A development initiative for South Asian Dance in the North West

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
Travelling Fellowship 2013


There are songs still to be sung

A report by Bisakha Sarker

Churchill Fellow 2013








Yellow Butterfly

Wheelchair Experience

Redefining Heritage

Uday Shankar

Churchill's boots


Dance artists, therapists and scholars

Places visited

The inspiration for the dance


When my eight year old grandson, Noah, heard that I am going away for a month he wanted to know where was I going and why?
I asked him if he had heard the name Churchill? He cheekily and innocently said do you mean the dog in that advert! “No” I said, I am talking about the man who at one time was the Prime Minister of England.
He immediately said “Oh you mean Winston Churchill?” Excitedly he shared with me a story of Winston Churchill’s wartime bravery and enquired “what has he got to do with you?”
I persisted with more determination to make him get a sense of the connection between this British wartime hero and his Indian dancer grandmother.
I told him that throughout his life Winston Churchill liked to inspire people, he liked people to feel strong and positive, he wanted them to believe that dreams could be realised and that his one great message was ‘deserve victory’.
When he was no longer there to inspire people, in person his friends and followers set up a trust in his name that invites men and women from across the UK to tell them their aspirations for their lifetime. The Trust then helps the individuals, whose dreams in some way chime with Winston Churchill’s spirit, to make those dreams come true. I was very fortunate as this year I was chosen by the Trust to fulfill my dream of going to Canada to learn more about dance and that is why I am going to Canada.
“Can I have a dream Diya?” asked Noah.
“Yes of course” I said “keep looking for a special dream that you would really really like to come true.”


As my life flows through time, flowers bloom and wilt, my thoughts on dancing keeps changing but my passion for dance remains undiminished.

From the time when I became the first South Asian Dance Animateur in Merseyside I have had the opportunity to take my dance across the cultural barrier to people of all ages and backgrounds. Lately my interest has shifted to working with and for the older members of the community.

It was another Churchill Fellow, Dr Richard Coaten, a well known dance movement therapist, who encouraged me to apply for this fellowship. His international network regularly reports fascinating information from Canada, about their work with the art and older people. This inspired me to go to Canada.

This is a collection of reflections and recollections from my amazing time in Canada where I made many personal and professional connections that rejuvenated and validated my own practice.

Over four weeks I travelled to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. My journey took me to care homes, community centres, hospitals, dance studios, Art centres, museum and private houses. I learnt from their practice and shared my joy of dance. As the poet Roethke said

“I learn by going where I have to go.”

While steering through a busy schedule of meetings and workshops, I also enjoyed the awe inspiring natural beauty of the country and soaked myself in the excitement of busy urban life. As time went by my anxiety and apprehension dissolved into courage and confidence  and  strangers became friends.


While I was in Canada the editor of Animated, the Foundation for Community Dance’s magazine requested I write about my experience. I have submitted the article " Yellow butterfly " describing my many interesting encounters in Vancouver.
The current issue (Autumn 2013) of Pulse the magazine archiving Indian dance and music in the UK, has published an interview with me about my time in Canada travelling as a Churchill fellow (www.pulseconnects.com)

Soon after my return I was developing the second phase of our project "Fleeting Moment" a dementia friendly performance. My discussions with Jeanne Summerfield from The Society For The Arts In Dementia Care, Canada, proved invaluable.

Some of the sessions in Canada acted as a type of action research for the full production ‘Fleeting Moments’ – a dementia friendly piece performed a month after returning from the fellowship at Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool

Louanna Cocchiarella the co editor of the Canadian Alzheimer society's publication has asked me to submit a brief article about the dementia friendly performance, for their  ‘I can, I will’ section.
I found the dance piece I choreographed in Vancouver in collaboration with the dance artist Jacci Collins, very effective for "Fleeting Moment's outreach sessions in care homes.
Again I used elements of that dance in my presentation for the Best Practice Seminar in Sadler's Wells, organised by Arts4Dementia.

We will have a dedicated webpage within Chaturangan's website.

I am currently in discussion with Akademi, Indian dance UK, to provide training for their Baring Foundation funded initiatives for work with older people. This will be an excellent opportunity to share my learning with younger Indian dance artists.

The formal and informal meetings and discussions have planted many seeds of new ideas.

I learnt that in some settings even young people with mental heath issues are cared for along with people at early stages of Dementia and more advanced condition. In that situation they had to find activities that can be suitable for different levels of ability. How can we develop what Jeanne Sommerfield refers as ‘Open ended creative Incentives’? Something  suitable for a group with mixed needs?

I remember Connie the social worker at the Wellness Centre who also works at the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, which also supports the Chinese community, searching for activities for older people that can be undertaken in water. They have a pool in the centre. She feels that those coming with aches and pains may benefit from doing activities in the water. This is an interesting thought and one I would love to address if I were to get the opportunity.

The points  I have listed above are only the factual developments from the fellowship but what I have gained from being in Canada, meeting its kind and caring people, getting to know about the infrastructure of their care provision for seniors, the  respectful attitude of their service industry, their openhearted welcome goes much deeper. It will sustain me for years to come.

Places visited


  • Kinsman Place Lodge in Surrey, BC
  • Round House Community centre
  • Surrey Art Centre
  • The Confederation Centre
  • George Derby Residential Care Home
  • The University of BC
  • Stanley Park
  • Victoria, the capital of BC


  • The 33rd North American Bengali Conference
  • Reitman Centre, Mount  Sinai Hospital
  • Beycrest hospital
  • Sarah Robichaud's Dance for PD class
  • Sampradaya  Indian dance  centre
  • Bata Shoe Museum


  • Kala Bharati Dance Centre
  • Hindu Temple
  • Vincent Warren’s Dance Library

and of course

Niagara Falls


Larix  Lyallii

In the threadbare

air, through the tattered

weave of leaves,

the blue light cools

into ash-black shadows.

Tree: the high

thought roots itself

In the luminous clay

of the caught light’s closeness

to audibility.

So we know that again

today there are songs

still to be sung. They

exist. Just on the other

side of mankind.

Robert Bringhurst

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