East Croydon Cool talks…Croydon Mela

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with Anusha Subramanyam, dancer, choreographer, teacher and dance movement therapist to learn more about Croydon Mela.

Croydon Mela is a celebration of Croydon’s diverse Asian communities, showcasing a combination of musical talent, dance and performance alongside local community arts groups and an array of food and craft stalls.

Now in it’s third year, Croydon Mela will take place in Wandle Park on Sunday 14th July and is a free event for the whole community to enjoy.

What does Mela mean?
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘gathering’ or ‘to meet’ or a ‘fair’. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gatherings and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sport-related. In recent times “Mela” also popularly refers to shows and exhibitions. It can be theme-based, promoting a particular culture, art or skill. Generally in “melas” people can find eateries, entertainment activities, shops and games.

What is your involvement in the Mela?
I am working alongside two other talented (and Croydon based) female programmers (Chetna Kapacee and Malti Patel) which is incredibly rewarding and inspiring. I am programming the Dance Dhamaka stage, while Chetna is looking after the Main Stage and Malti has the Mela Rung Zone.

On the Dance Dhamaka stage, we will be doing a lot around ‘Rowdy Baby’ which became a music and dance hit on YouTube after being featured in Maari 2 (one of the biggest ever grossing Tamil language films). We are recreating the dance so everyone at the Mela can learn it and join in. I will be teaching the dance at various points during the Mela and anyone can join in and be part of the final performance at 5.30pm on the music stage. We have simplified the dance a little and really hope everyone from Croydon (Asian and Non-Asian) will take part.

What else will be happening on the Dance Dhamaka stage?
The Dance Dhamaka stage will present a mix of local and national dance companies and schools. The Mela is the perfect place to showcase wonderful local talent.  Local dance schools and teachers have been investing their time creating some really amazing performances. It will represent Croydon’s diversity and is also a great platform to showcase other companies that are presenting South Asian work in the UK. We will have Flamenco, Belly dance, Ghanian, Afro urban and much more to keep everyone moving!

What will be happening on the Main Stage?
The main stage has been programmed by the incredibly talented (and well connected!) Chetna Kapacee. There will be performances from the likes of Apache Indian (who has recorded with Sean Paul, General Levy, Shaggy, A. R. Rahman, Pras of the Fugees to name just a few and whose hit single “Boomshakalak” is featured in several Hollywood movies, including Dumb and Dumber). Dance music pioneer & trailblazing DJ Ritu, a dance music legend & trailblazing broadcaster, will be doing several sets whilst Project MishraM (a progressive carnatic fusion band from Bangalore) will bring an amalgamation of Indian classical music and western genres of music like rock, metal, jazz, reggae and electronic music to the stage. Also performing will be Najma Akhtar whose unique and distinctive style (fusing jazz with the ghazal, along with traditional bhajans) creates a beautiful marriage between the East and the West that is utterly compelling.

What will be happening in the Mela Rung Zone?
This has been programmed and curated by the wonderful Malti Patel. There will be lot of story-telling, activities for children, dance, poetry and music. She has planned such a huge range of things some will be a surprise to me too! All I can say is, it’s going to be an exciting program so come and be inspired on all that is on offer.

How did you come to be involved in Mela?
I run Beeja with my partner Vipul Sangoi and we have a long history of creating and  presenting dance in Croydon.  Beeja provides a platform to local dance groups, makes dance visible for local residents and helps make Croydon visible to the outside world. It all started six years ago when we moved to Croydon.  We caught the attention of the Council during Big Dance in 2016. Thanks to Paula and Paul (who have been instrumental supporting culture in Croydon) I have been curating the dance stage at Croydon Mela since 2017.

What food and drink will be available?
With so much action and activity, there is going to be a range of delicious food (showcasing Indian and South Asian cuisine) that will satisfy all palates and keep the energy flowing! From Rendang thank you Maam, The Spice Yard and Da Ja Streetfood to En Root, Red Cherry Takeaway and Pizza in Giro, there is something for everyone. The Cronx Brewery, Pimms tent and a slushie and milkshake van will also be there to keep thirst at bay!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Mela?
For me, what I’m really looking forward to is getting all of Croydon dancing to Rowdy Baby! It’s a wonderful way to get people moving and for people to share a moment of fun together.  I am really excited to be working with two very special groups (‘Indian women in London’ and the ‘Croydon Carers Group’) who have agreed to dance the Rowdy Baby with me to help teach others.

Who is the Mela aimed at?
This is fun event and there is something for everyone. At the Dance Dhamaka stage, we will have a huge amount of group participation. So for people who love dance, it’s definitely for them, but for people who haven’t tried it before then this is a great opportunity to give it a go! The Mela Rung stage will have storytelling, poetry and lots of activities for children and the Main Stage will have some of the best South Asian popular music to get everyone rocking to. With plenty of music, food and people, I would encourage absolutely everyone to come and join the fun at the Croydon Mela!

What other events have you worked on in Croydon?
As Beeja we curate and programme Dance Festival Croydon which is funded by Arts Council England, Croydon Council and a Dance Umbrella​ partnership. Our next event is on 20th July at Stanley Halls. We have three amazing companies presenting their work: The Urban Play Ground, Jose Agudo ​and Uchenna Dance. You can book your ticket here.

Who are your favourite dancers and dance companies you have worked with?
Oh, where to begin?! Jose Agudo, Slide, Upahar Dance Company, Vinicius Salles Dance, Paurnami Arts. But there’s so many more so come to the Mela and Dance Festival Croydon to discover them ! Also worth a mention is Dance Umbrella; London’s annual International Dance Festival that celebrates 21st Century choreography across the Capital. They are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and are partnering with Beeja and Croydon Council.

For more information on Croydon Mela, click here.



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