Akademi interviews BBC Young Dancer 2022 winner Adhya Shastry

headshot of Adhya Shastry smiling at the camera
Adhya Shastry. Photo: National Youth Dance Company (NYDC)

May 7, 2022 was a landmark day for the South Asian dance in the UK as Bharatanatyam artist Adhya Shastry went on to win the BBC Young Dancer 2022.

Our Artistic Director, Suba, was one of the judges and she observed, “She [Adhya] embodied so many different dance styles, you could chuck anything at this young lady and I think she could dance it. Watch out for Adhya is all I can say”. We caught up with Adhya to find out more about her training and her creative practice…

AK: Firstly, congratulations on winning the BBC Young Dancer 2022. How have you been celebrating?

AS: Aaaah Thank you so much!! I celebrated with my family and friends after the final show was broadcasted!

AK: Tell us a little more about your dance journey – what made you start dancing and training with your guru Ananya Chatterjee? How did you become part of CAT Yuva Gati?

AS: In primary school, I joined a street dance club and I loved it so much. I also played lots of sports like netball, basketball ,tennis, swimming etc. I even went to a running club so my parents knew I loved being active and just moving. Therefore, when I was about nine, my parents put me into a Bharatanatyam class and I really really liked it so I just continued with that!

Learning Bharatanatyam was a way of staying in touch with my roots whilst also finding more about my culture and its history.

Hence both my parents and I were super happy that we had found Bharatanatyam. 

I first got to know about Yuva Gati through a workshop at my dance class. I wanted to dance and learn more and I thought auditioning for the program would be a good way to expose myself to more dance so I auditioned! 

AK: You are learning various styles of dance – Bharatanatyam, Ballet and Contemporary – and have been part of CAT Yuva Gati, The Place CAT scheme and now a member of the National Youth Dance Company. How have all these experiences and training informed you as a dancer? In what way have they all influenced the way you move and make movement? 

AS: They have each changed me in so many different ways! Yuva Gati was where I was first introduced to contemporary dance. I got to work with artists such as Gary Clarke and Lea Anderson and it showed me how broad and expansive contemporary dance can be. Yuva Gati was also where I met lots of South Asian dancers who were much more experienced than me (since I am one of the oldest dancers in my junior batch at my bharatanatyam class this was super super cool!) so watching them and learning from them really inspired me and influenced the way I danced Bharatanatyam.

The Place CAT scheme was where I got to learn contemporary and ballet properly so I understood the techniques that were being implemented into movements and it helped me understand the importance of strength and conditioning needed. The Place was also where I first found out about improvisation which was a completely foreign concept to me so it helped me to get to know my own movement language a bit more and it also just helped me enjoy moving without overthinking things too much.

NYDC opened my eyes in so many ways! The dancers I met there are absolutely phenomenal and they truly truly changed the way I approached movement. Each dancer is so unique in their own way, so seeing their different beautiful qualities pushed me to explore my own movement and style. I was challenged to think about the intention in my movement and what purpose my movement has. They also showed me how you don’t have to lose your culture and identity to fit into a certain box- you can be authentic to who you are and what you do whilst also being versatile and open to learn new things! 

AK: What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?

AS: Aaah unfortunately my typical day currently is quite boring! I wake up, do some yoga or move around if possible to wake myself up fully. I then go to school, come back, finish any homework I have or revise for exams and tests. After finishing all of that, I dance and/or do some other form of exercise. I also try to go out for a walk with my mom everyday as it’s a nice way of catching up with each other and talk about anything and everything.

AK: How did you prepare for BBC Young Dancer competition? Any advice for future aspirants?

AS: I kept dancing and training.

My advice for anyone applying would be – be true to yourself and trust in how much you have and are.

Try to go with the flow and enjoy the present. I struggled with feeling like I didn’t belong amongst all the other amazing dancers but I always tried to remind myself to just enjoy and focus on where I am and what I am doing in the moment.

AK: What inspires you as a dancer and to make movement? 

AS: Everything and anything inspires me as a dancer. Watching other dancers or performances, listening to music, conversations with people, reading books, my own feelings and experiences or going out on walks and seeing my surroundings- the list is endless. I want and aim to be open to any experiences that come my way as they come in different shapes and forms and you can learn from them in different ways if not in the moment then sometime after.

AK: Tell us about the most inspiring or beautiful dance work you’ve seen recently. 

AS: I watched BLK dog by Botis Seva and it was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t think any words can do justice to how I felt after watching it because it was simply beautiful. The movement was so true and authentic and it didn’t feel like I was watching a dance performance, I felt like I was transported into another world. It translated feelings I’ve had that I wouldn’t be able to explain or describe into movement. It was beautiful.

I also recently watched Talattu by Rukmini Vijayakumar which was beautiful. The strength and power in her movement alongside her abhinaya was truly touching to watch.

AK: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing? 

AS: I enjoy going out on long walks or cycling and just being outside. However, I do also enjoy being at home and baking and cooking or watching new tv shows. I also like to draw and read.

AK: Where to next for you in dancing? What is the next project or endeavour? 

AS: I want to apply to dance conservatoires and study dance further!  I am currently not  involved in any new dance projects however I really want to dance more, work with more artists and just be more involved and immersed in dance because I want to learn and improve more! 

AK: Finally, what’s brewing? Where do we see you dancing again?

AS: NYDC’s tour of Quartier Paradis choreographed by Alesandra Seutin is going to start soon so I’ll be dancing at seven different venues which will be super super cool!! 

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