Archita Kumar is a British-Asian Kathak dancer and musician who trained at The Bhavan in Kathak, Sitar and Hindustani Vocal. Archita now freelances as a dance performer, teacher and workshop leader, she has worked in a wide range of Akademi projects, most recently Dance Well and Paradiso. She is a session vocalist and composer and has started to commercially release her music, with her first two single releases receiving BBC radio airplay.
How did you first hear about Akademi?
It was a long time ago when I was a teenager learning Kathak at The Bhavan so not sure exactly how! I remember going to watch Coming of Age at that time, and remember thinking that Akademi is doing something quite important in the South Asian dance scene.
Describe your work in three words.
Classical, Musicality and Energetic
What was your first engagement with Akademi?
My first engagement was Waterscapes, I was 19 years old. I got a phone call from Mira Kaushik asking me to participate as she had seen me in the audition for Ekatra. The person who actually told me about the Ekatra audition was Kathak dancer and choreographer Anurekha Ghosh. I felt elated as this was the first time I was getting to work in a professional setting (I had never had to sign a contract before that!). Waterscapes introduced me to the world of South Asian dance outside of the Bhavan Centre. It was a real eye opener and a very exciting experience as I was getting to work with different dancers. I met dancers with whom I went on to work later on, and still do today.
Archita's artist development highlights with Akademi
Waterscapes, 2007: It was great fun and it brought me into the network of dancers many of whom I work with today and introduced me to professional practice.
"A huge learning curve where I started
to refine my technique in a very thorough way."
Ekatra, 2007: This project exposed me to a new dimension in Kathak which showed me the possibilities of doing it full time. It was a huge learning curve where I started to refine my technique in a very thorough way.
Bells, 2007-2012: Adapting Kathak to non-traditional music and learning how the process of collaboration works with artists from other mediums. During the Denmark tour, we had the opportunity to present Kathak with live music; this was the first time I worked with my peers to present Kathak in its traditional form to an outdoor audience. This is definitely one of my most memorable performances till date.
Daredevas, 2008: Really pushed my performativity and introduced me to choreographic practice. This was my first solo in a professional environment and the first time I designed/conceptualised a piece for myself (I had music specially created for me, and could choose my choreographer!). The experience taught me a lot about how to present myself as a soloist and gave me the confidence to be able to create my own work.
Sufi: Zen, 2010-present: As a cast member of Sufi Zen we work to blend Kathak technique with a more contemporary approach, working within a more thematic setting. It really pushed my body out of its comfort zone and made me more open minded to use Kathak outside of its usual framework. I am now better at being present and focused in an outdoor performance setting and, thus, I'm less scared of the public!
Paradiso, 2016: Learning a new technique with regular professional class and practice in a contemporary setting really improved my physical fitness and stamina. I have discovered new strengths that I didn’t think I had. I was also able to give choreographic input using my background in Kathak, Odissi and music which boosted my confidence and self-belief. It was a dream come true to able to participate in the work of a contemporary choreographer who's work I admire. It gave me the incentive and drive to push my body and mind to the limit!
"I have discovered new strengths that I didn’t think I had."