Hailing from the Midlands, the much-gifted dancer Aakash believes that every mundane task needs to be fulfilled with intention and meaning. From opening the door to picking up a glass, in his eyes, it is all the magic of choreography.
Setting the stage at Sadler’s Wells on fire with a dream-come-true performance, the artist conveys, “I knew no life before dance, my first memory is dance, I danced when I laughed, I danced when I cried, I danced when I was on my own or in front of a hundred people.”
Going down the memory lane, Aakash narrates that as a 3-year-old he used pennies to create formations that represented dancers on a stage. “Now when I look back, I realise I was choreographing.”
In conversation with the founder of the Aakash Odedra Company, iglobal takes the path of dance, which in the dancer’s own words is nothing more than “living, learning and loving”.
Dance is life
By attaining a cellular level connection to Indian classical dance, he voices, “it is my genetic translator. It speaks of what lives in me from my ancestors to the modern world around me.”
Classical Indian dance blends ancient mythology with today’s relevance. “It is my god”, says Aakash. “I have worshiped through it, with it and strived to become one with it.”
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Like a parent with two favourite children, he describes the two artforms: “Bharatnatyam uses south Indian text and is influenced by temple ritual while Kathak was influenced by the Mughal courts, so it has a combination of Islamic and Hindu ideology.”
Born to dance and knowing no life outside of it, Aakash brings into spotlight the testing times in the life of an artist. “There have been many highs and lows, but the key is to not be affected by either rather to stay constant zen and zero.”
By virtue of his gurus namely, Nilima Devi, Chitralekha Bolar, Chhaya, Shiamak Davar and Asha Joglekar, the shishya (student) dearly expresses: “When you set foot in front of an Indian dance guru your promise must be to submit yourself to them for life - which I did. It’s only by lowering your head that one will gain knowledge. The foundation is basic and simple but one that will never crack throughout your life.”
In pursuit of positivity, Aakash travelled to Mumbai where he began training at the renowned Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar’s institute not knowing that twenty years later he would be running Davar’s branches in the UK alongside his own company!
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While working on the film sets, Aakash recalls, “when Shiamak would get annoyed with us, he would shout ‘exit!’ and because we were on the film sets, the ‘exit’ would echo forever so it would become ‘exit exit exit …’. In my head I used to think ‘okay, I got the message, we don’t need to hear it 25 times’ but it was all in good spirits.”
Noted for having a great sense of humour, Aakash says, “there is not a single day when we didn’t laugh. No two days were ever the same in Shiamak’s presence.”
Food for thought
Speaking of his five-star performance at the Edinburgh International Festival, Aakash recites, “it has been an epic five-year struggle. For me, Samsara is beyond time, it brings the past, present and future into one time capsule that exists only in that moment.”
He further draws a portrayal: “With tons of sand falling on us throughout the performance we get transported as performers into a different galaxy.”
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To aspiring dancers, his wise words say: “Stay humble, your art is always greater than you, you are a student for life. I still feel 30 years later that I am at the early stages of my training.”
“Walk the first few steps in life then dance the next few and before you know it, you will reach your destination. Don’t be in a rush to run, enjoy each footprint you make in time because one day others may follow your footsteps.”
With a strong desire to share his world with his local community, Aakash shares, “my community means a lot to me. If I had the opportunity to create an arts village in Leicester that would be quite something. Dance changed my life and I have full faith it could change yours!”
*Info: Aakash Odedra