Seed Commissions

In response to the shutdown of all live performance, we asked artist to submit proposals for work with South Asian dance at its core, which explored interesting and innovative ways in which audiences could continue to enjoy this art form in a situation where communities could not come together to experience dance in the same way.

The recipients of our Seed Commissions took their project ideas in a number of different directions, with two of the films eventually being featured in Akademi’s first ever online dance-film festival in early 2021. Read more about the recipients and the themes they explored below.

Seed Commission Recipients 2020

Elena Catalano

The project Awakening explores how, by humanising trees through movement and dance, we can enhance our eco-somatic consciousness, that is the realisation of being part of a whole as well as in charge of it. Awakening, as a ritual of embodied listening and subtle communication with the natural world, provides a healing process for the individual, for the community and for the trees themselves, who become agents of energetic shifts, rather than simply passive objects or elements of a landscape.

The Seed Commission gave me the opportunity to explore new ways  of working with movement and challenged me to reimagine my practice outside of the studio and the traditional theatre. It helped me to initiate embodied research on a topic that is very important to me and that, I believe, will resonate with many. It allowed me to spend time exploring without the pressure of creating a finished product, which would have probably forced the project in a direction that was perhaps not its genuine intent.

Elena is an odissi artist and scholar, engaged in dance performance, teaching, choreography and academic research. Founder of Bhumi Dance Academy and core member of the Odissi Ensemble and ReRooted Dance Collective, Elena is committed to artistic excellence, as she is to community building and wellbeing through dance.

Kirsten Newell &
Oxana Banshikova

MaMa is a motherhood inspired dance film exploring themes of pregnancy and early motherhood. Combining Bharatanatyam dance vocabulary with a contemporary sensibility, Kirsten Newell and Oxana Banshikova explored, compared, and shared their personal journeys as mothers.

The Akademi Seed Commission had given us that final push to start working on MaMa. We felt supported and not rushed throughout development of this project. It allowed us to experiment and try different directions until we found what felt right. We enjoyed sharing our film and learned a lot by watching other projects and discussing with a likeminded circle of artists at the end.

Kirsten and Oxana are both Kalakshetra graduates living in Edinburgh where they teach, dance and create together through their dance company Cosmic Dance (founded by Oxana in Hong Kong in 2007). Merging years of performing and teaching experience, they are both passionate about bringing exciting, innovative and high-quality South Asian dance to Scotland.

Anusha Subramanyam

The project Karuna explores movement ideas with people who suffer with chronic pain. Mobility is one of the main challenges that they face, and therefore the aim was to bring movement for them and to explore how compassion and kindness can change how we view ourselves and make that as an offering to others.

The Seed Commission offered a fantastic possibility to do some R&D with chronic pain sufferers and to explore this idea with two collaborators: Dr Deborah Padfield, Senior Lecturer in Arts & Health Humanities at the Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education
St George’s, University of London, who has been pioneering the work of arts for people with chronic pain, and Vipul Sangoi, a well-known performance photographer, filmmaker, and communications designer. The challenging times meant we had to work virtually, which gave an opportunity to have three doctors and clinical medical practitioners and participants from India join in with local participants in the UK.

The sharing was a special moment to see other artists’ work and the way Akademi continues to develop and support diverse and amazing artists is very inspiring. Really grateful to be part of the commission.

Kesha Raithatha

Virtual Ghost lets you experience a digital projection injection of South Asian movement into the diaspora of local Leicester, which promises to amaze you with a never seen before experience of your space. Created by Kesha Raithatha & InkMilk – enduring collaborators who have now seized the challenge of turning unconventional and ignored public spaces into a stage by creating site specific work in a virtual space.

Kesha is a dancer and choreographer who embodies Kathak and Contemporary movement. She creates work that is rich in detail and experimentally reconsiders contemporary South Asian dance. Her curiousity and exposure to alternative movement training informs and invigorates her dance-making vocabulary. Kesha trains and freelances between India and the UK.

Meera Patel

Thanks to Akademi’s Seed Commission and with help from VocalEyes, I have had the opportunity to explore ways to make dance work rooted in kathak accessible to blind and partially sighted audiences. As we all adapt during these challenging times, I, like many have been thinking about all those things we miss about live dance performances; the physical connection to bodies and objects in the performance space, experiencing the physicality of performers’ bodies, extension of limbs relative to space, details in quality of movement, details in makeup and costume.

This challenge of connecting to what we see led me to consider how the arts are made accessible to blind and partially sighted individuals. There is a lack of access provision to live performances for this group of potential audience members. With a sudden increase in the volume of dance being streamed online, this has only been highlighted further.

Meera is a kathak dance artist. Previously training at CICD in Leicester, she now trains and teaches at Pagrav Dance Company (PDC). She performs regularly with PDC and as an independent artist. Meera’s recent work includes: performer in PDC’s ‘Kattam Katti’, performer in ‘Hanuman Tales’, choreographer/performer in ReRooted Dance Collective’s ‘Geometer’ and residency at Chisenhale Dance Space.

Krishna Zivraj-Nair

Akademi’s Seed Commission has enabled me to develop a new family dance piece Magical Honey, combining Bharatanatyam, Contemporary dance and illusion. The idea is to develop this piece by working with children in the studio to create new movement. In addition to the funding, I also received invaluable mentoring from Akademi’s director Suba Subramanian.

The Seed Commission came to me at a time when all other doors were closed due to Covid19. The seed commission has been instrumental in allowing me to develop as an artist, create new work and stay connected some amazing artists. I found the sharing very helpful because it gave me new ways to think of my work. This seed commission is also pivotal in securing further funding from the Arts Council, with which I will now be able to do the first proper R&D in the studio.

Artistic director of Sanskruti Cambridge. Winner of Akademi’s UTKARSH runner up in 2016, two ACE grants, One Dance Teaching Mentoring programme and ISTD Bursary Award. Formally trained as a research scientist with a PhD in Neuroscience, Krishna is also a stage 2 breast cancer survivor. With the experience of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and two surgeries in a span of 14 months, her new mantra is #LifeIsGood!