon Richardson

Who are your greatest inspirations in the dance world? 

So many people, but firstly my teacher Sujata Banerjee because she’s so inspirational and giving as a teacher. She really helps and nurtures all her students.

There’s Akram Khan whose dance I really admire – I vividly remember watching Akram Khan in 2008 perform a really strong and inspirational piece with the National Ballet of China in Birmingham that remains with me. I recently went to watch ‘Until the Lions‘ which was an absolute masterpiece and left me wanting to watch it again. The list is endless as every performer I’ve watched has inspired me in some way or another.

Aditi Mangaldas is another Kathak practioner who I look up to. The power which she displays through her dance is so impressive and mesmerising. 

You’re performing at the Sadler’s Wells Sampled, are you looking forward to that?

I’m really excited because the whole line up of the programme has different styles and also great choreographers’ works. So just to be on the Sadler’s Wells stage again with all the other dancers and all the other choreographers is going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s also exciting because it attracts more audiences and to appreciate diverse dance styles all in one show . I’ll be performing one of my favourite pieces from the Grand Finals ‘Khoj’ performed with live music composed by Shammi Pithia.

You’re joining the Richard Alston Dance Company tell us about that…

This week has been the first week of rehearsals with the company and it’s been a whole new way of moving. What’s so great about the company and the choreography is that it’s very musical and it’s all based on the musical composers and I think there’s a similarity between the two styles. It’s challenging but positively challenging. I’m going to be performing in their world premier of An Italian in Madrid starting on 29 March at Sadler’s Wells, which is an exciting thought to be on stage with the company.

Vidya Patel_Photo by Simon Richardson

What drew you to the Richard Alston Dance Company?

Being part of the Centre of Advanced Training I was chosen to perform at the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of CAT held at St Martins in the Field. I remember the buzz that was created back stage when someone whispered “Oh, Richard Alston’s in the audience watching.”

I remember that time and now I’m able to work alongside the company and rehearse with them is quite surreal.  I remember seeing videos of them live and watching them live. It’s incredible to be in the company because the way they dance is so athletic, both the men and the women and it’s just really nice to see how Richard choreographs in the studio.

It’s a real privilege to be able to dance alongside the company dancers. it’s very educative being able to watch the dancers and how they work. I’ve never danced in a company before and this is one of the first times in an established company. I’m just finding out more and more new things and how they work and how different dancers dance. It’s fantastic. I’m getting to learn so much from this experience.

Vidya Patel (c) Simon Richardson
Vidya Patel (c) Simon Richardson

What do you find the most rewarding as a dancer?

The most rewarding thing is to be able every day to do something that you really enjoy and if someone, after watching your piece, takes something away from it, if they liked a certain move or a part of the choreography or the music, if they enjoyed the whole experience of it, I think that’s when it’s rewarding. Someone takes something personal away from each piece and that’s their experience of watching it.

You can see Vidya Patel in Sampled at Sadler’s Wells – you can learn more about Sampled here.

by Savannah Saunders