As well as raising awareness of Indian dance in the western world, the company has also collaborated with various artists from different art forms from film to Maori dance. In the past, they have worked with classical composer Ash Madni, the Antonine Quartet (supplied by McOpera), Russian music (with Koshka Gypsy and Jazz band) and Middle Eastern music (with Paragon Ensemble), Japanese Dojo drummers (with Mugenkyo) to just name a few.
Priya Shrikumar founded Dance Ihayami in 2003, with the aim of bringing Indian classical dance to Scotland in its purest form. Her vision for the company is to enrich the Scottish national repertoire of dance with outstanding, striking, high energy performances and tours, and with their education and outreach programme to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in Indian classical dance as audience, artists and participants.
She said: “Where they did take place, the performers were visiting artists from India, as there were no artists based in Scotland. Performances felt like a presentation of a tradition, rather than a dynamic, living art form.
“My vision was to create exciting work and to make Indian classical dance part of the mainstream Scottish dance landscape.”
Dance Ihayami builds audiences for their work through their performances, their tours, through the weekly classes they run in the Ihayami School and through the community engagement projects they work with vulnerable groups, and in primary and secondary schools around the country.
The company performs, Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, but now popular throughout India and around the world. It is a harmonious blend of expressions (Bhava), melody (Raga) and rhythm (Thala); Natyam meaning Dance. In Bharatanatyam, the dancer is the storyteller and the language is of rhythmic footwork, stylised hand gestures and facial expressions.
Priya says to learn Bharatanatyam well takes a very long time.
She explained: “Learning this dance form, and in fact any dance form, is a process, and a long one at that. It also depends on the person learning. I would say it takes at least 25 years before you become a beginner!
“It is a process and a growth that happens both on the inside and outside of the person. How deep the involvement is to this dance, depends on the dedication of the person learning. Dedication is so important, and you can’t force it on to someone. It must come from within, with total trust. It is an infinite mystery!”
Dance Ihayami will perform Silent Space tonight (15 November) at the Usual Place, Dumfries, and at A’ the Airts. Sanquhar, tomorrow evening. Both performances begin at 7.30pm. At the end of each performance will be a workshop where members of the audience can have a go at some of the elements in Silent Space.
Priya explained: “Silent Space is entertaining and, even if you are new to Indian classical dance, there is a lot to enjoy in terms of the intricate rhythms, the footwork, and how the dance changes when it is with music, without music, and interacting with live music.
“The workshop is an opportunity to have a go at elements you have seen in Silent Space. You learn a simple vocalisation of four syllables, and see how they can be transformed into a whole korvai, or sequence of movement. You learn to do this sequence of movement (a combination of footwork and hand gestures), and once you have mastered this, you try it to music also. The workshop is fun and lively, and can be done either seated or standing. Workshop participants get to meet the dancers, and can ask questions also.”