High Kicks, an all-girls team, is among the only two Indian groups that will perform at the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival 2014 in Glasgow

Over the last year, British Council India’s initiative ‘Impulse’ created a first-of-its-kind dance season featuring the best of contemporary dance from all over the U.K. The companies toured a handful of cities in India. “Between the shows, there were several free workshops and interactive sessions with local dance companies,” Neha Jaiswar, senior arts manager, British Council says. It was during one of these sessions that city-based Aparna Nagesh decided to showcase her group’s (High Kicks) skills to visiting dance groups. The artistic director of the Scottish Dance Theatre was so impressed with the girls’ performance that he decided to recommend the group for a performance at the Commonwealth Wealth Youth Dance Festival to be held in the U.K. “There will be 11 dance companies from the U.K. and 11 from the rest of the world. Of the 11, two are from India and one of them is High Kicks,” Neha explains.

Opening up avenues

“High Kicks was formed in 2011 when I felt that for young women who wanted to perform ‘team’ dances (outside of traditional forms) there were very few avenues. They perform while they are in college as part of competitions and then drift away. Training for these women is often overlooked, and I saw a lot of potential and decided to put together an all-girls’ group,” says danseuse Aparna Nagesh who is at the helm of this group. “From school kids (a 16-year-old) to college goers and two women in their mid-20s, we are a good mix,” she says. “I decided to show our work to the Scottish Dance Theatre when they visited Chennai because I related the most to their work. Theirs was the kind of work I wanted to do. Impressed with our performance, the creative director of the group told us he would (and eventually did) put in a word for us with the organisers of the youth festival. We heard back after nearly six months from the dance festival organisers, asking for a video,” Aparna adds. The group prepared and perfected a piece and shot a video of the same with a professional and sent it across. “And then one day, there was an email with an acceptance letter,” she smiles.

“I studied dance in New York and understand the importance of watching other people perform and learning from them. I think this trip will give the youngsters in our group a chance to learn from world-class dance companies,” Aparna says. “Whenever all of us are free, we get together and rehearse. On holidays, we spend eight hours preparing for the show,” she adds.

Commitment vital

On the challenges of putting together a group such as this, Aparna adds, “Dance needs some amount of commitment. Even if not pursuing it full time, those who are a part of my group are the kind that thinks ‘dance will be a part of my life even if I have a job’. That’s important.”

The group of nine will perform to Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Minds Without Fear’ (originally performed by Imogen Heap and Vishal Dadlani) at the festival to be held between July 10 and 12, 2014.