Kantha katha-k | birmingham hippodrome | SEPT 20 - 21 (2022) | 1.30 & 7.30PM DAILY

A unique dance performance/installation narrating local women’ stories during Covoid Lockdown in association with Asiana Community project and Birmingham Settlement.  Amna Khayyam Dance Company worked with  local Birmingham women with creative activity using traditional Kantha – a south Asian form of embroidery. Reaching them during lockdown through WhatsApp and Zoom participants worked with Artists Abeda Begum and Bhajan Hunjan to share their personal experiences and stories.  

The Kanthas form the installation and in the final part of the project they have been progressed to Kathak, a traditional Indian storytelling dance, by Amina Khayyam to a music score of Borodin’s Nocturne specially adapted by Jonathan Mayer to Indian instrumentation for performance over two days at the Birmingham Hippodrome.


The Covid lockdowns bought uncertainty for us all and a sense of unknown and fear in the air - though it was a common experience felt by all (all of us following the government guidelines of staying home). But soon we realised staying home was not the same experience for everyone.  

Our strong, unique and experienced outreach team reached out to all the women groups we had been engaging with over the last 15 years - and the result was establishing x8 WhatsApp women groups in London, Birmingham, Woking, Luton, Brighton and Leeds and a further more groups reached through weekly zoom sessions. Some were unable to join the WhatsApp group due to their vulnerability i.e. victim of domestic violence, prisoners etc. so we resorted to reach them individually or in smaller groups on zoom. With the help of our connection with social prescribers in some cases we also in intervened suicidal cases triggered by Covid! 

The aim of the project was to engage women creatively and allowing them to connect with their thought process and emotion response and experience of the lockdown. Each participant was provided material pack included calico, embroidery hoop, threads, needles etc.   Using drawing and embroidery, women were asked to express their emotional response to Covid lockdown.  

Our Birmingham based artist Abeda Begum delivered step by step video support to the women to achieve their embroidery pieces. This included demonstrations of some of the common stitching used in traditional kantha making and examples of expressions. 

At the height of lockdown, the project became the only connection to the outside world for many. It helped with mental health wellbeing and in some cases domestic violence victim  - and keep chatting and sharing their stories with other women.  

We are delighted to present all the kanthas created nationally by the women at Birmingham Hippodrome as part of our promise to share their amazing works with the wider audience and bring the women together in one space to meet (for most for the first time in person), share and watch the movement aspect of their invaluable works.  

We hope we are able to transform their work through movement and have done justice to their thoughts and emotions felt during the pandemic. 

For this performance we explored the most common theme emerged from their experience - isolation/loneliness, death, mental health/anxiety, domestic violence, hope and freedom etc.   

We hope as audiences you’ll recognise the experience felt by the women and their work will remind us how vulnerable we are as a human race and though we are separated by geography, yet we are all children of the one world with much in common - Amina Khayyam

Kathak Movement Notation and Depiction (choreography) by Amina Khayyam  

Music composed, and adaptation of Borodin’s Nocturne by Jonathan Mayer  

Performers: Jane Chan, Sushma Vala, Abirami Eswar & Amina Khayyam  

Musicians: Debasish Mukherjee (tabla), Jonathan Mayer (sitar), Sohini Alam (vocals) 

Natalie Rozario (cello), William Rees Hoffman (sarod)  

Kantha Resident Artist in Luton: Abeda Begum 

Costume: Abeda Begum  

Lighting  Paul Micah  

Sound: Shawn George & Dhaivat Thakkar in association with Brunel University  

Produced & Dramaturgy by Hardial S. Rai  

Luton Kantha Project Co-ordinator in Luton: Fateha Begum


Nominated for the National Dance Awards 2022 for Best Independent Dance Company, Amina Khayyam Dance (AKDC)’s mission is to make touring dance theatre work using the South Asian dance Kathak as the core narrative. It works in collaboration with those who are culturally least engaged, economically challenged and societally disenfranchised - with a focus on the marginalised female voice, not just from the mainstream but from within their own community - a place from where its founder and AD, the critically acclaimed dancer and choreographer, Amina Khayyam comes.  The Company adds theatre, live art, and technology, striving to make relevant, engaging work through a process of collaboration, participation, exploration, and opportunities for creative and cultural expression- shaping a process that empowers women creatively as stakeholders. The work’s dramaturgy is explored through the sub-culture context of this process, and made to transpose to the mainstream audience, so that the targeted sector’s perspective, aspiration and voice is heard widely. 

AKDC treats Kathak as a contemporary form thereby transcends any ‘classical’ or ‘modern’ precepts to its approach. It uses Kathak vocabulary to transpose it on a modern body dialogue, in the process subverting its many facets to carve out an emotion performed to a contemporary narrative. It believes the dance form is evolving with progressions demanded by the contemporary zeitgeist, in the same way it did so from the demands of the Mughals, the last time it took a major step forward.  At its heart, AKDC emphasises Kathak as a storytelling form – an approach that has allowed it to use its uniquely placed and equipped vocabulary to tell new and urgent stories of global importance. 

Based in UK (Slough), the Company, since its formation in 2013 has made 15 pieces of work, performed over 130 performances in 40 venues & digital platforms.