Magdalen has practiced Bharatanatyam since childhood, and has trained at The Bhavan as well as with Mavin Khoo, Stella Subbiah and Leela Samson, among others. Magdalen obtained a first class BA from Cambridge and an M.Phil from Oxford and then worked as a freelance dancer, researcher and administrator. Returning to work after taking time out to raise her sons, she is currently studying for a PhD in Dance at Roehampton University, while pursuing work as a dancer and choreographer.
How did you first hear about Akademi?
Through a job advertisement in 1998 for an Education Officer.
Describe your work in three words.
Honest, well-crafted and passionate.
What was your first engagement with Akademi?
I first worked for Akademi as a part time Education Officer. The Place (where Akademi was based at the time) was a vibrant space to be based at and I enjoyed being surrounded by people in Akademi's office who spoke the same language about South Asian dance. I'm not sure I can remember my first engagement with Akademi as a dancer. It may have been Coming of Age in 2000 - though there were probably things before this. Coming of Age was an extraordinary experience. I was in the Bharatanatyam group and we worked really hard, trained by Mavin. It was a hot Summer and we would walk from Goodge Street where rehearsed to the South Bank in our sweaty practice saris.
"After a number of weeks of training
intensively every day, my body was
listening to me and I was dancing well."
The weather held, and we performed on two balmy summer evenings. With the music by Srikanth Sriram, the crowds, Keith Khan's (and Mira's) vision, the numbers and range of dancers involved - we felt that, as South Asian dancers, we had truly arrived in Britain - it felt fantastic. Even now as I describe it I can recall some of that excitement. I was very nervous, but also proud and thrilled to be sharing a performance space with Ram Gopal. I also felt good that after a number of weeks of training intensively every day, my body was listening to me and I was dancing well.
Magdalen’s artist development highlights with Akademi
Migrations, 2002: On this project I developed my skills in working with teenagers. It was an uplifting project, combining South Asian dance with movement vocabulary devised by young people.
Coming of Age, 2000: This project encouraged me to think about Bharatanatyam choreography in a different way.
Escapade, 2003: I worked closely for first time with a contemporary choreographer and dancer. This was an amazing opportunity to work with Henri Oguike.
I-Together, 2003: I improved my Bharatanatyam technique. A fantastic opportunity to work with Leela Samson, together with other excellent Bharatanatyam dancers.
DAREDEVAS, 2005: DAREDEVAS enabled me to choreograph my first 'full length' solo piece, Litany, which was subsequently included in Resolution! It was great to be given a chance to perform in this space, with all the admin, publicity etc. taken care of for me by Akademi.
CHOREOGATA, 2016: CHOREOGATA brought me back into the centre of the South Asian dance world after time out raising my kids. It enabled me to choreograph my first piece for a group and take risks. Very importantly this project allowed me to work with Gary Clarke, and subsequently Eva Recacha. Amazing opportunities!
"Akademi worked for me as a bridge
between the comfort zone of the dance
world I knew, and one that I largely
ignored and slightly feared."
Which of these has had the most impact and why?
I would actually be hard pushed to select one of these over the others. I am inclined to select CHOREOGATA - but I think that this is only because this is the project I am immersed in right now, and therefore it is having the most impact on me now. In fact I think all these experiences are important, including my time spent working at Akademi. As someone whose dance experience was primarily based either in very conservative Southern India (Madurai) or at the Bhavan, contemporary dance was a rather unknown entity - and I carried a vague suspicion that it might somehow ‘contaminate’ the technique and sanctity of my Bharatanatyam style. Akademi worked for me as a bridge between the comfort zone of the dance world I knew, and one that I largely ignored and slightly feared. In 1999 I completed my Arangetram at Bhavan. In 2003, I took up a One Year Certificate in Contemporary Dance at LCDS. This was thanks to training with Mavin, and working with Akademi.
Akademi is essential to South Asian Dance because while I am thrilled to see more South Asian artists working with non form specific dance agencies, there remains a crucial role for South Asian Dance organisations like Akademi in Britain to help create a bridge between the more traditional South Asian dance world and the British contemporary dance world, as described above, and vice versa - to educate the contemporary dance world about South Asian dance I hope that Akademi continues to raise awareness about the dance forms in schools and community groups, and thereby help grow audiences. It’s a safe space for South Asian dancers in which they can gain confidence before taking their place in the contemporary dance world.
"Think of Akademi as a greenhouse for seedlings - before they are 'planted out'."
Image credits (from top): Magdalen Gorringe (Simon Richardson), Coming of Age (Ali Zaidi, 2000) and If I could Reach Home (Simon Richardson, 2016)
Artist Development and Productions