Over the years, Aakash Odedra Company has helped many young dance artists develop their craft through our Education programmes, providing opportunities for training, networking and performing. Two of our main programmes in which we do this are our Aakash Odedra 2 Company and our SHIAMAK UK dance classes.
We want to introduce these programmes to you through the eyes of two young dance artists who have benefitted from being a part of our programmes over the last few years, but more importantly have continued to develop as dance artists through our education and employment opportunities. Kalli Vratti and Jayna Patel are both currently working with AOC and Shiamak UK respectively and are both previous dancers from our AO2 Programme and SHIAMAK UK class programme.
Jayna Patel began her journey with the company when she joined SHIAMAK UK dance classes. She then successfully auditioned for the Special Potential Batch, and after a few years was selected to work as a SHIAMAK Midlands dance instructor, leading classes and choreographing routines.
Kalli Vratti became part of the AOC family when she successfully auditioned for the Aakash Odedra 2 programme and joined this pre-professional company. Following her work with AO2, Kalli was selected to become an apprentice dance on Aakash’s newest work, Little Murmur.
Both have progressed from ‘student’ to employee and are very much at the heart of what we have been doing in 2021 and what we have planned for 2022. It is our greatest pleasure to introduce you to: Kalli Vratti, Apprentice Dancer in Little Murmur (member of AO2) and Jayna Patel, Shiamak Midlands Teacher (former SPB student).
"Over the years, I have been spreading all of my knowledge across SHIAMAK Midlands in the UK and have continued to spread the joy of dance."
“Dance has always been the life to my soul – connectivity through movement has always been my key to expression.
“It all began when I joined SHIAMAK dance classes for the first time in 2014 – I used to dance with Desi Masti before joining SHIAMAK and have always loved dancing from a young age. My first batch with SHIAMAK was an extraordinary experience as I was pulled into an unimaginable world of positive energy and colourful vibes.
“After my first show in December 2014, I took part in an audition and was selected by Mr Shiamak Davar himself to join the Special Potential Batch (SPB) from January 2015. This was the first stepping stone from student to performer as I got to experience being a dancer from a whole new perspective. Endless unforgettable opportunities came my way and my hobby began to become my career. During my time in SPB, I got to perform at some incredible locations including the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville in Paris in 2015, at the Wembley stadium in 2015 and even in Spain for the IIFA Awards in 2016 – it was an honour to perform on stage with all of the Bollywood actors and actresses in Madrid!
“After all of those fabulous opportunities, I was officially selected (in September 2017) to join the SHIAMAK Dance Company and become an Instructor. I started my training after being selected and was lucky enough to learn from one of the best Senior Instructors in SHIAMAK. I tried to gain as much knowledge as I could during my training and continued to perform and do shows at that time. In 2018, we joined hands with Aakash Odedra Company and have become a franchise through them which has been a wonderful experience for me being able to group our similarities and branch out with our differences. Over the years, I have been spreading all of my knowledge across SHIAMAK Midlands in the UK and have continued to spread the joy of dance. As well as teaching classes throughout my time as an Instructor, I have been able to take part in some mesmerising shows: ‘Spirit of India’ and ‘Spirit of Bollywood’ which have been choreographed and designed by SHIAMAK’s CEO. These productions were held at the Birmingham Hippodrome during 2018 and 2019 in which I was given the opportunity to perform as a lead dancer. We all thrive on excitement for what we do and have already planned to create even bigger and better productions from 2022 including ‘Bollywood Divas’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I have been an Instructor for just over 4 years now and have seen how my career has constantly been evolving.
“Evolution within teaching took a huge leap last year as we had to adapt to working within a global pandemic. As soon as we got into lockdown, we began taking online classes on Zoom (an online platform for video calls and conferences) and created a global ideal for people to dance together. This has had such a positive impact on so many people including the Instructors all over the world as we had the opportunity to connect and learn from each other. A career in dance means that you are constantly learning each day in order to be able to open the doors to endless possibilities.
“I am grateful to have been able to learn from and dance with such a variety of people and this wouldn’t have been possible without both SHIAMAK Davar Dance Academy and Aakash Odedra Company (AOC). By working with these organisations, I have been able to find who I am and have been given the confidence to explore my creativity. I am excited to continue spreading the joy of dance and look forward to many more years with SHIAMAK and AOC.”
— Jayna Patel, SHIAMAK UK Instructor
"I am grateful to have been able to learn from and dance with such a variety of people and this wouldn’t have been possible without both SHIAMAK Davar Dance Academy and Aakash Odedra Company (AOC). By working with these organisations, I have been able to find who I am and have been given the confidence to explore my creativity."
"throughout [the Aakash Odedra 2] programme, I began to discover that dance can have many different meanings. I was welcomed to express my individuality, and because of that, the studio gradually transformed into a place where I could connect, explore, play and discover"
“I am originally from a small town outside of Athens, which is called Markopoulo Mesogaias, a place of contrasts, that combines the rural tranquility with a diverse community of people from whom a significant number, is art lovers. There, from an early age, I started training in gymnastics, rope skipping and theatre and sooner or later, in my teenage years, I was introduced to the contemporary dance world.
“Moving to the multicultural city of Leicester at the age of seventeen to complete my bachelor’s degree in Dance, was an overall noteworthy experience for me, as this was the time where I began the journey with Aakash Odedra Company.
“In June 2019, towards the end of my first year in university, AOC announced that they were holding auditions for their new training programme, Aakash Odedra 2. This programme aligned exactly with what I was looking for. Wanting to become a professional dancer, I was seeking to train intensively, to develop further my technique and movement practice as well as to work and learn from industry professionals.
“After I successfully auditioned, I had very high expectations for the programme, which of course they were met from the first moment. Training intensely, learning repertoire, exploring kathak and Bharatnatyam techniques, working with different artists, but above all focusing on the self and finding our inner truth through movement was eye-opening.
“AOC team, by touching ideas on spiritualism, as well as the marriage between spiritualism and dance, caused an instant resonance. A new dimension had been introduced to me once again. Some of the ideas were translated into my life and practice. In a few words, throughout this programme, I began to discover that dance can have many different meanings but also it can offer a lot of other things. I was welcomed to express my individuality, and because of that, the studio gradually transformed into a place where I could connect, explore, play and discover.
“Another thing I love about this programme is that I had the opportunity to work with internationally renowned artists, receive high-quality training as well as connect on a deeper level with people. In my first year, I experienced unique moments in the studio, that I have kept with me still. Experiences like Hu Shenyuan leading a class in mandarin with only English speakers in the room was one moment in time that I understood how powerful dance is. It has its own language, and it is universal. Even in lockdown, when we dancers suffered greatly, being able to participate in the AO Global programme, was a great opportunity to create networks. I connected with artists and participants from different parts of the world and most importantly, the amount of inspiration and stimuli I received was and still is ongoing.
“AO2 not only gave me food for my artistic endeavours but also, I was encouraged to get familiar with the mechanics of the dance industry in the United Kingdom. As practitioners, I believe we must become familiar with our environment and how the industry works because then we can achieve getting the most out of it. I got equipped with tools in marketing, producing, fundraising, education that will help me throughout my career. I learnt how important is acquiring an all-round knowledge of the sector is because as an emerging young artist I can realistically see the possibility of my artistic independence and visions coming to life in the future.
“From being a part of the AO2 pre-professional company to becoming an apprentice dancer for Little Murmur production was a huge step for me as a dancer. I got to work closely with Aakash Odedra, Kesha Raitatha, Subhash Gorania and to learn a 35-minute solo repertoire that combined spoken word, kathak, floorwork, handling props and physical theatre which was super challenging and beneficial at the same time. During this period, I was encouraged to give my own input and share my own ideas, which allowed me to grow as an artist and to feel more confident as a performer. Lastly, I consider myself lucky to be involved in this project surrounded by humble and talented individuals that are supporting me throughout my journey.
“Overall, starting my training and being offered an apprenticeship with AOC has given me fascinating experiences that I will always keep with me. Seeing myself growing as an artist and having people that I can rely on whenever I need support is truly unique. I am more than grateful for getting involved with the company, as I was encouraged to follow my path and explore life beyond a dance career. Of course, it is difficult, to sum up in a few words what this whole time has offered me, but I surely know that by showing my trust to all the team, I have grown as a dancer, artist as well as human.”
— Kalli Vratti, Apprentice Dancer in Little Murmur
"starting my training and being offered an apprenticeship with AOC has given me fascinating experiences that I will always keep with me. Seeing myself growing as an artist and having people that I can rely on whenever I need support is truly unique."