Review: Darbar Festival 2018 – Adventures in Odissi and Kathak at Sadlers Wells Theatre

Sujarta Mohapatra performing at Darbar Festival 2018 at Sadlers Wells


First things, first… I have never seen any style of Indian dance live, my only experience is from big dance numbers in Bollywood films and various dance documentaries on TV.

I’ve love watching the various styles, and even follow quite a few Indian dance accounts on instagram, but the styles are not the classical Indian styles that are showcased at the Darbar Festival, but are mainly Bhangra and Commercial Bollywood styles and also a few accounts that mix Hip Hop with Bhangra.

Darbar Festival is a celebration and showcase of the classical Indian dance styles;

  • Odissi
  • Kathak
  • Bharatanatyam

The 2018 edition, is the 13th edition of this festival and the 2nd year at Sadlers Wells.

It originated in Leicester in 2006, as an Indian classical music festival but added dance with support from Alistair Spalding, (Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Sadlers Wells).

Well known choreographer and dancer, Akram Khan curated this year’s dance content.

It’s a 2 day festival, but due to work commitments I was only able to attend the second night which featured the dance styles of Odissi and Kathak.

The first night featured the dance style of Bharatanatyam, wish i’d managed to see it too.

Take a look at the trailer….



My Thoughts

The very first thing you notice on the stage, is an absolutely breathtaking lighting installation designed by Aideen Malone and Akram Khan, which forms the backdrop and also moves above the dancers and musicians, creating the most magical atmosphere – the video and photographs do not do it justice, it must be seen live to appreciate the pure beauty of it.

The first solo was performed in the Odissi style, this style is very specific shapes and isolations with reminisants of plies & turned out feet featured in classical ballet technique, alongside hip, chest and head isolations, that are commonplace with traditional jazz dance technique.

The costume, a Sambalpuri saree is beautiful and really compliment the movements, creating lovely shapes and the anke bells (ghungroos) create an audible dimension to the performance, as well as looking so pretty ?



The second solo was in the style, Kathak, it’s a more fluid and flowing dance style with lots of turns, arm movements and footwork that was more parallel than the Odissi style. There is also and A/B or Q&A between a dancer and musicians, so more of an obvious relationship from an audience perspective.

The movements reminded me of flamenco dance, with the posture/dancers stance, foot stamping, strong arms and flowing turns.

Gauri Diwakar performing Kathak Dance Style at Darbar Festival 2018 at Sadlers Wells

The costume (see above) flowed so beautifully during the performance and again, complimented the choreography.

Both sets of musicians and vocalists were absolutely brilliant, and there were moments within the show that the dancer was either off stage or onstage with the lights dimmed and we were entertained by the musicians in pure darkness  ☺

My favourite part of the show was the final piece at the end, when both the Odissi and Kathak musicians and dancers came on stage to perform a joint piece. The dancers duet was so beautiful, it was truly amazing to watch both dance styles side by side and how they really complemented each other.

I really need to make sure I get a chance to catch some live Bharatanatyam one day, and I know that I am now a fan of Kathak and a superfan-girl of Odissi ?

Make sure you get a chance to watch if it should return in 2019.

Thanks for reading.

Chanel x

Chanel Williams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.