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RISE Behind-The-Dance: Kashmira Sunni

 Posted On 14 January 2020

RISE IS THE OPENING EVENT FOR BRENT'S YEAR AS THE LONDON BOROUGH OF CULTURE 2020.

It will tell the story of how this little-known corner of the capital - in its activism, writing and athleticism - travelled from the margins to change British culture. We caught up with Kashima Sunni, Brent born entrepreneur and dancer in RISE...

When and how did you first become a dancer?
My parents first enrolled me in Ballet and Indian Classical at the age of 3, by 4 I had done my first stage performance and soon realised that the stage was where my heart was. I started choreographing at around age 17 and at 21 got a dream-come-true opportunity to work in Bollywood, which saw me move to Mumbai for a few years. On returning to London, I set up my own dance company, so I could share my passion for the arts with others. My moto is Arts, Innovation, Authenticity and Empowerment. My aim is to allow dance to empower people and help them grow in confidence while being true to themselves.

Explain RISE in 3 words?
Friendship, Community, Celebration.

Do you have a certain process when you create a choreography?
I always like to present something different when I choreograph - to present music or a song in a way that isn't expected and perhaps isn't how the piece was even intended. When I hear a piece for the first time, I use my initial reaction to and mental vision of the song to drive my choreography and formation, and then bear in mind the skill and ability level of the performer(s).

When it comes to Indian choreography - I also try to keep movements as traditional as possible rather than veering to the more contemporary styles that are being used more frequently now. Finally, I am trying where possible to step outside the box rather than doing things 'by the book'. Rather than confining myself to how a particular dance or step 'should' be done according to scripture or the origins of that dance style, I see how I can use the initial concept/theme but rearrange it or tweak it somehow while not veering from the intended ethos. Hence the use of the words innovation together with authenticity. This attempt has often led to very interesting collaborations like Kathak with Tap, and now Semi Classical with Hip Hop - which will be seen during RISE.

What is your favourite part of RISE?
My favourite part is the Strikes sequence. The story behind it and what the piece represents is so powerful. That, together with the amazing music that Robby [RISE Choreographer and Southpaw Dance Director] has chosen, you can't help but get affected by it when you perform it.

What do you like about teaching dance to others?
I love the excitement they feel when they get a routine right or when they complete a successful performance. I love seeing the vision that I have hidden in my head come to life before me. I love the friendships that grow through dance. One of the most frequently used photos to promote RISE on Instagram is two of my students hugging - where they had never even met before RISE. Finally, I love seeing how people grow not as dancers, but as individuals. I've seen confidence, interpersonal skills, and sometimes even their wellbeing grow or improve through learning, movement or performance.

Why should people come to RISE?
RISE is ownership, celebration and tribute. It celebrates its successes and the borough it has become today and all the wonderful moments, events and monuments that have become its identity. Yet it is also not afraid to own those elements that may not be so positive or those moments that it may not be as proud of. It pays tribute to those past and present, who have helped shape the borough into what it is today. These stories and moments are not unique to Brent, but will resonate around the city and, therefore, be relatable to all.

RISE is a chance to appreciate all of that, whether you are associated with the borough or just want to support and appreciate your fellow Londoners!

RISE
Saturday 18 January 2020
Performance at 7pm, Wembley Park.

For more information on RISE, please visit www.brent2020.co.uk/programmes/RISE