Synchronised for success in Sheffield

Balbir Singh Dance Company in rehearsal at John Charles Aquatic Centre for their Synchronise project. Photo by Tim Smith
Balbir Singh Dance Company in rehearsal at John Charles Aquatic Centre for their Synchronise project. Photo by Tim Smith
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THEY glide through the water with the greatest of ease - but this is not just ordinary synchronised swimming.

Sheffield’s Ponds Forge International Sports Centre is hosting the premiere of an innovative new project to celebrate the Olympics - a watery performance involving professional dancers, elite swimmers and a live band.

The project, called Synchronised, fuses traditional Indian Kathak dance with a programmed swimming routine, as well as taking inspiration from the golden age of Hollywood.

It is part of the national Cultural Olympiad, a national cultural celebration ahead of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Choreographer Balbir Singh said preparations for Thursday’s premiere have taken 18 months, and that rehearsals have been hard work - but he said results should be spectacular.

He is currently adapting Synchronised for a stage version to mark the arrival of the Olympic torch in Sheffield on Monday, June 25, and plans are also afoot to take the show on a national tour once the 2012 Games are finished.

Balbir, who runs his own dance company, said: “It’s been a fantastic experience.

“By marrying together these completely different genres, we have pushed forward the boundaries artistically, musically and choreographically. This should be one exceptional performance.”

Balbir has been perfecting the performers’ moves with help from Egyptian-born synchronised swimmer Heba Abdel Gawad.

“It’s ambitious, but then anything worth doing requires hard work,” he said.

The one-off event will last 45 minutes, featuring a dozen musicians playing Indian music and 40 members of the Leeds People’s Choir.

Members of the public are also joining the professionals in the pool after completing Aqua-Kathak sessions with the Balbir Singh Dance Company.

Kathak is a classical dance style from the North of India and stems from the word ‘Katha’, which means ‘to tell a story’.

Balbir has also been inspired by Hollywood choreographer and movie director Busby Berkeley. Reflecting Berkeley’s trademark camera angles, the audience will be given a bird’s eye view of the spectacle, looking down on the performance from above.

Synchronised was put together as part of Yorkshire’s £2.6 million iMove programme, set up to produce a programme events along the theme of movement in the run-up to the Olympics in London.

Members of the cast even took to the streets of Sheffield to promote the show on Saturday, performing a ‘flash mob’ dance in the fountains in the Peace Gardens in Sheffield city centre.

Thursday’s show starts at 7pm, tickets cost £5. To book visit or call 0114 256 5567.

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