Our History

Akademi was founded by Tara Rajkumar in 1979 as Academy of Indian Dance. Under the leadership of a succession of dynamic directors – Tara Rajkumar, Bharati Kansara, John Chapman, Pushkala Gopal, Naseem Khan and now Mira Kaushik – Akademi has flourished. We are now a leading producer of South Asian dance in the UK.

Explore our journey through images from the archive:

1979-80

Tara Rajkumar founded The National Academy of Indian Dance, based at Commonwealth Institute and later October Gallery. Organisation gains status in 1980. Focus is on providing dance classes and running seminars. Early education work includes specially devised slideshow on Ramayana.

1982

Two conferences, The Contribution of Indian Dance to British Culture (1982), The Place of Indian Dance in British Culture (1983) at the Commonwealth Institute. Bharati Kansara and John Chapman and joint-directors of The Academy, now a touring company. Dance of Shiva at The Place. A season of Indian dance at the Purcell Room.

1982

The Academy of Indian Dance presented Nrittya Sammelan (Festival of India), a festival of Indian Dance and Music at the Commonwealth Institute.

1984-85

First national production, The Adventures of Mowgli, is the first major Indian ballet to receive Arts Council funding. The performance features a young Akram Khan as Mowgli. Pushkala Gopal and Naseem Khan become co-directors of the organisation in 1985.

1987

UK tour of The Return of Spring. The Academy moves to the London Contemporary Dance Trust (The Place).

Image credit: Adam Diley

1988

Mira Kaushik appointed director of The Academy. Organisational review leads to creation of education and community, dance training, and resources and information departments.

1990

Dance classes – from karthak to kathakali – on offer. Kal Ke Sitare, annual showcase of dance. Education and community project cover prisons to pensioners. Youth summer school for young people aged 15-25.

1993

Chipko, education project tackling environmental issues, is The Academy’s first theme-based education project tailored to National Curriculum. Study days for artists on stagecraft, lighting design, costume and make-up. Open forum on South Asian dance traditions on the move.

1994

Natya Yantra, conference on health and well-being of the dancer. River Journeys, cross disciplinary workshops exploring theme of rivers through dance, culminates at Southbank Centre when The Academy curates day of dance as part of Ballroom Blitz season. Day closes with public procession honouring the Thames.

1994

Ballroom Blitz day closes with public procession honouring the Thames.

1995

Students from South London schools perform in Samsara – The Circle of Life, dance-drama produced in association with Honiman Museum and Royal Ballet.

1996

Evening classes cease as organisation begins researching syllabi for kathak and bharata natyam. National audit of South Asian dance provision follows, includes Mantrana conferences – consultation sessions with South Asian dance providers. Masterclasses with visiting artists from India continue.

1998

The Academy of Indian Dance is re-named Akademi.

1999

ImprovisAsian, season of professional dance workshops with Western contemporary choreographers, at Southbank Centre.

2000

Akademi’s 21st anniversary celebrated with Coming of Age, large-scale site-specific production staged at Southbank Centre.

2001

Spirit Unleashed, multimedia performance for patients, staff and visitors at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. South Asian Dance Alliance (SADA) website launched.

2002

Shifting Footprints, major education and community performance at Stratford Circus, bring together Migrations, workshops exploring themes of exile and migration, and performing arts project Dance Connect.

2002

Symposium, South Asian Aesthetics Unwrapped! features renowned arts professionals, including Anish Kapoor, Talvin Singh and Shobana Jeyasingh, debating definitions of South Asian aesthetics at Royal Opera House.

2003

Escapade, Akademi’s second large-scale production, draws audiences of some 16,000 to Southbank Centre. I-Together, bharata natyam choreography lab with Leela Samson and performance at the Royal Opera House.

2004

Akademi transforms Somerset House into a 18th century Mughal Court with this Kathak production, Waterscapes. Photo credit: Richard Haughton

2004

Ekatra (“Together”) featuring Kumudini Lakhia and new generation of UK-based kathak dancers. Image credit: Franck Toto

2004

BA(Hons) degree programme with specialist training in South Asian dance launched at London Contemporary Dance School.

2004

No Man’s Land, seminar exploring definitions of South Asianness at Institute of Contemporary Arts. Designer: James Bates

2005

New generation of British artist present kathak, bharata natyam, odissi and South Asian martial arts at Purcell Room, Southbank Centre in Daredevas.

2005

One-day symposium, Negotiating Natyam, unites debate, performance and film in critical exploration of bharata natyam at Royal Opera House.

2005

Twenty Kathak, Bharatanatyam, ballet and modern dance artists present Sapnay-Dreams, commissioned for Trafalgar Square summer festival, City of Dreams. Image credit: Franck Toto

2007

Akademi collaborates with sculptor Naresh Kapuria and Belgian Theater Tol to create a theatrical spectacle at Trafalgar Square Festival. Photo credit: Pete Schiazza. Design: James Bates

2007

Specially created for Trafalger Square Festival, commissioned by the Mayor of London, Dreaming Now juxtaposes the lyricism of Kathak and ballet with the spirited dynamics of Bharatanatyam, modern dance and circus. Photo credit: Pete Schiazza

2009

Frame by Frame, a half day symposium, charts the history and evolution of the dance of Indian cinema. Photo credit: RJ Fernandez

2009

Initium at Queen’s Crescent Community Festival. A fusion of circus, South Asian and contemporary dance, Initium was a collaboration with MA students at University of the Arts London – London College of Fashion, with choreography by Gauri Sharma Tripathi.

2010

Sufi Zen premieres in Greenwich.

2011

Song of the City premieres at Southwark Playhouse featuring ballet, Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance.

2012

Commissioned by Arts in Parliament to mark the London 2012 Olympic Games, Maaya was the first South Asian dance work to be performed in Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament. Photo credit: Peter Schiazza

2015

Umrao Jaan, Akademi’s first fundraising gala in aid of its Learning and Participation work. Photo credit: Simon Richardson

2016

Akademi launches Dance Well, a Big Lottery funded three-year project focusing on improving health amongst older adults with the help of dance and movement.

2016

An international creative team comes together to create Paradiso: Man’s Enduring Search for Perfection. A work-in-progress showcase takes place at The British Library amidst Anthony Gormley’s sculpture Planets.

Our Archive

Akademi has a wealth of archival material on the organisation’s work and the history of South Asian dance in the UK, including footage, images, journals and reports.

If you would like to access these resources please contact the Akademi office on 0207 691 3210, or write to us on info@akademi.co.uk. Alternatively you can also visit the Victoria and Albert Museum where most of this information is stored in their archives, and is available on request. Further material is stored in the South Asian Diaspora Archives.

Our History

Akademi was founded by Tara Rajkumar in 1979 as Academy of Indian Dance. Under the leadership of a succession of dynamic directors – Tara Rajkumar, Bharati Kansara, John Chapman, Pushkala Gopal, Naseem Khan and now Mira Kaushik – Akademi has flourished. We are now a leading producer of South Asian dance in the UK.

Explore our journey through images from the archive:

1979-80

Tara Rajkumar founded The National Academy of Indian Dance, based at Commonwealth Institute and later October Gallery. Organisation gains status in 1980. Focus is on providing dance classes and running seminars. Early education work includes specially devised slideshow on Ramayana.

1982

Two conferences, The Contribution of Indian Dance to British Culture (1982), The Place of Indian Dance in British Culture (1983) at the Commonwealth Institute. Bharati Kansara and John Chapman and joint-directors of The Academy, now a touring company. Dance of Shiva at The Place. A season of Indian dance at the Purcell Room.

1982

The Academy of Indian Dance presented Nrittya Sammelan (Festival of India), a festival of Indian Dance and Music at the Commonwealth Institute.

1984-85

First national production, The Adventures of Mowgli, is the first major Indian ballet to receive Arts Council funding. The performance features a young Akram Khan as Mowgli. Pushkala Gopal and Naseem Khan become co-directors of the organisation in 1985.

1987

UK tour of The Return of Spring. The Academy moves to the London Contemporary Dance Trust (The Place).

Image credit: Adam Diley

1988

Our Archive

Akademi has a wealth of archival material on the organisation’s work and the history of South Asian dance in the UK, including footage, images, journals and reports.

If you would like to access these resources please contact the Akademi office on 0207 691 3210, or write to us on info@akademi.co.uk. Alternatively you can also visit the Victoria and Albert Museum where most of this information is stored in their archives, and is available on request. Further material is stored in the South Asian Diaspora Archives.