Q&A with dancer Vidya Patel

Vidya Patel dances An Italian In Madrid
Photo: Jane Hobson

This week, the Richard Alston Dance Company are here in Norwich to perform three critically-acclaimed new works.

They’ll bring Tangent, Martin Lawrance’s vivid re-imagining of the tango, and present the UK premiere of Alston’s latest work Chacony. But for their third piece, An Italian In Madrid (which explores a fusion of cultures and styles), the company are joined by rising star of Indian and classical dance, Vidya Patel.

Born in Birmingham, Vidya has participated in classical Indian dance styles from an early age and is training under the guidance of Sujata Banerjee, one of the most versatile South Asian artists working in the UK. In 2015, Vidya was a grand finalist in the BBC Young Dancer competition and that year also danced in a Sadler’s Wells showcase with other finalists at Suffolk’s Latitude Festival near Southwold and at Wembley Stadium for the visit by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

She answers our questions:

Tangent, another of the dances being performed this month
Photo: Chris Nash

What can audiences expect from An Italian in Madrid?

An Italian in Madrid is a beautiful piece of choreography which has been intricately crafted by Richard to amalgamate the styles taking influences from the Kathak dance form. For me this piece has a grandness and celebratory feel to it which gradually increases throughout the piece leading to the grand finale with all of us on stage. It has a beautiful narrative conveying the story of Princess Maria Barbara, student of Scarlatti and the journey his music went through after he joined the Princess following her marriage alliance with Prince Ferdinand. The complex sonatas throughout the piece are played live by Jason Ridgway, which is an absolute treat for us dancers and definitely for the audience.

How do you prepare for a show?

Before performing I usually run over the piece visually in my head. I always like to keep a good amount of time to get hair and make-up done. This really helps me mentally prepare and zone in to the performance mode. Going onto the stage to just be on it before starting puts my mind at peace. Before performing An Italian in Madrid, I always make sure I watch the other company dancers performing before I go on stage even if it’s for a short while as I find that this helps puts my nerves at ease.

Liam Riddick dances An Italian In Madrid
Photo: Chris Nash

What do you do in your time off being on tour?

Being with Richard Alston Dance Company on tour is a new experience for me, as it is one of my first professional international tours. It’s a great opportunity which I am trying to learn as much from as I can. On my time away from the company I regularly attend Kathak classes in London led by my Guruji, Sujata Banerjee. Recently after completing my Kathak graduation performance with live musicians, I became much more interested in Indian classical music then I was before, which has encouraged me to take up vocal lessons in Hindustani classical music. I try to see as much different shows and exhibitions as I can in my free time.

When did you first discover dance?

My first experiences of dance were from watching my sisters dance and not being able to do the same because I was too young in age. There was always that sense of eagerness to do something which I wasn’t able to. I continued dancing but only after joining the Centre of Advanced Training I was able to envisage the endless possibilities of dance through my subject tutor Sujata Banerjee and being introduced to different guest dance artists. Now after being with the company, I’ve been lucky to take the company class with them which has helped me discover moving in a new way.

What has been the best moment of your career so far?

There has been quite a few moments which I’m so grateful and thankful for. Performing at the Sadler’s Wells stage for the first time with the other finalists at BBC Young Dancer 2015 and then performing on the same stage but with RADC the following year was an overwhelming feeling. Joining the RADC for the tour is a special experience for me. After performing the premiere at Sadler’s Wells, I never imagined being able to continue dancing with them but it’s worked out and I’m enjoying every moment of it. Another time which was so important for me was my Kathak Manch Pravesh, my graduation solo recital performed with live Indian classical music recently last year to an invited audience.

See Vidya perform with the Richard Alston Dance Company, here on the 10&11 February: tickets are available now.