Following on from her blog about learning Akram Khan's choreography, dance artist Katie Miller shares her stories about helping groups of young people add their own unique touch to the dance piece Kadamati.
With the Edinburgh International Festival fully underway, and Kadamationly one week away, preparations for the show are starting to come together and the dancers have been working hard to perfect the choreography for the performance on the 22 August.
Over the last couple of months, myself and the other eight dance artists have been working with different groups of young dancers in Edinburgh and the rest of the central belt, teaching them the choreography of Kadamati by Akram Khan. Kadamati is such an exciting project to be a part of because each group of young people is so different. I’ve learned a lot from the Akram Khan Studios team, the other dance artists that I have been teaching alongside, and especially from the young people that we have been working with. Each group has their own way of working and a usual style of dance. Our challenge has been to ask ourselves: "How can we teach them the choreography without losing the personality of the group?"
At Craigroyston High School in Edinburgh, where I have been working with the S3 dance class, Kadmati is many pupils' first experience of dance. So, as well trying to engage them in this piece of work it is also a challenge to engage them in dance in general. During one rehearsal, one of the participants said, "I only chose this class so I don’t have to do P.E.". A fair comment and when I was in school I would also do anything to get out of P.E. class, but I’m sure that taking part in Kadamati is probably quite a fulfilling way to skive your least favourite school subject. It's grounding to hear things like this and realise that everyone has very different reasons for taking part in this project and it’s our job as dance artists to make sure that all the young people get a meaningful experience from Kadamati, whatever their motive - no pressure! The group at Craigroyston have really pushed themselves to learn quite complicated choreography and I can’t wait to see them perform for the first time at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Not a bad venue for your first ever performance.
Another group I’ve been working with are Diva's Dance Academy in Maryhill, Glasgow. Diva's class takes place in The Maryhill Hub right in the middle of the Wyndford Estate in a diner with the tables and chairs pushed back. This group are experienced dancers but usually compete in Freestyle and Disco Dance. At the beginning there was almost a language barrier when trying to communicate contemporary dance to them. When we asked what they first thought of Kadamati, they said 'it was heavy weird'. I'd probably say the same if someone walked into my contemporary class and started to teach disco dancing, so we had the challenge of trying to meet somewhere in the middle, so we could make the choreography work for them.
With this group I have been working with Pirita Tuisku, a dance artist from Finland who teaches lots of different dance styles, from Ballet to Hip Hop, and Pirita has delivered some very physical Reggaeton warm ups, sneaking in some of the movements from the piece. As soon as you change the music and context of some of the choreography it’s no longer 'contemporary dance' but just movement, and movement is what we’ve all got in common. Last week we did a full run through of the choreography for the first time and they gave me goosebumps!
Seeing these dancers perform Kadamati with the energy they apply to their acrobatic disco dancing made the piece feel completely different and really put the Diva's Dance Academy stamp on it. This group of bubbly teenage girls are getting to experience something totally new through Kadamati, performing far away from home, and I think this experience will stay with them for longer than they know.
The beauty of Kadamati is that whoever is dancing it, and whatever their experience is, they can always find their own way into it to make it exciting for them. My favourite rehearsal moments are when I see a young person get totally lost in the movement, even for just a split second. That’s when I really feel like I'm doing my job.
The next couple of weeks will be spent finishing off rehearsals with some groups and revisiting others for a refresher before the mass performance when everyone comes together for the first time. I can’t wait - bring it on!
by Katie Miller
Commissioned by 14–18 NOW: WWI Centenary Art Commissions. 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.