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Indian dance company make début Welsh tour

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:35 UK time, Friday, 27 April 2012

An Indian dance company from Bangalore embark on their début tour of Wales next week as part of an ongoing artistic relationship with National Dance Company Wales.

Natya STEM Dance Kampni - STEM stands for Space Time Energy Movement - will visit Brecon, Swansea, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Wrexham on the tour, which begins on Monday 30 April.

Eight members of STEM are visiting Wales and will showcase two of their productions entitled Sanjog and Vajra, the latter of which combines martial arts, contemporary dance and Kathak, a classical Indian dance style.

Natya STEM Dance Kampni

Natya STEM Dance Kampni

NDCWales' relationship with STEM began in 2010, as choreographers from the two companies travelled on exchange trips to learn more about each other's work and to plan future collaborations.

This led to dancers from Wales visiting India for a tour in late November 2011, where they performed in Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi and also held dance masterclasses and discussions. Now NDCWales are hosting the return exchange.

I put a few questions to Roy Campbell-Moore, the co-founder and artistic associate of NDCWales, who has been heavily involved with STEM and has visited the company in India.

Can you explain a little about your involvement in bringing STEM to Wales, and developing the relationship between the two dance companies?

"I've been travelling to India since 1985 and have always wanted to develop links with artists there to share experiences and working practices. I was introduced to Madhu Nataraj, STEM's artistic director, through a friend and when the British Council offered travel grants in 2010 to go to India to open up collaborative opportunities, I jumped at the chance.

"We hit it off immediately both personally and artistically, as STEM follows the key philosophies of National Dance Company Wales in a passion for ideas in dance through artist-led projects. They also have a totality of vision that includes a wonderful range of work in the community in which they live, teaching and reaching out to young people in every way possible.

"Since 2010 we have had three Indian dancers come to Cardiff to study what we do and how we work and NDCWales has made three visits there, teaching, running a new summer school and in November doing a main company tour to Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi.

"In addition to their Wales tour, one of their dancers will come to Cardiff in September as a choreographer-in-residence working on a large youth arts project. Plans are already advanced for a second shared summer school in 2013 in Bangalore and we hope to return to India for a second tour in late 2013, performing in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore."

Will the relationship between the two companies remain ongoing, is it a long term project?

"Definitely. These relationships take years to develop and mature. Apart from the already mentioned projects over the next year or two, we are continually opening up several new contacts in India and I can see a wider network of relationships growing as time goes on. Somehow, the interest in new ideas and sharing them is just too exciting and I am sure many of our younger artists in particular will have their work transformed by these visits."

Can you explain a little more about the two productions, Vajra and Sanjog?

"Sanjog, the opening work of the evening, is an out and out display piece of choreography in the classical Kathak style that allows the dancers to show off their virtuosity of technique. It's a short but snappy and sharply edged piece of work that allows audiences to feel secure in the hands of a group of talented dancers.

"Vajra is a fully developed dance-theatre work that delves into the abstract concepts of diamond and lightning seen through an Indian dance aesthetic. With an extravagant use of martial arts techniques, contemporary and kathak dance, Vajra is a lovely work that is original and beautifully performed by six dancers of the company."

There seems to be a flourishing artistic union between Wales and India at the moment. Why do you think this is, and what can artists from the two countries gain from working with each other?

"Simple... it's called investment! If you invest in artists, then they get on with it and make things happen. It's also a sign that Wales is now reaching out to new borders with strategic funding in place to open up new connections and relationships with the long-term backing to make it meaningful. It's to everyone's benefit in both countries.

"India and Wales has much to learn from each other and to share: techniques, practices, beliefs and philosophies benefit everyone all round and the exchange of new ideas, whether cultural, scientific, personal and organisations are critical to a healthy state of mind and well-being. In the end it's up to the artists to make the gains meaningful, but that is the skill of the artist... we wait to see what they all come up with."

STEM dancers during a performance

STEM dancers during a performance

The tour, which is supported by Welsh Government, British Council and Wales Arts International, will visit:

For further information visit ndcwales.co.uk.

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