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Drawing from three narratives highlighting the bravery of women, Urja weaves together the intergenerational lived experiences of her grandmother and mother with her own in this emotional retelling.
Choreography: Urja Desai Thakore
Dancer: Urja Desai Thakore
Music: Alap Desai featuring Abha Desai, Urja Desai Thakore & Mahika Thakore
Dramaturg & Scriptwriter: Karthika Nair
Sharings: PDC Studios, Edgware, London
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A graceful and emotive dancer, Urja is renowned for her love of abhinaya, subtle movements and technical strength. Furthermore, her sensitive, thought-provoking choreographic style is highly regarded by both traditionalists and modernists alike. In 2007, Urja co-choreographed Akademi’s Bells for the Trafalgar Square Festival, an outdoor dance spectacle that brought together international talents from the UK, India and Belgium. She was also assistant choreographer to Kumudini Lakhia for the Swapnagata Festival curated by Akram Khan at Sadler’s Wells in 2009.
In 2012, Urja was appointed Artistic Director of the first dance festival in Milton Keynes. With the launch of the BBC Young Dancer competition in 2015, Urja was selected as the Guest Choreographer for the South Asian dance category soloist. Another major passion for Urja within her practice is teaching, something that she has become extensively experienced in over the past 20 years, and has supported her standing as an ISTD Committee Member. Furthermore, viewed as an active advocator and future industry leader for the dance sector, Urja was selected as one of 20 artists for the One Dance UK’s Mentoring Programme in 2015.
Lia Prentaki started her career as a dance practitioner, educator, choreographer, and performer. In a freelance capacity Lia has worked as a Project Manager, Producer and Creative Consultant with a varied portfolio of independent dance artists such as Kate Flatt OBE, Sivan Rubinstein, Zoi Dimitriou, Hannes Langolf, Subathra Subramaniam, Moxie Brawl, Leila MacMillan, Shane Shambhu, as well as Bloomsbury Festival.
From 2015 Lia has also been associate producer with NFA International Arts and Culture and have together with Nelson Fernandez delivered a variety of projects. In parallel Lia has worked at The Place since 2005, where she currently a producer; she is runs a complex portfolio of projects that span from theatre performances to Creative Europe co-operation projects with international Partners, co-creation projects with youth companies and specialised commissions.
Deva Challenging myths and expectations of the South Asian body in Indian classical dance, Thakore and Patel present the complexities of British Asian identity through a playful approach to classicism, connecting dance grammar and the everyday.
This production is designed to be performed outdoors.
Commissioned by stomping ground; fabric (Dancexchange and Dance 4), The Place London, Festival.Org and Tramway, presented by Pagrav Dance Company and supported through public funding by Arts Council England.
Duration: 30 minutes
Team: 4 Dancers, 1 Production Manager and 1 BSL Interpreter
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Rangmālā paintings illustrate a confluence of art, poetry and classical music from medieval India. In this work, Urja embodies the characteristic personification of these melodic modes though the portrayal of four distinct nayika. The music composition reflects a journey of maturity with an easing of tempo.
Music: Alap Desai featuring Abha Desai
Performances: Shakti: Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Aunusthan is an evening of classical work which takes the audience on a journey of abstracted relationships and powerful storytelling. The production was conceived with the intention of portraying the multi-faceted nature of kathak.
Featuring a cast of emerging dance artists who train with and are mentored by PDC, Aunusthan also showcases kathak’s bright future in the UK.
The evening can be tailored from a “menu” of pieces to suit the specificities of programmers and/or other interested parties. Specificities can include performance duration, the size of the cast, and whether live or recorded music is preferred as accompaniment.
Duration: max 1h 55mins
Performers: Up to 8 dancers (and 4 musicians if live music)
Kattam Katti transports you to Uttarayan, the world-famous kite-flying festival where millions of Indians from different cities, religions and social classes flock to Gujarat to mark the oncoming of spring. Tapping into the celebration’s competitive chaos, creativity and warm hues, a web of relationships is woven and tested. Through neo-classical drama, lyricism, and striking ensemble sequences, the cast of four dancers and four musicians illustrate the festival’s truly hierarchical nature.
Through the making of this work, PDC has been proud to support the development of an exciting new generation of British dancers, musicians and composers.
Commissioned by Sadler’s Wells. Funded by Arts Council England and Milton Keynes Council with partners MK Gallery, Creative Folkestone, University of Bedfordshire, Akademi, South East Dance, South Asian Arts-UK, and GemArts.
Duration: 55 minutes
Performers: 4 dancers and 4 musicians
Conceived to introduce the Indian classical dance forms, kathak and odissi, to school students in the Milton Keynes area through term-time workshops and summer intensives. This initiative led to regular, accessible classes in dance, vocal music, sitar and tabla.
Curation: Urja Desai Thakore
Supporters: MK Community Foundation
A showcase of dance from an array of disciplines presented by Jacksons Lane in partnership with Pagrav Dance Company.
Supporters: Jacksons Lane
Image Credit: Vipul Sangoi
The first official Festival Fringe for Milton Keynes offered 220 different opportunities for audiences to participate in performances, workshops or exhibitions. There were 30+ commissioned artists/arts organisations.
Further information here: mkfestivalfringe.com
As part of our 2017-18 residency at MK Gallery, Pagrav was delighted to present artist-choreographer Manuela Benini’s The Red Dress Project, an evolving performance-photography project portraying powerful provocations on gender, place and identity addressing human rights issues and our impact on the environment.
The collection has been touring internationally since 2006 and was showcased as part of the 2017 Darbar Festival at Sadler’s Wells.
At this exhibition, Manuela presented images from her work in India from the last three years with photographers Devansh Jhaveri and Mulchand K Dedhia. Alongside, the gifted santoor player Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla presented a special complementary performance. Combining musicality with complex rhythm, Kaviraj Singh is emerging as a celebrated talent of his generation.
Image Credit: Krishanu Thakore
Originally created in collaboration with Theatre Tol, the Belgian performing arts company known for its stylised street theatre, Bells brings together international kathak artists with spell-binding flying aerialists. Audience members are invited to join a dramatic wedding procession under the gaze of aerial fairies, building up to a celebratory kathak finale.
It was originally choreographed by the legendary Kumudini Lakhia, and then reworked by Amina Khayyam and Urja Desai Thakore, with an original music score by Atul Desai and Niraj Chag.
Bells was commissioned by Mayor of London to be performed at The Trafalgar Square Festival in 2007. Since then, Bells and its segments such as Ekatra have toured several prestigious venues such as the National Theatre and Showtime 2012 as part of the London 2012 Olympics celebrations.
Choreography: Amina Khayyam | Urja Desai Thakore | Theatre Tol | Kumudini Lakhia
Music: Niraj Chag | Atul Desai
Image Courtesy: Akademi
Expressing feelings of confinement, Lamha looks into confronting life’s obstacles.
Performed by Grand Finalist Vidya Patel as part of BBC Young Dancer 2015.
Choreography: Urja Desai Thakore
Dance: Vidya Patel
Music: Alap Desai
Performances: BBC Young Dancer 2015: Sadler’s Wells, London
Image Courtesy: BBC Young Dancer
A special commission produced by Akademi as a tribute to K. Asif’s 1960 Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam.
Costume design: Anuvi Desai
Performances: Private venues
Inspired by her renowned choreography, Urja dedicates this duet to her guru, Kumudini Lakhia, exploring dynamics between two individuals.
Performed by Grand Finalist Shyam Dattani and partner Ishira Shah as part of BBC Young Dancer 2017.
Dance: Ishira Shah | Shyam Dattani
Performances: BBC Young Dancer 2017: Sadler’s Wells, London
This powerful piece set on taal dhamar features virtuosic hallmarks of nritta such as chakkar, uthaan and paran in a demonstration of speed and control.
Performed by Grand Finalist Shyam Dattani as part of BBC Young Dancer 2017.
Dance: Shyam Dattani
Performances: BBC Young Dancer 2017: The Riverfront Theatre, Newport | Jaivant Patel Dance: Arena Theatre, Wolverton | Kala The Arts, Basingstoke
Image Credit: Simon Richardson
Literally meaning rising sun, Uday marks an ascent to new beginnings, work and challenges in this remarkable debut solo by Shyam Dattani.
Music: Praveen Prathapan | Kirpal Singh Panesar | Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla | Prathap Ramachandran | Hiren Chate
Performances: Artsdepot, London
Breaking Ground is based on Sonia Chandaria’s migration story – tracing her grandmother’s move from her motherland Gujarat, India, to the fertile lands of Kenya in the 1940s, culminating with Sonia’s own journey to the UK decades later.
Conception, production and dance: Sonia Chandaria, Sonia Lisa Dance Company
Music: Shammi Pithia
Performances: mac, Birmingham
This piece celebrates the timeless relationship of Radha and Krishna. Blossoming over four parts, the audience is taken through phases of their nuanced love.
This piece is very close to Urja’s heart as it was originally choreographed by her guru Kumudini Lakhia as a blessing for her move to the UK.
Choreography: Kumudini Lakhia
Dance: Urja Desai Thakore
Music: Atul Desai featuring Vaishali Trivedi
Performances: Nehru Centre, London | Nritta Festival: Mumbai, India | Madras Music Season, India | mac, Birmingham
A staging of youth dance cultivated in community settings showing a fresh approach to Indian classical dance.
Dance: Pagrav Youth
Performances: Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes | Watermans Arts Centre, London
Image Credit: Jagdeep Shah
A conceptual ensemble work accompanied by live music and poetry portraying a longing for change, renewal and light that manifests with the coming of spring.
Dance: Ashwini Kalsekar (R&D) | Archita Kumar | Aakash Odedra | Urja Desai Thakore
Music: Soumik Datta (R&D) | Tarun Jasani | Nicola Collarbone | Jataneel Banerjee | Hiren Chate
Lighting and set design: Jeremy Walker
Supporters: Arts Council England | Akademi (Associate Artist Scheme) | Milapfest | Milton Keynes Arts Association
Performances: Watermans Arts Centre, London | Artsdepot, London | Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead | The Chrysalis Theatre, Milton Keynes | Curve Theatre, Leicester | The Lowry, Manchester
Hats is an emotive solo portraying the journey of a woman traversing an array of roles and relationships to seek a sense of inner understanding and balance.
Choreography & dance: Urja Desai Thakore
Supporters: The Place’s Resolution! 2010 | MK Arts Gateway | South East Dance | Akademi | Arts Council England | Milapfest
Performances: Resolution! 2010: The Place, London | Kala The Arts, Basingstoke
Representing a constant shift, Flux encompasses the ever-changing nature of situations, associations and relationships.
Originally commissioned for Fuse Medway Festival 2010.
Choreography Urja Desai Thakore
Dance: Visha Tailor | Pranav Yagnik | Zena Kukreja | Sanjay Shetty | Parbati Chaudhury | Urja Desai Thakore
Music: Atul Desai; re-worked by Ed Alton
Supporters: Fuse Medway Festival
Performances: Fuse Medway Festival 2010 | Akademi’s YUVA: Clore Ballroom, London
I, WITHIN – ANANT/ENDLESS (DOUBLE BILL)
A complex solo work presented in the classical canon exploring the rhythmic patterns of kathak in relation to the endless, cyclical nature of taal.
Originally created for the UK Gharana Festival 2010 inspired by Urja’s ongoing artistic journey as a performer and choreographer.
Lighting and production manager: Stuart Lawson
Supporters: MK Community Foundation | South East Dance | Akademi | Arts Council England
Performances: Artsdepot, London | SAA-uk: SevenArts, Leeds | Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham | The Chrysalis Theatre, Milton Keynes | The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre, Taunton | Watermans Arts Centre, London | Rich Mix, London | Michaelis Theatre, Roehampton | Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes | Milapfest: Lowry, Manchester | Patidar Centre, London | Survarna Parva – 50 years of Kadamb: Ahmedabad, India
Image Credit: Bhargavi Nagrajan
A bold duet moving kathak vocabulary away from its conventional context. Through paradoxical reflection, two performers present as one, demonstrating the multidimensional nature of our identities. Avoiding the well-trodden path of traditional storytelling, the work explores the roles women play in modern society using abstract movement and naturalistic facial expressions.
Music: Manuela Benini (R&D) | Parbati Chaudhury | Archana Ballal | Urja Desai Thakore
Image Credit: Jagdeep Shah and Vipul Sangoi
Radiating flair and charm, Utsav is a series of stunning bandish weaving in and out of nritta and nritya over teental and ektaal.
Originally commissioned by Shapoorji Pallonji & Co for the company’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Delhi, India.
Dance: Tarjani Bhatt | Bun Kobayashi | Sonia Chandaria | Parbati Chaudhury | Urja Desai Thakore
Music: Alap Desai featuring Anwesha
Supporters: Shapoorji Pallonji & Co
Performances: Shapoorji Pallonji & Co since 1865: Delhi, India | Feast of Fire: Milton Keyne’s 50th anniversary celebrations
A site-specific piece portraying resolutions reached when tensions arise between individuals in testing circumstances.
Originally commissioned by Milton Keynes Arts Festival 2014.
Dance: Tabassum Vyas | Gundija Zandersona | Parbati Chaudhury
Music: Hiren Chate
Supporters: Milton Keynes Arts Gateway
Performances: Milton Keynes Arts Festival 2014: MK Gallery, Milton Keynes
Image courtesy: Milton Keynes Arts Festival
“When I let go of myself, I become what I might be” – Lao Tzo
Inspired by this quote, Urja looks into physical, mental and spiritual cleansing. This ensemble work however goes deeper and beyond the more typical challenges and cycles of addiction and purification.
Originally commissioned by Akademi for CHOEROGATA 2013, an initiative to support the creation of new contemporary South Asian dance choreography.
Dance: Parbati Chaudhury (R&D) | Effie Mcguire-Ward (R&D) | Anna-Lise Marie Hearne (R&D) | Archana Ballal (R&D) | Anna Simpson | Ellen Yilma | Julie Ann Minaai | Jodie Honeybourne | Saaya Takaoka | Lauren Wilson | Katie Cambridge
Rehearsal director: Katie Cambridge
Music: Hiren Chate (R&D) | Jatanil Banerjee with thanks to Rahul Bhatt
Lighting design: Anthony Doran | Chloe Kenward
Costume design: Ali Zee | Christine Wolverson
Supporters: Pavilion Dance South West | Akademi | South East Dance | Watermans Arts Centre | Kala Sangam | Kadam | Gem Arts
Performances: CHOREOGATA 2013: Purcell Room, London (R&D) | Rich Mix, London | Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes | The Drum, Birmingham | Artsdepot, London | mac, Birmingham | Pegasus Theatre, Oxford | MK Gallery, Milton Keynes
Based on Javerchand Meghani’s Gujarati translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Bengali poem Bojre Tomar Bajey Banshi, this thought-provoking piece contemplates life and death as two definitive yet intrinsically connected realms.
Originally commissioned by Kadam for the Between the lines – Rethinking Tagore for 21st Century festival 2014.
Music: Jatanil Banerjee, featuring an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Bojre Tomar Bajey Banshi
Supporters: Kadam Dance and Music
Performances: Between the lines – Rethinking Tagore for 21st Century festival 2014: Rich Mix, London
A short dance-theatre work where the protagonist finds solace in Kabir’s poetry while confronting the loss of a family matriarch. The narrative follows their questioning the significance of life’s pursuits, the purpose of celebration and mourning, and the existence of God.
Originally commissioned by Akademi for UTKARSH 2015, an initiative to support the creation of new Indian classical choreography.
Music: Ashit Desai featuring Kabir’s original poetry as translated by Rabindranath Tagore
Dramaturgy: Catherine Willmore
Supporters: Akademi in partnership with GemArts, Sampad, Kadam, CICD, South East Dance, Yorkshire Dance and Dance Umbrella
Performances: UTKARSH 2015: Southbank Centre, London | Mumbai
In this ensemble piece, Urja probes society’s decline in tolerance and the disconcerting consequences.
Originally commissioned by Dance West for Ignition Dance Festival 2017.
Dance: Shyam Dattani | Sonia Chandaria | Parbati Chaudhury | Urja Desai Thakore
Music: compiled by Anuj Thaker
Costume design: Urja Desai Thakore
Supporters: MK Gallery, Dance West
Performances: Ignition Dance Festival 2017: Rose Theatre, Kingston
Image Courtesy: Dance West
Continuum is a triptych of kathak and odissi drawing on Jaydeva’s Geetgovinda to represent a journey of duality to oneness. Beginning with a bandish, this first piece portrays sakhi in play and then the angst Radha experiences in Krishna’s absence. An asthapadi comprises the second part, where Krishna pleads with an embittered Radha to accept his love. In the finale, a duet stresses the tension evident in a dance between Maya – representing disillusion – and the Supreme.
Originally commissioned by Sujata Banerjee Dance Company for Hemantika Festival 2019.
Music, dance & choreography:
Aaj Sakhi Anand Chayo: Alap Desai featuring Anwesha: choreographed and performed by Urja Desai Thakore
Priye Charusheele: Raghunath Panigrahi featuring Manikuntala Bhaumik & Purnachandra Majhi: choreographed by Kelucharan Mohapatra; performed by Parvati Rajamani
Rang Pichkari: Kaushiki Chakraborty: choreographed and performed by Urja Desai Thakore & Parvati Rajamani
Supporters: Sujata Banerjee Dance Company
Performances: Hemantika Festival 2019: Artsdepot, London
Image Credit: Saloni Saraf
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