Aakash Odedra Company’s Samsara at the Edinburgh International Festival

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Aakash Odedra Company and Bagri Foundation present the UK premiere of an epic new dance work, Samsara

Two extraordinary soloists meet in a mythic landscape

Choreographed and performed by Aakash Odedra and Hu Shenyuan to a new score by Nicki Wells

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival
Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 August

Aakash Odedra Company’s Samsara is a collaboration between the extraordinary dancers, Aakash Odedra and Hu Shenyuan, two of the world’s finest exponents of dance from their countries of origin, India and China.

Samsara had its world premiere in Melbourne in March 2020, immediately before the global lockdown. Over two years later it has its UK premiere at the Lyceum Theatre from 18 to 20 August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, the company’s debut Festival performances.

Aakash Odedra has attracted global attention for both his virtuoso Kathak performances and his contemporary choreography. One of the outstanding dancers of his generation in China, Hu Shenyuan was the standout performer in Yang Liping’s Under Siege at Sadler’s Wells in 2016.

Samsara takes as its starting point Wu Cheng’en’s 16th century Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’, one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. It tells the story of the legendary pilgrimage to India undertaken by the monk Xuanzang returning to China with the central tracts of Buddhist philosophy. Many monks followed in Xuanzang’s footsteps and their journeys were both literal and metaphorical, physical and spiritual.

Odedra and Shenyuan created Samsara with no spoken language in common. As both choreographers and performers, they stage this story of cultural exchange and shared philosophy in a desert landscape peopled with eerie human statues, created by set designer Tina Tzoka. Yaron Abulafia’s lighting conjures a mythic world which the two dancers enter and explore. They eventually come together in a series of exquisitely-patterned virtuoso duets of challenge, reflection and exchange. Mongolian throat singing and traditional Chinese percussion are part of the powerful score, specially commissioned from Odedra’s regular collaborator, Nicki Wells.

Samsara has been made possible by the generous support of the Bagri Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to promoting the arts and culture of Asia. Aiming to challenge, engage and inspire, it gives artists and experts from across Asia, or those inspired by the continent, wider visibility on the global stage and supports a diverse programme of film, visual arts, music, dance, literature, courses and lectures.

Aakash Odedra Company makes an earlier appearance in Edinburgh with Little Murmur, its collaboration with The Spark Arts for Children at Imaginate, the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, from 12 to 15 May. Little Murmur is an honest, funny and heartfelt journey about the trials and tribulations of living with dyslexia and seeing things differently, based on Aakash Odedra’s own experiences.

An autumn 2022 tour of Samsara will be announced in May.

– Ends –


Listings information

Little Murmur
Thursday 12 to Sunday 15 May
Imaginate, the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
The Assembly Roxy
2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU
Box Office: 0131 623 3001 / www.imaginate.org.uk/festival/whats-on/little-murmur
Tickets: £12
Age range: 7 to 14

Thursday 18 August to Saturday 20 August
Edinburgh International Festival
The Royal Lyceum Theatre
Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AX
Box Office and group bookings: / 0131 248 4848 / boxoffice@lyceum.org.uk
Tickets: £21 to £26, concessions available



Aakash Odedra, Hu Shenyuan
Anand Bhatt
Nicki Wells
K H Lee
Lou Cope
Lighting Designer
Yaron Abulafia
Set Designer
Tina Tzoka
Technical Director
Salvatore Scollo

Notes to editors

  1. Samsara is commissioned by Bagri Foundation. Co-producing/commissioning partners are Asia TOPA; Arts Centre Melbourne; Birmingham Hippodrome; Curve Leicester; the Royal Ballet; Shanghai International DanceCentre, Chaillot-National theatre for dance, Paris. Supporting partners are British Council; Jacob’s Pillow; Peacock Contemporary Dance Company (Kunming, China); Playking Foundation; Sidney Myer Fund; Victoria Government, ResCen Middlesex University. Samsara is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Samsara was produced by Anand Bhatt. https://aakashodedra.com/
  2. Based in Leicester, Aakash Odedra Company creates dance works through a synthesis of kathak, bharatanatyam, contemporary and Bollywood-jazz which push boundaries, responding to and drawing inspiration from contemporary issues. Bilingual in classical and contemporary dance it uses the voice of British-Asian experience to translate ancient and contemporary movement languages to tell new stories relevant to today. Its location within Leicester’s international communities has allowed it to be more aware of, and pro-active about, the opportunities of plural heritage and the importance of a culture of accessibility, social justice, messaging and making people feel welcome. Aakash Odedra is an Associate Artist at Curve Leicester and Birmingham Hippodrome. Aakash Odedra Company is a National Partner Organisation of Sadler’s Wells and one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation.
  3. Aakash Odedra was born in Birmingham, UK and lives in Leicester. He is a globally recognised and award-winning dancer and choreographer. He trained in bharatanatyam and kathak, then moved to India as a student of the renowned Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar. Aakash Odedra’s work forms the heart of the company and as a soloist he has performed over 300 full length performances in 40 countries in the past decade. His choreography pushes boundaries, responding to and drawing inspiration from contemporary issues. As a British-Asian, Aakash Odedra uses his voice to translate ancient and contemporary movement languages to tell new stories. Awards include the Amnesty International Award for Freedom of Expression; Best Dance at the Eastern Eye ACTA Awards 2018; a nomination for Best Stage Production at the 2019 Asian Media Awards for #JeSuis; and in 2021, Aakash was a awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his services to dance. Notable commissions include James Brown: Get on the Good Foot (Apollo Theater, NY). In 2017 Aakash choreographed the Royal Opera House production Sukanya composed by the late great Pt Ravi Shankar and was movement director for Curve Theatre’s Pink Sari Revolution. As a solo performer his awards include: Danza&Danza award (Italy); Dora performance award (Canada); Audience Award Dance Week (Croatia); Infant Award (Serbia); Bessie Award New York (Best Male Performer); and a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship.
  4. Hu Shenyuan is an independent dancer and choreographer. He graduated from the Dance Academy of Central MinZu University before working in Beijing for LDTX Dance Company from 2012 to 2014. As a dancer, he played Yu Ji in Yang Liping’s dance work Under Siege to great public acclaim. In 2017, Hu became the first young artist supported by Yang Liping Art Foundation, created his work Roving and established his studio Hu-Hu Dance. Hu’s choreographic works include Roving, The Moonlight Rainbow, So Close, With, ID, Ego, and Super-Ego and The Flower of Freedom. Several of his creations have been selected for the exhibition unit of the China Youth Dance Talents Training Program. His many awards include Best Performance Award at the 4th Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition; the Silver Award from the 16th Italian Rome International Choreography Competition and the Jury Chairman’s Award at the 15th Seoul International Dance Competition in 2018.
  5. Every August, the Edinburgh International Festival brings world-class music, opera, dance and theatre performances to Edinburgh. Created in 1947 following WWII, the festival inspired artists and audiences to heal through international cultural collaboration. This year the International Festival celebrates 75 years of bringing world cultures together and will take place from 5-28 August 2022. Year-round the Edinburgh International Festival connects with local communities through education projects, access programmes, and initiatives that introduce new audiences to live performance. www.eif.co.uk
  6. The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh is a leading producing theatre in Scotland and one of the United Kingdom’s most prolific theatre companies, dedicated to making innovative, high-quality theatre that draws upon the brilliant talent in Scotland and beyond and develops award-winning work with partners across the globe. The Lyceum believes that making and experiencing theatre together is life enhancing and is committed to being a theatre rooted in the community, a truly civic theatre, entertaining, challenging and inspiring the people of Edinburgh and beyond. www.lyceum.org.uk
  7. The Bagri Foundation is a UK registered charity whose main mission is to realise unique, unexpected ideas from and on Asia, weaving traditional culture with contemporary thinking. The Foundation provides support towards artistic and educational projects and establishes collaborative partnerships with institutions that range in scale—from small cultural organisations that share our ethos and mission to large national and international partners like the British Museum and Hayward Gallery in London, Artes Mundi Prize in Cardiff, The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, and La Biennale di Venezia. The Foundation’s supported projects include film, visual arts, music, literature, courses and lectures, and each of them aims at giving artists and experts from across Asia and the diaspora, or those inspired by the continent, wider visibility on the global stage. https://bagrifoundation.org/