Nottingham Mela 2016: Q & A with Manushi’s Vina Ladwa

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Manushi are a Nottingham-based dance company with an international reputation.

2016 marks twenty years since the company began practicing Kathak – a graceful classical dance from India and they will be celebrating their anniversary with a performance at Nottingham Mela Festival this September.

Experience Nottinghamshire and the New Art Exchange caught up with Manushi Co-founder and Artistic Director, Vina Ladwa ahead of the celebrations.

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Photographer: Bartosz Kali

How would you describe Kathak dance?

Kathak is a North Indian classical dance from 2,000 years ago. It was started in Hindu temples as the priest read kathas (stories) men and women listening became excited, they would respond with movement and expression. The dance evolved to be more precise, made up of 108 unique body shapes, hand, head, eyes and neck gestures which all have unique meanings. The dance represents human emotions and tells a story, like a visual language. It involves very technical movements, including vigorous footwork and pirouettes. The dancers wear bells around their ankles to keep rhythm.

Can you tell us anything about Manushi’s upcoming performances at Mela?

There will be 2 performances. First grade students will perform a ‘Radha Krishna Raas’ story about his life in a village as he plays drums, sings, manipulates villagers, and dancers with everyone to represent love. Younger students will perform a prayer dance about the four elements. The eyes, heart mind and mood must marinate together and make a picture in the space.

Bartosz Kali

Photographer: Bartosz Kali

As you celebrate the 20th birthday of Manushi, how would you say the dance company has evolved over the years?

I am very settled and satisfied with what the company has become. We have a lot more regular attendees than we used to. We have had more opportunities as Manushi has become more recognised and more funding is available. Even though it is an Indian dance, it is really important that we work with audiences from multicultural backgrounds and of all ages. We have a really diverse group and it is great to share the dance form with so many people.

Do you have any highlight moments?

In the past 37 years that I have been teaching, a big highlight for me is seeing the success of my senior dancers who are now world-class performers. As part of the celebrations for Manushi’s 20th anniversary, I was reunited with past students of mine, including one from 1996! It is always rewarding seeing the girls take exams and eventually graduate. Manushi is a big family and they are all part of my home.

Other highlights include be one of six finalists for Asian Arts Achievement in 2004- this was a great honour. Manushi have performed in front of royalty including the Queen in the 1990s, Prince Charles and Camilla in 2004, William and Kate for the Golden Jubilee, and also my younger students performed for Princess Diana in 1992.

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Photographer: Bartosz Kali

What makes Nottingham Mela special for you?

Mela has changed a lot since it started in the 1980’s. I am very proud to have performed at the very first Mela in the UK, here in Nottingham. It was very small and was held in Meadows Field, but from that it has become amazing and much bigger in scale.

Are there any acts you are looking forward to seeing at Nottingham Mela?

It is great to see Nilima Devi Dance Company are involved- Nilima was my first kathak teacher and she’s a good friend. Kali Das is also a wonderful, beautiful dancer and another great friend. Shakti Dance are brilliant dancers too!


Nottingham Mela weekend takes places at The New Art Exchange, Nottingham Castle and Nottingham Playhouse from 9th-11th September.

Posted on 31 August 2016
Featured author: Jessie

Nottingham native and fan of all things music, arts and animal related.

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