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.
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.