Aakash Odedra in Aditi Mangaldas' Echoes. Photo by Mark Harvey, Courtesy Odedra.

For Aakash Odedra, Dance Is a Way of Looking Within and Observing the World

I consider there to be two spheres in my life: the inner world and the external physical world. Most of the time they don't align.

As a child, whenever I heard music, I instantly disconnected from the present and vanished into a world of myth and fantasy. A swing of an arm created a painting that only I could see; a hand gesture gave birth to an Indian god; continuously spinning while looking down at the carpet made my eyes see patterns spring to life. I remember coming to and all the adults reacting, some clapping, some laughing and a few just looking at me weirdly.


Sadly, the world within me felt more appealing. My family, which had just migrated from Africa, lived in a rundown area of Birmingham, England, right next to a train track and industrial buildings. The sky always seemed to be gray. I soon realized why some of the adults were looking at me weirdly or laughing: They didn't see what I saw—they only saw what was around them. It became my ambition to share my inner fantasy world. To create a bridge that gave deeper meaning to the dull, gray world I lived in.

But when I first started dancing 28 years ago there were no boys in the South Asian community who danced. Alienated and isolated, I very quickly formed a friendship with dance. I spoke to it, I fought with it, I married it and at points tried to divorce it. The dance that isolated me also liberated me; it was both my freedom and cage.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people find their own breath, to hear their own pulse and to open their inner universe. Each time I danced I shed my old skin and felt I was reborn. I died many times to reemerge and reimagine.

At times, when I dance I feel god and the universe speak to me and through me. When I look into a mirror, I see what's in front of me, but when I dance it's like the inner mirror becomes a reflection of life.

I now feel that I don't need to physically move to dance. Dance has become my observation, and my still point. Listening to my heart beating and observing raindrops falling to the ground is dance. Seeing people walk to the sound of traffic is dance. Understanding someone else's perspective is dance. Dance for me has now become life itself.

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Photo by Ema Peter, Courtesy University of Southern California, Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

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July 2021