Cosmic Dance

Review by Wangxiu Cheng

It is the last weekend of November 2022 but I have embraced Edinburgh’s Winter festivities and attended my first Christmas recital, or Cosmic Dance Christmas Recital, to be precise! My student placement at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland this autumn has given me the opportunity to professionally engage with a range of world dance styles – from Highland Dancing and ceilidh to Chinese Tujia folk dance and even Italian Pizzica and Tammurriata.

At the Recital I experienced authentic Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam with live music and chai served generously in the heritage space of Edinburgh’s Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church. It was led by Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland member Oxana Banshikova and Kirsten Newell of Cosmic Dance Dance Company. Sharing 15 years of teaching and performing experience, they have both been striving to promote and grow innovative and high-quality South Asian traditional dance through their collaborative and independent work in Scotland and beyond.

The Cosmic Dance Christmas Recital featured Carnatic vocalist Ankna Arockiam alongside 19 dancers who treated us to 18 passionate and solemn solos, duets, trios and group dances. Supported by the harmonies of the singers and a pair of tabla drums, Cosmic Dance’s Bharatanatyam, engaged the imagination and brought warmth to cold and wintery Edinburgh.

We were soon immersed in the irregular beat of this Indian classical dance – a real test for every dancer’s sense of rhythm. The coordination of hands, feet, head, and eyes varied widely. A mere three-minute dance packed dozens of movements. The dancers performed exceptionally well – a testiment to the responsible instruction and guidance of their teachers.

‘It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.’

This passage from Rabindranath Tagore‘s Gitanjali Poem 12 came to mind when I interviewed three of the dancers. As high school students aged 12–14 years, they started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of 10, nurturing their passion for traditional dance and felt delighted to be able to perform as part of this showcase.

Whenever we encounter wonderful performances such as Cosmic Dance Christmas Recital, we need to acknowledge the daily dedication of the dancers behind the scenes. It is through their passion and persistence that traditional dance could be infused with the deepest emotions and continually improved in the 21st Century.

Images by Wangxiu Cheng. Mentorship and editorial support by Iliyana Nedkova

Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland’s second annual international trad dance festival is planned for 28-30 April 2023 across Edinburgh. Find out more about the inaugural Pomegranates Festival 2022 here.