Each issue, Great Central will introduce to you a local Leicester talent who is achieving the extraordinary, either here in the city or on the international circuit. For the first in the series, Emma Hope-Newitt caught up with Leicester’s Golden Boy Aakash Odedra to talk about what his next move will be.

In Leicester we have artists who have grown up in the city and remained passionate about it despite their professional career and work taking them further afield. One of those is choreographer and artistic director Aakash Odedra.

Aakash trained in the classical Indian dance styles of Kathak and Bharat Natyam under Nilima Devi, a Kathak pioneer herself. Aakash now fuses these with contemporary techniques and influences, choreographing and artistically directing pieces under the Aakash Odedra Company. These contemporary influences are evident in his latest production #JeSuis that will be at Curve from 28 – 30 August. The piece is based on real stories from dancers based in Turkey, exploring themes of displacement and the meaning of “home” when your homeland doesn’t feel safe to you anymore. It’s a first-hand experience and perspective of suffocation.

Relevant and modernistic #JeSuis explores the realities of basic human rights being abused by those in power, those who were given the responsibility of care. “#JeSuis means I am, and what we are trying to say is if you are harmed I am also harmed.” The piece also draws on the ideas that we are fed by the media. Aakash explains that he wishes to give his audiences a sense of “realism and honesty” rather than the story of Turkey given by exploitative media. Undoubtedly this will happen when the dancers speak the language of their home environment and translate their painful stories through movement.

For Aakash, his home city of Leicester very much remains at the core of what is important to him and he always to presents his new works to his local audience in the city. “Leicester is a place where I can feel comfortable showing work that will go out into the world” and having the opportunity for his work to have a place where constructive feedback is enabled is essential. It’s not just about the critical feedback that makes Aakash present his work here though, he believes the “people of my city should be the first to see the work of the person they have invested in”.

#JeSuis (In Progress) is at Curve as part of Journeys Festival International, a festival that celebrates the artistic talents of refugees and asylum seekers. This is ahead of the performance’s international premiere in Abu Dhabi in 2018, before it returns to the UK for a national run at Sadler’s Wells. And yet, through all of this exciting development, Leicester remains nostalgic to Nostalgic to Aakash and, he is constantly inspired by the diversity that put the city on the map. It’s these foundations of the city that still intrigue him and make him extremely proud to play an active role in its continuing its vibrant legacy.

Aakash Odedrea’s #JeSuis was performed at the Curve between Mon 28-Wed 30th Aug at the Curve Theatre as part of the Journeys Festival International.

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