25th October 2023

PRO GATI: South Asian Dance, Critical Climate and Social Issues Round Table

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How does and can South Asian dance respond to critical climate and social issues today?

Sampad PRO GATI Round Tables: Be part of the conversation

Join us at this round table discussion, chaired by Cultural Consultant Lara Ratnaraja, with provocations from artists Amina Khayyam, Sima Gonsai and Balbir Singh.

The Round Table will provoke conversation and debate around how we can make our dance transformational? Are we building communities and leadership through our work? How are we connecting to collaborators outside of our sector? How can South Asian dance tell stories that create empathy – can it be a force for healing, joy, beauty, and community? Are we responding to local and global issues through our creative practice?

Networking opportunity with light refreshments available after the discussion.

These Roundtables are a strand of PRO GATI, a 15-month programme produced by Sampad South Asian Arts and Heritage to upskill and engage with the South Asian dance sector made possible with funding from Dance Hub Birmingham

Lara Ratnaraja – Chair

Lara Ratnaraja is an independent Cultural Consultant who specialises in culture and diversity, innovation, leadership, collaboration, and cultural policy and placemaking within the cultural, the HE and digital sectors.

She also co-produces a series of cultural leadership programmes for people from diverse backgrounds linked to geographical place and also curates a digital Conference called Hello Culture.

Projects include working with the 8 Welsh National Arts Companies to develop a cultural framework for diversity co-designed with creative stakeholders and residents and working in Aberdeen for Robert Gordon University, co-designing a cultural framework with private and public stakeholders.

She is currently involved with the development, stakeholder management and evaluation of a Southbank collaboration with Apple, which is delivering a programme for black artists in London, Birmingham and Manchester, bringing in regional and national stakeholders to develop a road map for both follow-on engagement and also future partnerships.

Lara is on the board of Derby Theatre, Vivid Projects and Coventry Biennial and the Advisory Group for SHOUT Festival.  She is on the UK Council for Creative UK and the Equality Monitoring Group for Arts Council Wales.


Sima Gonsai – Provocateur 

Sima Gonsai is a West Midlands-based multi-disciplinary artist, screendance director and programmer.

Her work is rooted in collaboration, with a commitment to connecting human experience, people and place. Her working process varies with each project; from narrative-led storytelling and the visceral language of movement, contemporary dance and film to connect with her subjects or themes; to collaborate with differently-abled artists; international communities; trained dancers; or a combination of many of these processes at once.

At the heart of her practice is a desire to experiment with digital and inclusive ways of storytelling, where deep human narratives are told through the medium of multimedia, dance and film. Her work is rooted in presenting intergenerational social and cultural experiences and explores bodily signatures from differently abled groups to environmental studies, climate emergency and connecting communities across the globe via bicycle.

Sima is exploring intercultural climate traditions between science research at Coventry University and South Asian dance themed on air, soil and water. Her two award winning dancefilms ‘And Breathe’ 2020 and ‘Cultivate’ 2022, have most recently been screened at COP 27, Egypt hosted by Julies Bicycles. Interconnected climate culture between British and South Asian practices is a new trajectory for Sima, allowing her to reconnect with her Indian heritage and culture through contemporary dance, examining western and eastern responses to climate change.

Balbir Singh – Provocateur

Artistic Director of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, based at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds.

Balbir trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and then in Kathak with Guru Pratap Pawar.

Balbir creates work across art forms and in different spaces from theatres to ice rinks, swimming pools, libraries and green spaces.

The work features high level dance artists from across the world and has a number of strands:

Celebrating Age, Sport and Art, Classical Revisited, An Appetite for Dance, Blue Green Spaces.

Recent work includes Cricket Green a large scale outdoor production.

Reflections of an Indian Dancer created with Sooraj Subramaniam.

Dewey about the library classification system.

Tea Leaves – all things tea from across the world.

Amina Khayyam – Provocateur

Amina Khayyam is a critically acclaimed choreographer whose productions tell urgent and contemporary stories using the South Asian Kathak dance form as the core narrative medium. Her productions come from her collaborations with those who are culturally least engaged, economically challenged and socially disenfranchised – with a focus on the marginalized female voice.

Amina has made 15 pieces of new work through her company AKDC. All these productions have toured nationally and internationally across multiple stages and platforms.

You can find more details about Amina’s company and productions on her website.