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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Mela Monday: Dancing toward the big day

Mela Monday: Dancing toward the big day

kousalyaa

I honestly can't believe this time next week, Mela 2012 will all be over. I'd be sad if I wasn't so excited! And this time next week, you could be sitting at home reliving the memories of this joyous festival - that you enjoyed with a free ticket thanks to The Patchwork Quill! ArtsEkta have set aside a pair of Mela 2012 wristbands for one lucky reader of the blog - that's free entry to the entire festival for the whole day for you and a friend. Details of the competition at the end of the post.

It's an absolute hurricane of activity at ArtsEkta HQ right now - arrangements being made to build the site and stages from the ground up at Botanic Gardens, volunteers being recruited for last minute leafleting in town, supplies being shipped in and preparations being made to make sure the myriad of musicians and performers from across the world arrive safely on our shores and are looked after before they entertain us all on Sunday.

With that in mind, I'm dedicating this penultimate Mela Monday to ArtsEkta's very own dancers, the South Asian Dance Academy (SADA).

This will be the third Mela performance for the troupe, however The Patchwork Quill can exclusively reveal that this is the first Belfast Mela to see an entirely self-choreographed routine by SADA.

Senior member Kousalyaa Somasundrum has been with SADA since its formation in 2010. From the first discussions to the final rehearsals, she details from start to finish how SADA bring their unique and colourful slice of South Asian dance to the Mela stage:

"For SADA's first two Mela performances, a choreographer from India - Priyanka Purohit - put together our routines. We have put together some of our routines for other events, such as Diwali and Samhain last year, but this is the first Mela featuring our own choreography and we're really excited.

"At a meeting in June, we decided one of our dancers, Milna Jaison, would create our dance for Mela 2012. She is classically trained, has been dancing since the age of four and has already put together some lovely pieces for us, so it was agreed she should take the reins.

"Milna studies in London and came home the first week of July and it was then we began working with her choreography. Normally we have the routine finished and polished by the third week of July but we've had to start later this year.

"The Mela rehearsals didn't start properly until 31st July and then we had the flash mob routine to work on too, but that was great fun and such a great way to launch the festival! But now it's over, we are able to put the finishing touches to our Mela routine. We have rehearsed every day since the end of July - but what a great way to spend your summer; dancing with your friends.

"The next step is to get the music all edited together - our routine features several different tracks and we need a professional to put them all together. Today, we meet with Tessa, A DJ who works with ArtsEkta, and she will put the music arrangement together for us.

"The costumes are arriving very soon - always an exciting time. I won't give anything away about the designs - it has to be a surprise on the day! The outfits are made by a designer in India - we tell him what we want and also send over the music we will be dancing to, to give an idea of the emotions we are trying to capture.

"There will be more than one costume too - there will be more than one SADA performance across the various stages, so keep an eye out for outfit changes."

Kousalyaa also teaches a Bollywood dance class in the Crescent Art Centre on a Tuesday night if these images of the gorgeous SADA ladies have inspired you!

The SADA performance was one of the highlights of the main stage performances last year and having spoken to the lovely Kousalyaa, I can't wait to see what they have planned this year. I'm also dying to see what those tailor-made costumes look like!

If you would like to be there too, courtesy of ArtsEkta, then here's your chance to enter the draw to win festival wristbands for you and a friend, giving free entry to Belfast Mela 2012 for the whole day.

All you have to do is email me at thepatchworkquill [at] gmail [dot] com with subject line 'Mela ticket comp' and your name and phone number in the email - but you don't have long! I'll be drawing the winner's name from a virtual hat on Thursday night, so any entries received after 5pm on Thursday 23rd August 2012 won't go into the draw.

I'll notify the winner by email on Friday afternoon and if I haven't received your reply by Friday evening, I'll give you a wee buzz on Saturday to give you the details for collecting your prize.

Any questions - stick them in the comment section below so I can answer them for everyone else to see.

All good? Good.

Good luck!

Belfast Mela 2012: Sunday 26th August, 12pm - 6pm, Botanic Gardens, Belfast

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