ON TOUR WITH "SAME SAME...BUT DIFFERENT"- KATIE ALBON


I joined the company in June 2021 to learn ‘Same Same…But Different’ ready for the Summer and Autumn tours. '

By the end of November, I will have performed the show a grand total of 42 times! 

It has been a busy time but there have been some unforgettable moments.

Touring for me is not just about the performing (which of course is a joy in itself); it’s about the communities we meet, the conversations with the families after the show, the meals shared with the company, the laughter in the van, the time exploring new places…I could go on and on!


 Performing a show aimed at children and their families has been a lot of fun. I love the instant reaction from the children; they smile, laugh and shout out what they think and feel. I feel very lucky to be able to bring joy to their days and to open up conversations for them about difference and why we should celebrate difference.

We have also been busy delivering workshops in primary schools and in some of the performance venues. 

I have loved leading the creative part of these sessions, taking the children through a task that allows them freedom to create their own movements and then share and perform to their classmates. 


A highlight for me was our day in Broadmayne organised by Arts Reach. We had two workshops that day, one with ‘Premix’, an inclusive performance company for 7 - 11 year-olds. We had a brilliant time exploring some of the props (like bells and a long red ribbon) and the different dance styles from the show through improvisation and play. As a key theme of the show is celebrating difference, I think it’s really important that all children are included in the work that we do.

 

Something I’ll particularly take away from this experience are the memories of the lovely people we’ve met and the comments from the children after the show. One girl (age 9) said:

 

“I really enjoyed the show because all the other shows are different to this one, and this one was funny, I don’t normally enjoy shows and this one was the best one I’ve been to, it’s really joyful. I get really into it, it’s really good”. 


Rural touring is unpredictable, you don’t know what the spaces will be like until you arrive and you might be performing to 2 people or 200 people. 


Every day is different but every day is an adventure!





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 INTRODUCING SAME SAME ... BUT DIFFERENT'S NEWEST DANCER - GEORGE PEREZ


I am the new edition to the team of dancers for the production “Same Same… But Different” created by Sonia Sabri Company. 

As I have recently graduated in May 2021, I was excited to get out into the professional world of dance and put my training into practice. 

Joining this production will be my first experience of national touring and I can’t wait to travel around the UK educating and inspiring the children of today through the love of art. 

I wanted to be a part of this production as I felt the message of “its ok to be different” and even “celebrating our differences” was an area that was not addressed in my early education and that left me with many questions about my myself and my differences. 

The production is cleverly designed to highlight the differences between the three dancers. This includes the dance styles we present, the props that are used, our physical features and even our choice of clothes. 

After observing previous versions of “Same Same… But Different” I felt the demands of my role were going to be challenging as I was required to be an
Urban, Beatboxing Guitarist. However, after attending the first day of rehearsals I quickly realised that Sonia didn’t expect me to produce the same performance as the previous dancer. We spent a large amount of time re-creating the role and facilitating the use of my individual skills around the demands of the production.


Working with Sonia I learnt a lot about communication with the audience and how our intentions will be read and perceived. 

As the work is targeted for children 5+ and is educationally motivated it’s important that our messages are received and understood by our audiences. 


In response to these aims we allocated a lot of our time in rehearsal to the intention of our characters and how we could clearly communicate our thought process with our viewers. 


Traveling up to Birmingham, learning new styles of dance, meeting new artists and getting the chance to finally perform to a live audience again has been exhilarating. 

It’s such a wonderful feeling to take this amazing work and inspire and educate children on these messages through various art forms. 

The work containing live music, several props and three different styles of dance makes it impossible to lose interest. I even questioned if we could hold the attention of large groups of children for an hour. 

Due to the quickly progressing and constant fluctuating nature of the piece there is never a dull moment. Often the children are left wanting more and the reaction they produce and the looks on their faces is enough to fill your heart a thousand times over.



Feedback from a recent show "My son said that he smiled so much his teeth hurt!"


Full tour details are listed on our website under calendar:


Calendar - Sonia Sabri Company (ssco.org.uk)

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We’re over the moon to announce our Artistic Director & renowned dancer-choreographer Sonia Sabri is part of the creative team working on Wondrous Stories conceived by Motionhouse for the Commonwealth Games 2022, an inspiring large-scale production which will be the opening show of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.




Audiences will be able to attend seven performances of this spectacular, free event, which will bring together the people of Birmingham in a celebration of the wondrous stories of ordinary people across the region. 


Professional dancers will be accompanied by local choirs and a community cast of over 300 from the Birmingham 2022 Festival Critical Mass participation project. Sonia will be working with an exciting team of artistic collaborators including Motionhouse, Jamaal Burkmar, poets Raza Hussein & Sebbie Mudhai, composer Sophy Smith & digital artists Logela Multemedia, amongst others.


Raidene Carter, executive producer of Birmingham 2022 Festival said: “It’s a huge privilege to finally announce our plans for the Birmingham 2022 Festival. We are working with artists, creatives and communities from across the West Midlands to celebrate our creativity and shine a light on the region for 6 months, leading up to and following the Games."

We’ll be sharing lots of updates as we help create this extraordinary event, so watch this space!

Photo image by Greta Zabulyte
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 SAME SAME ... BUT DIFFERENT TOUR by CIARA CLAYTON (dance teacher and rehearsal director)

I have recently joined the Sonia Sabri Company as the rehearsal director for ‘Same Same… But Different’. Having moved to the West Midlands last September I was keen to explore what was happening in the arts sector here and meet local artists and creatives. ‘Same Same… But Different’ has dancers from varied backgrounds, which was lovely to experience after so long of having limited interactions with people.

Working alongside Sonia was a new experience for both of us as we were strangers when we first met. However, very quickly after a short time spent together in the studio we began to gain an understanding of one another and I was able to comprehend Sonia’s vision for the work and what her goals and aims were. We were able to bounce off each other which made the process of bringing back the work with a new cast smooth and enjoyable.

Two out of the three current cast members have previously been in the work so there was a huge focus on making sure the piece was taught and rehearsed with the newest dancer. During this time, however, we realised that even though two of the dancers had already performed the work in the past, this was over a year ago, due to the global pandemic and they have changed and developed as people and artists. Therefore, it was important for them to spend time working on the movement again to make sure it was authentic to their current selves.

For all of us in this rehearsal the experience of being back in the studio was new as we have spent so little time in the studio and in close physical contact with other people since last March. Even though this felt a little odd at first, very quickly we all came to appreciate how special this was. From the arduous cleaning of material, setting formations and rehearsing timing to delving into the intentions and exploring creative decisions of the piece, I found every moment engaging and exciting due to the nature of the work.

‘Same Same… But Different’ is doing a tour of libraries this summer around England and I think this will allow many children to experience dance and the arts in a way they may not normally. 

Not every child has the opportunity to go to the theatre and it can also be hard to find theatre pieces suitable for young children. It is so important to bring professional dance work into an accessible and common place for children such as a library as it will hopefully spark creativity and allow  them to see things in a different way which they may not have seen before. I think it will also be enjoyable for them to see live dance after spending so much time experiencing life through a screen recently.

I am looking forward to more of our rehearsals and watching the show go on tour and I can not wait to see live dance in the libraries!

The tour will visit 26 libraries and spaces across England from 27 July-26 August.

Full tour details are listed on our website under calendar:
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 AKAAR 2021 by  Anujeet Panesar 


The buzz, the adrenaline, the melodic sound of multiple sets of ghungroo, the chatter, the microscopic particles of hairspray lingering in the air, the kaleidoscope of makeup palettes. These are the elements of pre-performance dressing room prep to which I have become accustomed over the time I have been learning kathak. Then, the quiet that starts to come over the dancers as we make our way backstage, eyes frantically adjusting to the dark whilst also trying to keep centred, becoming acutely aware of the presence of the audience waiting just beyond. What happens to the experience of performance when these components are removed? What becomes of the performer who cannot see their audience, whose stage can be their garden, living room, kitchen, and whose audience may be watching any time of day, anywhere in the world, in their pyjamas?


Personally, whilst preparing for the Akaar online dance festival during the pandemic in 2021, my performative instincts were heightened. I could not rely on the usual rituals, comforting in their familiarity. After a year of living in leggings and hoodies, seeing myself in the mirror with all the accoutrements felt like seeing an old friend, to whom I gave a massive metaphorical hug. However the nerves remained intense despite the familiar environment of my conservatory. Who would see this, was I doing justice to my teacher and my art in presenting something which would be digitally preserved with flaws intact, forevermore? Why could I not find the right camera angle, when was the light streaming in going to be of the right quality for the recording? I became technician, sound engineer, video editor, dance critic. 


At some point, my anxieties were quelled once I realised I may not be alone with this jumble of concerns, feelings and questions. When I watched others’ recordings of their own contribution to the festival, I could see unbridled joy at reclaiming the spaces which had trapped us, by turning them into stages. I could see faces excited to perform with the thrill of a virtual audience. For a few moments, the daily challenges and imperfections of our lockdown lives did not matter any more. My dance reached people who know of my longstanding relationship with kathak but have never seen me perform before, including family in India. Their comments and feedback surprised and uplifted me, reaffirming why kathak has been an anchor throughout my life. Ironically, the physical detachment left me feeling more connected to my audience than ever. Alongside the manifold benefits of dance, this was the year it helped an analogue loving, digital technophobe to find and create new meaning amidst uncertainty.




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A NEW VIRTUAL WORLD 

Online Dance Classes with Sonia Sabri Company

by Aakanksha Rawat

Sonia Sabri Company shifted all their classes online at the very first lockdown in March 2020 and has been delivering classes to all their students virtually ever since. With the world of dance coming to a stop to as we know it, if it weren’t for these online classes I would have really struggled to find my groundings. Not only did they give me something to focus on but also provided me with a way of temporarily forgetting about the chaos going on  outside.


This new virtual interaction has definitely been a blessing in disguise. Not only has the company managed to continue forward with their existing students but also gained many new students from across the globe.

 Alongside these classes we had some brilliant opportunities to meet and learn from some incredible international artists in the form of workshops, which otherwise would have been difficult to accommodate. Being able to connect with people on a global stage from the comfort of our homes has definitely opened up a new world of opportunities.


Sonia Sabri Company constantly made sure their students feel a sense of achievement and belonging in this dance community. The company has been very proudly spotlighting their student’s achievements across their social media pages. Being a part of this community and looking out for each other has supported my emotional and mental health massively.


Although I do miss being in the studio and cannot wait to dance in a proper studio again, I am really grateful to these virtual platforms and would love to carry on with these even when the world returns to normality. 

The sheer reach and exposure of technology has had a huge impact not only on the company but also on students and participants who otherwise could not have been part of our classes and workshops.

I look forward to all my classes and eagerly wait to join workshops organised by Sonia Sabri Company. They are definitely the highlight of my day! 


This experience has also enriched my dance journey. My dance teacher, Sonia Sabri asked me to send an entry for an online series by Gen Next, a discussion and support forum for Indian Classical dancers which came into existence during the lockdown. With the help, support and blessings of my teacher I was able to feature in their ‘Glimpses of the Future’ series. 

Alongside this, I have also been given the opportunity to lead a company class and dance workshops for young children under Sonia’s guidance and monitoring which is really helping me grow and learn as a dance student.

I feel extremely blessed to be a part of such a diverse and renowned company and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us, regardless of the uncertainties, and hope that we all emerge stronger and more connected. 



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