Artistic Director Aakash Odedra awarded New Year Honour

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Leicester choreographer and Artistic Director receives New Year Honour: Aakash Odedra, the Artistic Director of Aakash Odedra Company, has been honoured by The Queen as he receives a British Empire Medal (BEM) in The New Year Honours List.

Published today, the list recognises the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the UK. Hundreds of ordinary people are recognised alongside stars of sport and showbusiness for their contribution to public life in the UK.

Aakash Odedra has received the honour in recognition of his services to dance, in particular his successes as a choreographer and as the Artistic Director of the Aakash Odedra Company which is based on Belgrave Road in Leicester. He jointly founded the company in 2011 with Anand Bhatt who has also received the BEM honour in recognition of his services to dance. In July 2020 Anand moved on from the company to became Chief Executive and Artistic Director at Dance City in Newcastle.

Peter Knott, Midlands Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “We’d like to congratulate Aakash on this well-deserved award – as a successful dancer and choreographer he is an inspirational role model to many. His work has global appeal combined with a genuine ability to reach and engage with local Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities in Leicester. It is inspiring to see his tireless commitment and exceptional talent recognised.”

Anu Giri, Chair of the board of Aakash Odedra Company, said “Aakash is a role model for aspiring artists from the South Asian diaspora and the city of Leicester. This recognition of his work as choreographer and Artistic Director of Aakash Odedra Company can only help to shine a light on the hugely talented communities of the UK’s most diverse city and embed Aakash’s role as a leader of Leicester’s creative community. We are thrilled for him personally and for the company.”

“This award comes after what has been a very challenging year for the global arts sector, and I am honoured to accept it in the spirit of hope and confidence in all our futures. I would like to send my thanks and acknowledgment to everyone who has supported me on my journey and in particular my dance gurus Nilima Devi MBE and Chitraleka Bolar.”


For more information please contact:
Ruth Lee (Executive Director) T: 07948 079164 /

Notes to editors:

Aakash Odedra formed Aakash Odedra Company in Leicester in 2011 as a vehicle for commissioning solos and to develop his own choreographic work. His debut full length solo Rising featured short new works created on him by Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant. In 2014 Aakash received the prestigious Bessie Award for the Best Male Performer of the piece he created for James Brown: Get on the Good Foot (Apollo Theater, New York). Aakash has received numerous awards and bursaries, including the Danza&Danza award (Italy), a Dora performance award (Canada), Audience Award Dance Week 2013 (Croatia), Infant Award 2014 (Serbia), and is a previous recipient of a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship. In 2017 Aakash choreographed Sukanya for the Royal Opera House, a production composed by the late great Pt Ravi Shankar.

Aakash has toured the world with is productions and his first ensemble work entitled #JeSuis, won The Amnesty International Award for Freedom of Expression award at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in 2017. #JeSuis went on to win Best Dance at the Eastern Eye ACTA Awards 2018 and was followed by a nomination for Best Stage Production at the Asian Media Awards in Manchester.

Aakash is an Associate Artist at Curve Theatre, Leicester, The Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London.

Aakash Odedra Company was founded in Leicester in 2011 by Anand Bhatt and Aakash Odedra. Named after the Artistic Director Aakash Odedra, a choreographer and one of the most talented British South Asian dancers, the company became part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio in 2018. As a not-for-profit organisation it is governed by a voluntary board.

Nestled within Leicester’s international communities Aakash Odedra Company is committed to improving the local environment by removing barriers to ensure dance education opportunities are available more widely. Based in the Belgrave area of Leicester it serves one of the UK’s most diverse populations. The company studios and office space are a hub for South Asian dance and artists.

Through its live and digital performance work, Aakash Odedra Company use the voice of British-Asian experience to tell new stories about modern life, creating boundary pushing and award-winning dance works, partnering with organisations such as the Royal Ballet and Sadler’s Wells. To date the company has been commissioned by and collaborated with world-class artists including choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Belgium), Damien Jalet (France), Akram Khan (UK), Aditi Mangaldas (India), Russell Maliphant (UK), Lewis Major (Australia) and lighting designers Michael Hulls (UK), Fabiana Piccioli (Italy) and media art institution Ars Electronica Futurelab (Austria). The company tours internationally, with live audiences exceeding 250 000 and over 1 million views online. The development of its most recent production, Samsara was captured earlier in 2020 just before the world entered a lockdown phase and the international tour was put on hold. View the documentary.

British Empire Medal (BEM)
The award is given for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community. The medal was founded in 1917 and was awarded for “meritorious” actions by civilians or military personnel. Revived by Prime Minister David Cameron the medal is awarded to around 300 people annually.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. By 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help deliver this vision.

Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council has developed a £160 million emergency response package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. Find out more at

Download high-res images of Aakash Odedra