Tara Rajkumar looks back at the founding of Akademi
Written in 2006.
It has been said that the future is not a place we go to but one we create.
The paths that lead to it are deliberately laid and not just discovered accidentally. Through the process of creating this enriched future, both maker and destination are changed. As creative artists we are caught up in this exciting wheel of continuity and change. Wherever we go, we take with us our own heritage, striking roots in a new cultural environment. From nowhere can I draw a better example of this than my own experience as founder of what is now Akademi.
After arriving in London in the 1970s, fresh out of college from India, the first few years were rather bleak. Many were the miles I trudged performing and many were the days when I felt I was facing an unyielding wall. But being an eternal optimist, I focused on what lay beyond.
Persistence eventually reaped a small grant from the Commission for Racial Equality, and the first National Academy of Indian Dance in England was founded. Key to this success were Dr Tania Rose, officer for the CRE, and Robin Howard, then Director of the London School of Contemporary Dance.
Through James Porter and the Commonwealth Institute, where the organisation was initially based, the Academy's early activities began to flower. Of note were two ground breaking seminars (The Contribution of Indian Dance to British Culture, 1982 and The Place of Indian Dance in British Culture, 1983) which included workshops and performances giving the events mini-festival status.
An all important contribution came from artists like Pratap and Priya Pawar, Shobhana Jeyasingh, Chitra Sundaram and many others who gave generously of their time and effort. One project that was an outright success was an exhibition cum workshop series initiated for the Inner London Education Authority. School after school brought children to learn about Indian dance concepts. A booklet was published and a slide series on the Ramayana produced, illustrating the art of storytelling through dance. In the early 1980s I moved to Australia.
In the 1990s I was informed that the organisation I founded was and is now recognised as a leading provider of South Asian dance education in Britain. Akademi's achievements are many and noteworthy, and I cannot help a certain feeling of pride - a sense that I was perhaps a small spark among many others that set alight a roaming hearth of interest and activity in South Asian dance in Britain today.
By keeping a sharp focus on the changing socio-cultural environment and the interactive needs of the dance arts, Akademi continues to grow and shape itself into the foremost contemporary centre for living South Asian dance in the UK.