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Introducing our newest member of the team - 

Creative Intern Simi Sabri



Hi! My name is Simi and I am Sonia Sabri’s daughter as well as her student. I’ve been learning from my mum since I was 15. Most dancers’ children would learn from their parents since the day they were born. But no. I decided to be a little stubborn and refused to learn from my mum.
I’m glad my mum hadn’t forced me into learning Kathak when I hadn’t had the interest at the time as I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much as I do now. 

During one of our Kathak classes, my mum had announced that Sonia Sabri Company had been requested to perform at the Birmingham Hippodrome Gala event. This was to celebrate their 120thbirthday onthe 29thJune. She had then given us several dates for our rehearsals. 


At the first few rehearsals, it was difficult to have all our dancers available to practice. This was because some dancers were on call for work or not available for that particular date. My mum did not let this affect her rehearsals. In fact, she altered the dance routine with small changes. It made it easier to pick up the movements for the other dancers that were not able to join in time.


Most of my friends would ask, “Isn't learning from your mom awkward?” I can honestly say it isn’t at all. My mum and I are close, and we do spend time together, so it’s not weird, or awkward learning Kathak from her. Also, if I'm stuck on a piece, or I do not remember a part of a sequence, my mum is there to help! 

My mum makes the classes fun, and you look forward to learning new dance pieces from her. She would sometimes ask me for any new songs that we can dance to. This would usually be for upcoming festivals or for our Classical Bollywood classes. It is nice giving ideas for a new dance piece. I have helped my mum with costume ideas, set designs, or where dances would take place for potential venues.

During the last rehearsals at the Hippodrome, we had a walk-through of our dance routine. It began on the second floor, down the stairs, towards the audience on the first floor, and onto the stage.
Our first time on the route was challenging for the dancers and me. We were not sure how to get into position in some areas. It seemed puzzling to dance down the stairs, as Punjabi dance is very energetic and spread out. Yet, my mum made sure our choreography was easy to travel around the space.


We were not able to rehearse with the drums (dhol) at the time, but we managed to create the rhythm with sounds of claps and bouncing feet. The rehearsal went well but it was demanding as we had a lot of space to cover.

On the rehearsal the day before the Gala event, we were finally able to rehearse with the dhol drums. Rehearsing with the dhol lifted all our moods, and planted smiles on our faces. It allowed us to submerge ourselves into the rhythms and control our movements.

The staff were mesmerized by the rehearsal and could not help but watch. It was entertaining to see my mum trying to point out any mistakes in the dancers, “Stretch your arms!” my mum tried to shout over the drums so we could hear her. I tried to work out what she was trying to say but I only heard muffled noises. Though judging by the tone of her voice, I knew someone was doing something wrong. 

After a long week of rehearsals, it was the 120th birthday of Birmingham Hippodrome.
Waking up to many texts of concerns about costumes and rehearsal times. There was a slight air of panic, concerns about the colour of our veils and jewellery. We did manage to solve the issues by sharing each of our spare accessories if deemed necessary.

The dancers and I were thrilled to perform. We arrived early to make sure we had time to resolve any issues with the choreography routine. Thus, this gave us time to rehearse and get ready for the show. 
Getting ready is my favourite part of the performances! Applying makeup, wearing glamorous clothing, and gleaming jewellery. I enjoy wearing our cultural clothing. Wearing it makes me feel proud to be part of my culture. Proud to be Indian. 

After making ourselves all glamorous, it was only a few minutes until show-time. Butterflies, giggles and shy smiles developed as the steward whispered, “one minute till show-time!” 
The dhol drummers began playing their lively beats that echoed into the theatre's soul. The drummers enjoyed the smiles from the audience. We felt a positive energy and we got into position and danced with all our energy.


We danced down the stairs and dispersed into the audience to invite them to dance with us. It was challenging moving around the dense crowd. 

Nevertheless, our large dance moves allowed us to glide through, parting them as we moved. The smiles we received were like blooming flowers, filling the room with happiness.




We guided the audience into the theatre to sit down as we continued to dance on stage. Our movements were full of spirit and grace. We jumped and pirouetted whilst our waving arms complemented our fluttering costumes. The blaze of stage lights shone upon us, illuminating our jewellery.

The drummers cued our dance sequence to finish and our feet flew in the air as we jumped in sync to the final beat. The audience exploded into roaring applause. It elevated our emotions, leaving us on a huge high. 

After the dancers and I arrived back-stage, we applauded ourselves. I was proud of the response we got from our audience. A warm feeling grows in you knowing you performed well, and people enjoyed it. 

The dancers and I felt lucky to be part of the Gala event. It was wonderful for us representing the diverse mix of cultures in Birmingham. 
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Being involved in the creative development of “Same Same…But Different” by Laura Vanhulle (Dancer)


It has been so great working on “Same Same…But Different”. Each time I work with Sonia the approach is so different. She has a unique perspective on movement and choreography and her passion for dance and unique vision really helps me grow and expand both as an artist and as a human being.

I was lucky enough to be involved from the beginning of this project from research and development to creating the final piece. This for me was a super interesting starting point, and it was wonderful for myself (Contemporary Dancer) to work with the other artists, Mickael Marso Riviere (Breakdance background) and Aakanksha Rawat (Classical Indian Dance). It was fantastic how such totally different people were able to come together into a room and unite to create such an authentic and multi layered work of art.  This process confirmed for me how it is important to always be open, stay humble and allow yourself to be vulnerable. This rawness enabled us be open to each others differences and find common ground, to create an exciting piece with so much colour, beauty and truth.

“Same Same…But different” really allowed me to tap into my childhood curiosity and to be vulnerable and reminded me that it is ok to be different; through this we can see the beauty of other people’s differences when we open up ourselves to others.

Photo credit: Simon Richardson



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Lok Virsa – Birmingham Hippodrome 30th March 2019
Spring was slow to appear in March this year but the sun burst through the clouds on Saturday the 30th  March just in time for Lok Virsa at the Hippodrome, in the centre of Birmingham. 

I had heard wonderful tales from other colleagues about Lok Virsa, a one day arts festival or ‘mela’ of free arts activities and pop-up performances for all the family, but I was not prepared for the joyous carnival atmosphere that was to burst upon the streets of Birmingham and fill the beautifully decorated Hippodrome with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Indian Subcontinent.

The afternoon began with a lively procession through the bustling streets of Birmingham with passers by drawn in by the stunning costumes of the dancers and hypnotic rhythm of the drums.




The energy and exuberance of the procession was even enough to stop the traffic in its tracks:

Crowds gathered outside the Hippodrome as the musicians and dancers opened the afternoon festivities with a wonderful selection of dances and invited the public into the Hippodrome for an unforgettable day of music, dance and arts activities for all the family.


My role for the day was to greet visitors and let them know what was happening and what events were taking place.  This was no easy task as over 5000 people came along to enjoy all that Lok Virsa had to offer. The time flew as I chatted to people who wanted to learn more about Sonia Sabri Company. We had lots of enquiries about the different dance and music classes that we offer inspired by the stunning performances on the day.  I was also responsible for overseeing our great group of volunteers. These students willingly gave up their Saturday to help where needed, from decoration of the Hippodrome in the morning to supporting the artists throughout the day and ensuring that they had sufficient art supplies for the popular art activities. As I zoomed around the building, I also took the opportunity to snap pictures and videos of all the activities to share on social media.  The dance and music workshops were full of enthusiastic participants and I loved seeing the concentration on everyone’s faces as they focused intently on learning new steps and rhythms. The joy on their faces when they were able to follow the steps was so wonderful to see.

The free art activities were popular with young and old.  Visitors were able to try out calligraphy, rangoli and book binding as well as block printing and it was great that so many who took part were able to take home a memento of their day. The mhendi (henna tattoos) were also extremely popular and the designs were intricate and exquisite.

It was lovely to speak to families that had never visited the Hippodrome before or seen the style of music and dance and art activities that make Lok Virsa such a vibrant and exciting festival. It was also so special to see so many families having fun together, from grandparents to young children; everyone had a smile on their faces.

The atmosphere was carnival like and the magnificent spaces of the Hippodrome echoed with music and laughter. The beautiful film screening of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri” accompanied by live music and the eloquence of the poetry readings brought the day to a dignified and serene end.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of this colourful and fun filled day and I am looking forward to the next Lok Virsa – watch this space, as we may well be coming to a town near you very soon!


Photo credits: Anisa Fazal, Liv Buckland, and Lisa Godsal
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Akaar 2017
  
Akaar 2017 was a success, showcasing the local talent of the Midlands at the Old Rep Theatre on Saturday 1st July. 

The journey began with an open invitation to Midlands based dance and music groups, of all  backgrounds. The responses received was overwhelming, with a variety of emerging talents showing interest.

As the performance day arrived, adrenaline filled the backstage dressing rooms, as the final preparations of the showcase took place. The weeks of intense rehearsals leading up to the performance had finally come to a close, as the dancers and musicians waited for their call backstage. All of the performers shared a passion for classical, folk, Bharathanatyam, Bollywood and Kathak, and were finally ready to perform on the Old Rep Theatre stage, to an excited audience. 

The public were thrilled with the standard of the show, eager to come back and see similar performances! Akaar 2017 wouldn't have been a success, without all of the hard working performers and supportive audience members! 

We hope to see you for another successful Akaar in 2018! 














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Amazing Arts Award


Over the last five weeks Sonia Sabri Company and The Old Rep have partnered together to deliver sessions for the children of Birmingham Chinese school to be able to receive a Discover Arts Award. This culminated in a fantastic display for their parents.


When the day finally arrived nerves were in the air, the parents waited with baited breath (the Oscars has nothing on this!) The time to shine was here at last and shine they did!  Every one enjoyed seeing the exciting arts activities the children had ben involved in over the past few weeks and the characters and masks they had created.


The Arts Award Discover is an industry award certificate by Trinity College London. Through creative workshops the students find out about artists and their work and can share their arts discovery with others. 


Arts award and projects like this are a fantastic way of involving children in the arts and firing a passion! 


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Kathak camp



Forget summer camp, 2017 is the year of Kathak camp

From the 22nd to the 26th February 2017 we ran another fantastic Kathak camp for Kathak and Tabla students from around the UK. They were provided with a chance to learn in a fun and focused environment to, enhance their skills and let their artistic nature flourish.
We are very happy to say that’s exactly what they did!
Students were able to focus on rhythm and creativity in Kathak and develop their relationship and understanding of Tabla music.
Each day at we were treated to a room full of smiling faces and eager learners, it was a joy to watch them create and perform.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work of all those involved. A special thank you to the renowned artists Rani Khanam (Kathak) and Sarvar Sabri (Tabla) and the dedicated and talented students. And another huge thank you to everyone who has given their support and time to the project.
Keep your eyes peeled for our next Kathak camp!
If you have any questions or suggestions about Kathak camp please contact us at mel@ssco.org.uk


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Enlightening Weekend Recipe

  • ·      Cover a 6m by 3m floor with sheeting
  • ·      Add rice, lentils, flowers, and sand
  • ·      Garnish with Glitter
  • ·      Sift with creativity and enjoy your beautiful Rangoli Artwork

Bustling with guests of every age and artists of every genre, the Lighthouse in Poole was brought to life in an open day event like no other, organised to celebrate the re-opening of their arts centre.  With dancers, actors and even circus performers this day was set to be one to remember, how could we not join in? We took the long journey down to Poole in order to add our own flavour to this event with a participatory Rangoli workshop and a special performance of  ‘Salaam’. 

Our Projects Manager (and in house Artist) Mel Lewis hosted the participatory workshop, helping members of the public to create beautiful patterns and decorations on the floor, inspired by the traditional Indian art of Rangoli. The bright colours and swirling shapes soon caught the eyes of the public and before we knew it we were bustling with people getting stuck in and releasing their inner creativity.  

From the abundance of lovely comments we know that this event was greatly enjoyed, and hope that our presence truly helped the day to sparkle. We hope everyone working at the lighthouse had a fantastic time too, and will continue to host a kaleidoscope of events in their wonderfully re-furbished arts venue!




Written by Olivia Buckland

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Youthink - NEW young people's project at The Drum, Birmingham

Calling 13 19 year olds for

YOUTHINK

Do you have a passion for performing?
Are you a dancer, singer or actor living in Birmingham?
YOUTHINK needs you!

Sonia Sabri Company is recruiting young performers for a new dance theatre project focussing on issues surrounding community & identity.

Aspiring producers, designers, directors, script-writers, musicians and dancers are needed for the YOUTHINK project which runs from February-May 2012 to create a spectacular performance at The Drum Arts Centre.

To find out how you can get involved, call Sonia Sabri Company on 0121 622 3135 or
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