The hardship endured by those in the arts is well-known during this pandemic. With a lack of support from the government, many in the music and performing arts industries have really struggled to make ends meet.
In a more positive turn of events the Aakash Odedra Company, an award-winning international dance company inspired by South Asian and contemporary dance situated in the heart of Leicester city, has raised a substantial sum of money for dancers that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The money was raised when Founder Producer Anand Bhatt joined forces with Artistic Director Aakash Odedra and HR Consultant Risha Budhdeo in celebration of their birthdays. Friends, family and supporters of the company gifted the £5500.
Between them, they each decided to use the funds as awards for artists and dancers who have a relationship with Aakash Odedra Company and without whom the company would not have been able to develop its work over the last 10 years.
Part of the fund was distributed to the #ArtMatters initiative, which was set up to help create awareness about the new reality of various art communities across India. This funding will help provide immediate relief to artists and their families.
Aakash Odedra said: “It’s important to me that during this time of global uncertainty we continue to support each other where we can. This hardship fund has enabled me to support artists in need, many of whom I have worked with in the past to create a repertoire I am proud of; and those who I consider to be the future of the artform. We need to consider the future of the arts and support artists so we can work together again.”
The fund has helped the company to begin looking towards the future, by supporting dancers and artists that they work with through their apprentice company ‘Aakash Odedra 2’. 50% of the funds raised were distributed to six dancers they’ve been working with over the last 18 months. Each of the six recipients have recently begun their careers in dance as performers and teachers and for all of them, similarly to others in the arts, COVID-19 has prevented them from progressing their careers.
“It has been motivating and encouraging to know that we as freelance dancers are being looked out for during this challenging time.” said Vidya Patel, one of the Aakash Odedra 2 dancer and hardship fund recipients. “Throughout the lockdown, as a member of AO2 we have received a lot of support through online classes continuing, learning more about the organisational aspect of the company, having a safe space to connect with one another and receiving encouragement and guidance from Aakash, other tutors and the Aakash Odedra Company team. For me, this generosity echoes the company’s ethos and the values Aakash holds of nurturing young dancers like myself and supporting freelancers in the wider dance industry.”
Samantha McDowell, another of the Aakash Odedra 2 dancer and hardship fund recipients said: “In the midst of this uncertain time, it’s encouraging and strengthening to witness the dance community extending help to one another and looking out for and after each other.”
“Although some classes are back up and running, it is expensive to continuously travel and pay for class/membership fees etc. especially when there has been a lack of opportunities for work recently.” said Becky Shutter, Aakash Odedra 2 dancer and hardship fund recipient. “That’s why I was absolutely delighted to receive the hardship fund as now I have the means to go and take class with inspiring teachers again and expand my knowledge and creativity. I am beyond grateful for the generosity from Aakash Odedra Company and their continuous support not only now but throughout the entire year.”
By Sam Ellison