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Behind the dance - Learning the moves for Kadamati

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Dance artist Katie Miller practices Akram Khan's choreography for Kadamati on a weekend away with fellow dancers and instructors.

The Story So Far

Kadamati is a project bringing together 500 young people, aged 12-26, in Scotland for a performance in The Palace of Holyrood House to celebrate the Year of Young People

Part of the 14:18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, it was choreographed by the legendary dance artist Akram Khan as a complementary piece to XENOS, his final solo performance that also appears at the International Festival this year. XENOS explores the trauma of war through the eyes of a sepoy, one of the millions of Indian soldiers who are largely forgotten in accounts of World War One in spite of their enormous contribution to the British war effort. 

"Kadamati" means clay in Bengali, which Khan explains here evokes our interconnectedness around the world and encourages us to reaffirm the vitality of ritual. Synchronised movement is one way of uniting our bodies and by extension ourselves.

Akram Khan in XENOS | Photo: Nicol Vizioli
Katie Miller

I am a Dance Artist from Glasgow working across the Central Belt as a teacher, choreographer, and performer. I was originally approached about being part of the project in February of this year and, having never been part of a project of this scale, I jumped at the opportunity. I am one of 9 dance artists whose job it is to go out into schools, dance schools, and community groups to engage young people in the project and deliver the choreography. 

We first got together as a project in April after a bit of a delay getting started due to the ‘Beast from the East’. We had a really inspiring training weekend where we worked on the choreography in a lot of detail while also gaining more of an insight into the project and our roles within it.  

Who are the team?

From Akram Khan Studios we worked with Mass Movement Director Jennifer Irons and Mass Rehearsal Director Jon Beney with support from Christine Maupetit, who is head of Legacy Projects.

The International Festival Creative Learning team have been working like mad to recruit the young people and support the artists involved, but they still managed to get up to join in our warm-up class and learn the Kadamati choreography. There were some impressive moves from Creative Learning Project Officer Neil Fox!  

It’s a real privilege to work with the other eight dance artists Jade Adamson, Vassia Bouchagiar, Ashley Jack, Emma Jayne Park, Carolina Ravaioli, Emma Smith, Pirita Tuisku, and Lucy May Wilson. Most of us have crossed paths at some points but as freelance artists it’s pretty rare to work in a team of this size. A bit of a dream team if you ask me! 

What did we get up to this weekend?

Last weekend we got together again to catch up with the rest of the team and learn about the logistics of getting 500 people in one place at one time doing the same thing (gulp!).

Jon led a warm-up class to get us moving and Jen played some ice-breaker games that we could use with our groups. I'm sure that when I go out to deliver workshops the young people will get as competitive and involved in the games as we all did!

We went back into the choreography, particularly a section of the work called ‘the turns’. It’s one of the trickiest moments in the dance but the satisfaction when you get it right is well worth it. I’m looking forward to taking on this challenge with the young people.

In the afternoon we were introduced to the wonderful world of charting. Each of us have been given a detailed chart of Holyrood Palace, drawn to scale including a specific position for each of the 500 dancers. It is this side of the project that I wasn’t quite expecting but it’s now clear that if we’re going to get 500 people dancing together in a public space, it needs to be organised with military precision. This is a different way of working than what I’m used to but, once I got my head around it, it was really interesting. I just can’t wait to see these charts come to life with the young people and the choreography in the space.

Kadamati | Photo: Kios Miah

On the Sunday morning we got back to work in the studio with the Edinburgh Marathon start line just outside the window and thousands of people lining up ready to run. Seeing a mass of people all moving together with the same goals really moved me and gave me a taste of what’s to come.

Seeing a mass of people all moving together with the same goals really moved me and gave me a taste of what’s to come.

What do I hope to get out of the project as an artist?

Working on Kadamati feels very important for me as a dance artist. The opportunities to grow within the work and learn from the rest of the team are more than I could have expected, and I’ve not even started delivering workshops yet. I am a young person at the start of my career and opportunities to be part of projects of this scale don’t come around too often, so I’m challenging myself to soak everything in and use all the resources and knowledge that Akram Khan studios, Edinburgh International Festival, and my colleagues have to offer.   

What happened next?

In June I delivered workshops to S3 pupils at Craigroyston Community High School, Indepen-dance in Glasgow, and, within my local community, Stellar Musical Theatre in Maryhill. I’ll be back soon with updates on how these went.  

by Katie Miller

You can watch Kadamati be performed by hundreds of dancers on the 22 August at 6.15pm outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This event is free and unticketed. More information is available here.

The groups participating in Kadamati include:

Broughton High School
Craigroyston Community High School
Creative Electric
Divas Dance Academy
Fizzy Dance
Great Feats
House of Jack
Ihayami Youth Collective
Indepen-dance Young 1'z
Larbert High School
Leith Academy
Macrobert Arts Centre
Performing Arts Studio Scotland
Shuffle Dance
Starting Pointe Ballet
Stellar Musical Theatre Company
Valerie Brown School of Dance and Drama
Waterfront Dance

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